Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can You See It?

I remember a day years ago, driving to work with a colleague who was a hunter.  As the sound of the pavement was thumping under our tires, out of the blue he said "Can you see it?  Do you see that deer over there in the field?"  I looked and looked and for the life of me I simply could not see that deer, but he was talking with such assurance in his voice I knew it must be there, it was just not coming into focus for me.  Finally, with much effort, I was able to see what had come into view so easily for my friend and there it was, a big, beautiful White Tail meandering through some bush.

How easy it is to see something when your eyes are trained to perceive it!  AND, how easy it is to be oblivious to what is going on around you when you don't know what you are looking for.

There was a group of men who were in the countryside among many people who had nothing to eat and there was need of food to help them in their hunger.  A discussion broke out among some of them which convinced them that there was nothing that could be done.  They thought that it made logical sense to see the equation: no food, isolated, no help----no options.

But what they failed to see was that Jesus was right there among them and in Him there is always hope!

In Mark 8:17 Jesus finally says to the group, "Why are you talking about having no bread?  Do you still not see or understand?  Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?  And don't you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"

Then the people replied that they had seen and had picked up the remnants of bread after everyone had eaten their fill, and this was after Jesus simply and miraculously multiplied what little food there was in the first place!

It's hard to imagine the disciples experiencing something as eye-catching as that and then to find themselves in exactly the same situation and no one even suggested the possibility that Jesus might be an option again--a way through which a situation might change and yet their eyes didn't see the possibilities.

Well, I'd like to say that I am very different from those disciples, that I can see clearly Jesus in my everyday life and the possibilities and options that He provides for His children, but if I'm honest, I am more like the one who is driving down the road and simply cannot see that deer that is so plainly in view----I just needed the eyes to see. . . .

But again, my hope does not rest in my abilities to perceive, or the sharpness of my mind, or even the extent of my experiences, my hope rests in Jesus.  He promises to walk with me and help me to perceive important things that are simply foreign to me, and just like those disciples, He is all about helping us to learn what it means to live with a Kingdom mindset.  Thank God that He is for us and not against us!  We are in good hands. 

Oh, and by the way, even though the disciples were a little slow in their perception, the miracle still happened.  Jesus still fed all those people and were satisfied.

I have a sneaking suspicion that He is still about His business today. . . .can you see it?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Standing Room Only

Ever been to a concert or event that was so popular that those who came a bit late had to stand because there were no seats left?  Everyone wants to be a part of something like that. . .something that is so compelling that to describe how great it is one says it was "standing room only."

But standing is not always exciting.  Sometimes standing requires a lot of hard work and struggle, especially when we talk about the Christian life. 

Ephesians 6:10ff talks about standing, but this standing does not involve pumped up crowds and flashing lights.  No, this kind of standing is the kind that you do in everyday life. . . . .and it can be hard to be sure.

But, that doesn't mean that it is all doom and gloom either, just listen to what God says:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."  What a great way to begin to understand what standing in Jesus really looks like--He is the mighty power that we rely on to live as His children, not ourselves.  If you keep reading it says that he provides armor for us to be protected against the attacks of the enemy and of sin.  All he is asking of us in this passage is to "put it on".  V11 "Put on", v13 "put on", what this is telling us is that we need to be actively involved in what God provides so that we can stand.

I believe that it is God's desire to have all his children gathered in such a way that it is "standing room only".  His heart is that we would be able to stand firm in truth, faith and love.  It's not an easy thing to understand how to live in his strength and not our own and we will certainly make mistakes.  But that is why God's grace is so amazing--because he teaches us through our mistakes and not only reminds us but actually helps us to stand.

Standing room only folks--it's an event for the ages.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Illusion of Freedom

I was listening to the radio today and the host was talking about how Canada is faring as a multicultural society with respect to immigrants who bring their religious beliefs with them.  The specific group mentioned were people with Islamic beliefs, and the question that was raised was whether this group could really assimilate into Canadian society given basic differences like gender equality.  In Canada there is a deep rooted sense of equality between men and women in terms of things like having a public voice through mechanisms like voting.  The dialogue was lively and the end result was that it would be difficult for a foreign culture like Islam to mesh well with Canadian liberal democracy, because the freedoms offered to both men and women here do not line up with much of Islamic thought or expression.

I am of the opinion that our public dialogue, that which we hear most often in the public square, does much to shape the way we think in general.  And the talk that surrounds Canadian public life is that we are a nation that is free.  And in one sense I agree: we are free from political dictators; we are free to pursue our own life's work; we are free to move, and to speak etc.  These are amazing liberties that many do not enjoy, but we must be careful when we use the language of freedom.

The danger of our "freedom" language is that it can provide a subtle but devastating veneer that hides oppression underneath.  If we think we are really free simply because we are not living in a communist, or Islamic nation we are mistaken.  You see, there is a freedom that is more fundamental, more deeply rooted and essential to true human freedom that the language of politics can never touch.  We were designed for freedom, but freedom is often not achieved by many in our free Canadian society.  When this happens we are living in an illusion of freedom.

I have heard it said that ideals are what you hope for and values are what you actually live out.  So what are our values as Christians?  Do we allow our lives to be shaped more by political rhetoric than by essential and foundational truths that come from God through His word?  I believe that politics, the expression of public leadership and governance, is something that God approves, but I also believe that He desires for the ideals of godly freedom to inform, shape and ultimately give guidance to the values of individual lives that in turn shape the values of political life.

There is no room to separate our beliefs from our public life--if we do all we are doing is contributing to the veneer, the illusion of freedom in our country.

But Paul gives us a different vision, a different mandate:  He says that because the ministry of the Holy Spirit has brought righteousness to us we should be very bold! (2 Cor. 3:12)  We are not to be arrogant or insensitive, but we are invited into a public expression of our faith in Jesus--and the base meaning of "politics" simply means public.  We are invited to boldly live out our lives in Jesus in public.  But we need some kind of a guide to help us navigate what this looks like- - -what is it that we are to look for to help us?

Consider verse 17 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Do we want real freedom?  Then we need to be able to indentify where the 'Spirit of the Lord is' because there is real freedom.  So where is He?

Well, according to 2 Cor. 6:16 we are the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells so, amazingly, the freedom that all people need resides within each believer in Jesus!  Incredible.  I begin to imagine that the hope for our massive country to find freedom already exists but it is contained in me!  What a gift, and what a opportunity.

But how?  This is where it gets difficult for a lot of Christians, because whether it's through fear or ignorance, we often don't know how to share this gift of freedom of others.  Here are only two things that might help us along:
First:  God makes an impact to the world through us in a myriad of ways.  When someone is hurting, it is godly to care for them.  When someone is hungry, it is godly to feed them.  When someone is hurting someone else, it is godly to protect the helpless.  And on and on and on.  Every gift and personality that God has given and made is useful in His Kingdom and that includes you.
Second:  Do everything as unto the Lord.  What this means to me is that we begin to live with intent.  When we are living our lives, then we need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus and remember that we are working through His Spirit that lives in us.  He desires to speak and direct us. He wants to give us words at the right times, but we are deeply embedded in the thinking that our spiritual lives are so separate from our political lives (our daily lived out lives) that we don't live with godly intent.

So let's start today:  let's ask for the Lord of all things to help us to live in real freedom, to live as the Holy Spirit guides us and let's be ready to see Him change us and change our world.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Steak, Sports and Satisfaction

Last night I had the privilege of sitting in a lounge, with huge big-screen TVs playing every sport imaginable, while eating a steak with good friends who were happy to be there.

What a great night!

The steak night was a fundraiser for a friend who is going on a missions trip in the near future and I thought to myself at one point "Jesus is here!"  If Jesus was physically walking the earth he would have been in that lounge with us, enjoying the steak, the sports and revelling in the satisfaction of friendship.

There is a line in Matthew 14 that says "They all ate and were satisified."  Jesus fed all those hungry people by multiplying the fish and the loaves, and he is still bringing satisfaction by giving us moments where we just know that life is good.

I really believe that when Jesus tells us that we can find rest for our weary souls that he isn't talking only about our sin and the weight that puts on us.  I think he is also talking about times when we are simply enjoying the gifts that he has given us through times like last night, when your heart is light with joy.

I can think of no better way to end this blog but with an invitation to listen to someone who understood what a great life we have been given----
Here is a link to Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World

Hope you have a smile on your face as you listen. . . . .


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pack Your Bags

My oldest son and his lovely wife just left on a trip to Australia.  When I talked with him on the phone it was easy to tell that he was really anticipating the upcoming trip--there was a genuine excitement that came through in his voice loud and clear.

We need to have events in our lives that we look forward to, ones that fill us with aniticipation.  They seem to be able to influence us in positive ways as we live out our daily lives too--it's a little hard to describe, I just know that it can help us feel better.

As I thought about my son's trip, I began to think about our life in Jesus. . . .and sometimes we can get so distracted by the busyness of life that we lose sight of the fact that one day--maybe a day coming soon--we will be "packing our bags" for a trip of a lifetime!

Paul talks about his anticipation of seeing Jesus face to face in Philippians 1:22ff when he says: "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far."  How many of us wouldn't want to jump on a plane to Florida when it is minus 30 degrees here?  It would be better by far to be in that place!  But really, think about what Paul is saying here: can you imagine what it will be like to be in a place where there is no more sin, no more pain, no more tears; where there is pure peace, pure joy, pure love in your heart! 

It is no "place" at all really--it is about being with a person, and that person is Jesus.  Paul was anticipating this journey and it was affecting how he was living while he was still here.  He wanted nothing more than for others to receive this same excitement and anticipation.

So do we live our Christian lives like we have our "bags packed"?  Do we live with anticipation of an exciting trip coming soon?  Do we allow that anticipation to bring joy to our daily lives? 

Lord, Paul didn't come to his conclusion about you on his own--it was revealed to him and it changed him forever.  Help us in the same way.  Oh, and by the way Lord would you help me find my suitcase?


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Windows. . .

The eyes are the windows to the soul.  So much can be discerned about what is going on inside a person by paying attention to their eyes.  If you could have seen my eyes today they would probably have looked something like this:

I think my eyes would have been green--really green.  Why?  Because I just seemed to struggle with jealously today and couldn't shake it.

I'm not proud of this fact, but, well, there it is. . . .in all it's "glory".  I have confessed my sin and given it to the Lord but the fall-out is not always so quickly overcome.  I am in the Lord's hands--a good place to be when you need healing.

But all this jealousy caused me to think of God's heart and an example of how one man lived with the right attitude. 

In John 3 we hear about John the Baptist who was (surprise, surprise) baptizing many people only to find out that someone else (Jesus) was beginning to baptize more than he.  Some people brought this to John's attention and this was his response (v27ff) "To this John replied, 'A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him,'  The bride belongs to the bridegroom.  The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.'"

This would have been a perfect opportunity for John to be jealous, but instead he responded with righteousness.  What a great example for me. . . .for all of us.

I think it is important to pay attention to two things John said.  The first is this "A man can only receive what is given him from heaven."  This reminds me of a passage in Romans 12:3 that says "Do not think of yourselves more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."  God has designed us, has given us gifts and abilities, and has given us a purpose in life to accomplish.  But what he has given to me, will look different than what he has given to you.  God wants us to be at peace with who he has made us and what he has given to us---just like John the Baptist was.  He understood the bigger picture and was filled with joy because of it!

The second important thing to remember is that we need to have a heart like John's when he said that Jesus must become greater and we must become less.  John knew what humility was all about.  It's not an easy thing to openly embrace something or someone else who is greater than you.  That's the playground for jealousy.  This is especially true when God is doing things in another person that is greater than what he is doing in you at that time.  That is not to say that what God is doing is better in someone else, but God's purpose for that person may be to have them have more impact or wider influence, or deeper understanding etc.  And to a jealous heart, this is dynamite. . . .

Lord, today I pray that for myself and for anyone who is struggling with jealousy, we would receive forgiveness and healing as we confess it to you.  I ask that we would receive what John had--complete joy in knowing that Jesus was being lifted up.  Fill us with understanding that we will be personally satisfied when we worship Jesus, that we don't need to fight for our place or our position, but that we would be able to live with truly humble hearts.

I sense freedom coming even as I write this. . . . .God, you are sooo good.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I'm reading this book called It:How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, written by the founder of Craig Groeschel.  I highly recommend reading this book as it helps to uncover essential truths about what it means to be a church that is genuine and real- a church that gets it!

In one chapter Groeschel talks about the unnecessary and damaging reality of competition between churches.  He draws on a quote from a seventeenth-century Puritan minister named Richard Baxter who writes:  "Is it not enough that all the world is against us, but we must also be against one another?  O happy days of persecution, which drove us together in love, whom the sunshine of liberty and prosperity crumbles into dust by our contentions!"

Amen brother.

I am convinced that it is our petty insecurities that cause us to bicker among ourselves.  Our insecurities that cause us to doubt our own foundations enough that we need to build huge fences around us in order to compensate for our lack of trust in a living God who invites us into relationship.  I also think that our longstanding approach to the Christian religion has been so influenced by appeals to reason that we have inadvertently adopted an "us/vs/them" approach to everything.  After all, if we believe in our specific doctrines, and someone else has different doctrines, then somebody must be wrong!

Yeah, I think we are all wrong in some ways. . . .after all, if the Truth that we are all so hell-bent in defending is actually known through a relationship, then maybe all the aspect of what makes a relationship real and genuine are needed to understand what truth is in the first place!

Groeschel points us in the right direction when he says: "It is not about your student ministry, your children's ministry,  your new logo or website.  And it is certainly not about your name.  It is about Jesus.  There's no other name under heaven that's anywhere close to his name.  It's all about him."

Groeschel uses "it" to describe that special something that exists when people are living in genuine relationship with each other and with Jesus.  And I have to agree with him,  it is really all about Jesus.

I wonder what would change around us if we lived with that kind of thinking--that the only thing that really counts is Jesus?

Maybe we would defend ourselves less, and love a bit more.  Maybe we would spend less time in meetings and more time meeting people in relationship.  Maybe we would care less about distinguishing ourselves from other churches and become carefree about sharing in the abundance of God's love with other believers and with those who need Jesus more than anything.

Jesus, help us to live in "it"--that place where we know you and are known.  Help us to live with arms open wide, and no more fists, but hands that are willing to be lent to someone in need.  Help me to overthrow all the deep-seated ways of thinking that prevent me from seeing what real life in you looks like, and help us all to be humble enough to receive--really receive You.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Promises, Promises. . . .

We live in a world of guarantees.  Every where you turn another company is telling us that if we try their product there is no risk involved because if we aren't entirely satisfied we can get our money back.  Or, if there is a malfunction with our purchase we can be assured that we will get it replaced so that our consumer experience is satisfactory.

Guarantees, warranties, insurance, it all adds up to a world that makes promise after promise in order to ensure our safety, our well-being, our satisfaction.

But if you stop and really think about it, doesn't it all seem just a bit superficial?  Do these promises bring an abiding sense of protection or peace?  After all, these promises are all limited in nature, they can give a false sense of security because they are all centered around stuff. 

Case in point:  I'm sure that the nuclear power plants in Japan had all kinds of safety protocols, policies that honored environmental legislation, and political assurances that allowed people to feel safe, protected and satisfied that these plants would provide a product, at a resonable rate, all the while guaranteeing them a steady supply of electricity.  That is until an earthquake hit that threw everything into chaos.

Now I'm not saying that warrantees, guarantees or insurance is wrong--it's just that they do nothing to bring a sense of genuine safety or peace to our deep inner being--we need something much bigger, much stronger, much more dependable for that.

Psalm 91:9-12 says this: "If you make the Most High your dwelling--even the Lord, who is my refuge--then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

Here is another promise, one that comes from God Himself.  He is telling us that if we put our trust--our very lives-- in His hands, He will take care of us.  Do we believe this?  After all, I am betting that there were some Christians in Japan who did experience the loss and chaos of those earthquakes--how did God's promise make sense to them?

I believe that God really does provide physical and manifest protection and provision for His children, although it seems clear in scripture that that doesn't mean that sometimes bad things will happen (thinking of Job here. . .)  However, thinking about God's promise of protection in strictly phyisical ways misses the bigger picture.  Remember, that the promises the world makes are related mostly to the physical and we have this sense of emptiness. . . .

No. What makes God's promises different are that they are not based on a foundation of this world, but they are founded in Him and Him alone.  No earthquake or stock market crash affects what He says or what He does.  His promises stand because He stands far above and beyond the world we live in.

So make your dwelling in the Most High and you will find refuge for your soul.  Begin to understand that a relationship with Jesus is where you will find the most stable place for your heart.  He will provide, physically and spiritually, even if circumstances seem to scream that you are wrong.
Hold fast to Him and you will see what He can do.  Hear His words concerning you: "'Because He loves me', says the Lord, 'I will rescue him.  I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call upon me, and I will answer him.'"

Yes!!  There is a promise that you can take to the bank.  Throw your life into the hands of the mighty God today and see what He will do. 

I don't think Wal-Mart's price match guarantee really even comes close. . . .


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cry Babies

Babies are maybe the cutest things on the face of the earth.  They're so small and sweet and make your heart melt when they gurgle and smile at you.  But that is not all they are. . . . . . .

Sometimes babies are a bundle of roiling self-centeredness and cry and cry to get their way!  We just tend to overlook this because they are so stinkin' cuddly.

Yes, sometimes those babies we love are cry babies.  The term we use to describe when someone is being selfish and just 'wants their way' comes from those little people that fill us with so much joy.  Kind of a paradox when you think about it.

The point I want to make today is that grown-ups can be cry babies too.  We all have seen them and when you do it becomes clear very quickly where they are coming from---they want something but can't get it.  This is an important thing to remember because often times when we are with those people our response is to just get frustrated right along with them instead of trying to see past the image and attitude that is being presented.

Just like a little baby that is crying and needs help, the older cry babies need help too, desperately, but they just don't look cute doing it anymore.

God, as always, is our answer to overcome our tendencies to be cry babies.  In Micah 6:8 we are told this: "He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

What wise words!  I love that God says to us that he has showed us how we should live.  Interestingly, as good as this sounds, when we see that in real life it isn't always as pleasing or inviting--here's what I mean:  if we find ourselves being a cry baby that means that we are wrestling with something inside us that is twisted, something not from or of God.  This causes us to see our world through those lenses of self-centeredness and the last thing we are able to do is to openly receive a good example of someone who is living as a good example of godliness.  When God shows us what it means to "walk humbly" (remember the passage says he 'shows us') instantly we feel convicted and usually lash out against the good example before us.  This can result in arguments and general unrest.

So what do we do?  First of all, don't forget that God already knows our struggle.  He is not shocked and he never despairs.  He always sees the answers that bring hope and change for people.  Also, he encourages us to remember that he always forgives and brings healing.  Admit to God where you are at--He can handle it and he wants to help.

Walk humbly before your God. . .easier said than done, especially if you have just showed the world your best cry baby routine!  But take hope today--no matter what issue, no matter what hurt or pain deeply buried in you that is twisting you up inside there is an open invitation to healing.  If this is resonating with you today the reason is that God is speaking directly to you and wants to free you so you can become one of the examples to world of what it looks like to walk humbly with Him. 

I hope that today you hear from God the message of healing that will bring you out of your struggle and into that humble walk with Him.

It's a good day for a stroll. . . .


Thursday, November 17, 2011

A God Who Speaks

I walked into my office this morning and one of my colleagues told me about someone in our church family who had just experienced something that had never happened to her before.  As we were praying for a group of people from another church last sunday, she was praying off to the side and she heard a voice telling her "Proverbs 2, Proverbs 2".  After reading this chapter it is clear that it deals directly with some of the challenges the church we were praying for was facing.

Incredible when you think about it!  God speaks directly and understandably to the situations we are facing.  He cares, He speaks, and we can hear Him, respond and rejoice!

I wanted to highlight this today because I think many of God's children don't really think that God speaks in way that can be heard.  Or, if He does speak, He does so to other people not to me.  Well, this is a prime example showing that He does choose to reveal specific and direct messages to His children for the purpose of building up His Body.  This church was searching for direction and wisdom from God--He tells us in Luke 11 that He is a good Father who desires to give good gifts to His children, and this is a clear example of that proving true.

I want to build your faith today as you hear about a woman who hadn't really heard God like this before. She was struck by this voice and it had a deep impact on her.  I discovered that she eventually shared this message and the chapter from Proverbs with this church body and I know it will serve as an encouragement to them because it speaks so directly to their challenges. 

You can hear God's voice too.  It may not happen all the time, or even when you think it should happen, but I want to encourage you to have an expectancy that He will speak, He will communicate.  He will use scripture and He will speak to specific things going on in your life right now.

What an amazing hope we have to serve a God who is alive and who speaks to us.

Father, for those who are reading this and need to hear your voice, I ask that in the name of Jesus all hindrances would be removed, the voice of the Enemy would be silenced, and that the message would come through loud and clear.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wrestling With The Present

Yesterday I was chatting with a good friend and we began to discuss how pervasive it is people who struggle with life.  So many are wrestling with depression, anger, despair, loneliness, pain, emptiness and the list goes on.  It began to dawn on us that what we were describing was simply the result of living in a world broken by sin, and even though we knew full well the love of Jesus and the impact His Holy Spirit has on our lives, we were still left feeling the weight of a broken world.

And then we started to talk about how much we longed to see Jesus face to face.  We talked about how amazing it will be when we live in a world where sin has no more influence; where there will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears!!  And we knew that we really didn't have a frame of reference to genuinely understand the depth of this new reality except in contrast to the reality of how deeply broken things are now.  But we knew peace and hope as we talked about what will come!

Thinking about what God promises to bring about when Jesus returns has the power to raise one's heart in the here-and-now!

Take some time to consider Jesus who willingly came into our dark world and said this to His Father: "Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--I have come to do your will, O God." (Heb 10:7)

Just think about this!  Hear the heart of Jesus that beats for you and is not against you.  Hear his words that are obedient and self-sacrificial to his Father who also loves you so much that he will go to absurd lengths to reach out and save you!

"Here I am. . ."  Do you ever remember a time when you were a little child, scared in your bedroom because you saw a menacing shadow lurking on your wall, and so you cried out to Mom or Dad, and when one came running and said "Don't worry, I'm here now"--do you remember how you felt?  That you were safe, that everything was going to be OK, that you were protected.  You didn't even think about how, Dad was going to protect you; you didn't question if he was going to protect you--you just knew that you were good now--everything was good.  Well, Jesus is just as real, and saying exactly the same thing right now---"I'm here now--I've got you."

My heart is overwhelmed with love for Him as I write this.  I can't express how grateful I am that He is here, even though I'm just like that little child that gets filled with fear. 

Thank you Jesus. . . .thank you so much!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Through a Looking Glass

We all have a way of seeing our world.  God has given us eyes through which we are able to translate beams of light in such a way that we interpret images, sizes, shapes, colors, depth etc.  Our world comes to us as an amazing kaleidoscope because of our sight.

The way we wrestle with ideas and principles are no different: we come to them with our 'filters' already in place so that we can interpret them in a meaningful way.  The ways in which our filters are developed and formed are too numerous even to begin to describe--but they are there nonetheless. 

And they are powerful, because they not only help to form what we hold to be true but they are almost invisible to us.  We are mostly unaware of their presence and yet they are so significant in our understanding.

Here is a brief example:  In the West, we have been trained to think that knowledge comes to us primarily as an intellectual or rational way, but according to some, knowledge arises more holistically than just through reason.  In Brennan Manning's book Ruthless Trust we hear this explained when he writes "In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, knowledge is felt, it arises from an experience of God in faith and love rather than from human investigation.  Knowledge is the fruit of a faith-encounter with Jesus as the Christ.  It is simply not possible to receive the revelation of God in the transcendent/immanent Christ without experience."

What makes this most interesting is the fact of a discussion I had recently with church leaders who taught that experience is something that should not be trusted as it afforded us no way of discerning the validity or rightness of what was taking place.  Instead of experience, scripture was to be where we find our safety and our guide.

Why is this interesting?  First, because experience and scripture were divided into two separate camps that could hardly be understood as complimentary, and second, Manning is saying just the opposite--that in the Christian scripture, knowledge is felt, according to the Hebrew way.

So here we see two God fearing people one teaching that experience is suspect in knowledge and the other saying that experience is necessary for knowledge.  So what do we do?

There are a number of important things we need to be aware of here but I will only offer one that I think is maybe most important.  We need to be humble.  Why is humility so important to knowledge? 
Well let me first say this before I explain:  I believe, through study, rational inquiry, experience etc, that Manning is right in his explanation of truth acquisition.  If the Hebrew mindset is that we understand knowledge through experience, that it must be felt in order to be fully understood, then I want to adopt what is closest to the worldview of the group through which God's truth was conveyed. 

So coming back to humility. . .two reasons:  first, as a Westerner, I must be humble enough to accept that the way in which I understand truth and knowledge might not be the best way and I might need to adopt another, in this case, the ancient Hebrew way.  Second, I must be humble enough to trust in a source of knowledge acquisition in which I am not able to be the primary mover--I can no longer use pure rationality to discover truth and control it and verify it, but because the kind of knowledge described here is much more relational and experiential in nature, I must be willing to receive this knowledge of truth. 

Scripture has been provided for us to experience the reality of a Living God.  This includes our thinking and our experiencing.  It is no easy thing to give up control in order to put yourself in the hands of someone else.  In the Western Christian Church, we struggle mightily against doing this, and one way we accomplish this task is to maintain control through our Western worldview of reason over all other things.  I should mention that what I am describing does not deny reason, simply that if we are to live in a truth that influences every part of our being, then we need to allow every part of our being to be involved in receiveing what that truth looks like.

To many this will sound heretical and simply dangerous.  I understand this wholeheartedly, and it only confirms the truth of how deeply embedded our worldviews actually go.  Jesus presented a way of living in which people were asked to put their entire lives in his hands, and many simply could not accept this request--the same is true today.  But I am confident that Jesus is able to overcome our worldviews in such a way that we can see and understand what is good and true--I just need to be humble enough to accept it, and Him as the center of all things.

Lord, as we peer through our looking glasses, help us to receive humility that comes from your Holy Spirit.  May we engage your scripture in such a way that we are able to receive the fullness of life you have in mind for us.  May we be wise and skillful travellers here on earth as we talk to each other about things that reach down into the core of our beings.  But most of all,

May you be glorified.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Waiting: The Hospital Chronicles

So today I'm writing this as I sit in City Hospital waiting for my wife to get out of surgery. By all accounts this should be a procedure with few worries but I'm still mildly anxious to see her and let her know I love her.
Waiting: this is something that we spend a large part of our lives doing and an equal amount of time trying to avoid. We feel like we should be accomplishing something useful! But sometimes the best thing is to wait and patiently allow others who are much better equipped to take care of things for you.
Yesterday at church I was so moved by the presence of God ministering in our midst. When you are in that special place with him, it just seems almost natural to want to linger, to 'wait' right there because you feel so safe and filled.
But often it isn't so easy to wait on God, especially when we are scared or hurt or anxious.
In a few minutes I will see my lovely wife again, and I am confident that the right people took care of her and that she will be alright. And I believe that is God's desire for all of us: that we would trust Him enough to place our lives fully in his hands and with expectant hearts know that He will take care of us and lead us where we should go. But it seems to me that He sometimes just wants us to wait and allow Him to take care of things....not so easy is it?
Lord in a world that does nothing to encourage us slow down and wait--please help us to linger in your presence and receive your care as we wait on you.
Brian M Tysdal
Lead Pastor
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon Sask.
374-1707 (Church)
291-3308 (Cel)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Unusual Hope

Last week I sat at lunch with a young family with two little children.  These were kids that I found so interesting.  The one sang and hummed quietly to herself-as though everything was right with the world, and the other was full of energy and adventure calling himself a 'superhero' and he fully believed it!

It was a great feeling being with them, and I didn't realize it at the time, but I was also filled with hope.  Hope for this family, hope for the future-just a positive sense of good things to come.

It was a good meal.

Today I was reading from 1 John 3:1-3 where it says "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Dear freinds, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."

Hope changes you.  It causes you to see your world with expectation.  Where challenges exist, hope can give you the strength, creativity and perseverance to overcome.  Hope allows you to approach others with grace because you are living from a strong center.  But the hope I'm describing here is the kind that helps us to act differently, whereas the hope depicted in the passage from John talks of the person actually being changed, and this is significant.

Putting our hope in Jesus is a hope that actually purifies us--it changes us into something that is pure.  This is not something we can do for ourselves but is something that God does for us.  In Jesus we become different people.  It seems kind of unusual to imagine that hoping in something actually changes who you are, but there it is in black and white!  So what does this mean?

The reason that having hope in Jesus changes us is because we actually have a living presence in us who is at work doing the transforming within.  The Holy Spirit is at work in us teaching, strengthening and pointing us to Jesus in everything in life.  Hope in Jesus actually changes us as people because through the Holy Spirit he is living within us.

To most people this sounds just weird.  Even to Christians the depth of this truth is lost or minimized, and it's easy to see when you look at how hopeless many of God's children actually feel.  But I want you to know that hope in Jesus is real hope to make a difference in real life. 

But it all starts in you.  Your world, the one that seems so broken at times, will be changed beginning with the changes God has brought in you.  His desire is to shine through you to bring about changes in others--to bring hope to them.

Jesus, your children are so grateful you saved us, but most of us don't really believe that we can make a difference, or that you can make a difference in our world through us.  We admit that we want to just sit on the sidelines and watch and don't allow the hope you've given us to move us into more.  Don't stop changing us. . . .and grow desire in us that will overcome our fears.


Friday, November 11, 2011

To Be A Child

When I got up this morning I saw a book lying in my living room called Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.  So I picked it up and started to read, hearing from a young child, full of life and fun and mischief and wonder, the account of his experience leaving his body during an emergency appendectomy, and being brought into heaven itself!

Now, if you're like me, when you read something like this it is so easy to try and rationalize and evaluate the claims that are made.  It's not an easy thing to believe--as much as we'd like to say that we believe so many things about Jesus, salvation, heaven, etc.  But when someone tries to tell us that they have had a first-hand experience--well, that's a different story.  All of a sudden my defenses kick in, because, after all, this account is not THE AUTHORITATIVE WORD OF GOD!!

OK, fine, but maybe the words of a child are enough.

Colton Burpo (yes, kind of unfortunate!) was just a few years old when he was taken into heaven.  His dad is a pastor and recounts the many different things that his son explains he saw during his "time" in heaven (time seems to function differently there).

What I think struck me the most is that everything that is described lines up with what is revealed in scripture--it is just that it is so vivid and so. . . . .intimate and real.  That's the part I love the most--that God is real and that He has such an expectancy of being with us one day, with no "curtain" separating us any longer.

I long for this too, though I often forget. . . .

At one point Colton is asked if he knows why Jesus died on the cross.  In his matter of fact way, he says that he knows exactly why because Jesus told him that he wants people to see his dad!  I love this!  It is so unchurchy, so unrehearsed, so unslick--just the real goods.  Jesus did what he did because he just wants us to meet his dad.

Yeah, that can go a long way as far as I'm concerned.

I think my heart today is that Jesus' dad would strip off the veneers of my thinking, of my beliefs, and allow me to see what's really important-- with the eyes of a child.

That would be enough.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

U2 and Expectant Faith

This summer I went to a U2 concert in Edmonton.

It was an event that was of a scale that could easily be described as "grand".  It was large and impressive in every way:  biggest stage set-up, massive venue, huge crowd, and even the expectation was off the charts.  And that made me begin to think. . . .

There were people there who had shown up the day before and set up tents so they could have the chance to buy tickets for the 'spit zone'.  That means being able to be so close to where Bono would be singing they would be able to enjoy a personal shower from the exuberant singer as he passionately belted out their band's greatest hits. 

Now that is expectant faith.  These people were committed to sacrificing for something they simply knew would be worth it.  They didn't hesitate in putting themselves out there, enduring cold weather or rain or discomfort because they were confident their efforts would be rewarded.  And by the way, the show was amazing!

But, I have to ask myself, why is it that we don't have the same kind of expectancy when we go to church?  Yes, I understand that church is something that happens regularly and doesn't have the same kind of excitement as a one-time event like the concert I described.  But, I still have to ask the question: why is it that our faith--that is, our beliefs and trust in something beyond ourselves, is so limited when it comes to expectations of God while we sit in a pew?

I suppose some of the blame should rest on leadership, but I still wonder what's missing?  After all, I don't remember Bono making a long list of promises guaranteeing that he would be offering something that you could trust would make long-lasting impact in our lives.  He didn't make any claims that his show would transform hearts and lead people to revelations that would alter patterns of thought and bring freedom to our hearts!  And yet, there they were--the people whose faith and expectancy were driving them to camp-out for a day in order to be as close to him as possible.

When we come to church to hear about the claims Jesus makes, shouldn't this cause some kind of expectancy to rise in us?  He makes reference to being not only a man but God himself!  The God who created me and designed me to be in relationship with Him.  He says to me that I have challenges within me that hinder me in this relationship, but that He has provided a supernatural power called the Holy Spirit to come and be a resident presence in me to help me overcome these challenges so that I may be free to enjoy pure and joyful relationship!

Shouldn't this cause us to come to church with an expectancy that His promises will really make a difference in me?  And yet, we sit as close to the back of the church as possible. . . . .

I don't want to sound too negative, but I think God deserves more from us.  I don't think we necessarily have to camp-out over night to honor Him, but we should be willing to take a look at ourselves and ask the question:  if God's claims are true, and He is a God who not only makes many promises that affect me positively but tells me that He is willing to act on them, then maybe my expectancy regarding Him should reflect that?

Lord, help us to break through the fog that prevents us from living in the joy and life that you desire for us.  Forgive us when we honor things of this world far more than you.  We really are like little children who don't know what's best for us.  Help us to be humble enough to admit our need, and build up in us a desire to desire You.  Cause our hearts to be filled with expectancy that what you promise, you will do.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Yesterday we saw an historic event take place here in Saskatchewan.  The Saskatchewan Party achieved a victory in the provincial election with a popular vote of close to 64 percent.  There has never been an election held in the history of this province where a leader and party has been given this much support.

It doesn't matter if you are a supporter of the NDP, the Greens or the Sask. Party, the results are the same:  overwhelming.

Being 'overwhelmed'.  This word conjures up images of Tsunami waves that gather up their force in deep waters while being forced by immense tectonic plates shifting and transferring their power up through the oceans creating enough force to pile up destructive waves that crash over a hundred miles inland.  To be 'overwhelmed' is to be lost in something.  To be so taken by what is happening around you that you can't ignore it, and you can't take your eyes of it. 

So when I think of this overwhelming election, part of me is left hollow because I realize that, though it is historic and important, it does not capture my attention like something that is genuinely overwhelming.

There were some in times past who were overwhelmed when they came face to face with a force that captured their attention.  Consider this:  a young family with children.  One son who was experiencing physical affliction that was unexplainable other than to say it was spiritual in nature.  Violent seizures were the order of the day for this young lad, and no one knew what to do.

Until Jesus came along.  This man saw what was happening and, once again, as he always did, showed the world what the Kingdom of God looks like:  and it looks like freedom, because he healed that boy and sent him on his way.

In Mark 9:15 it says that "as soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him."  Just think about that for a second:  when they saw this man, they just knew that whatever life was throwing at them, they immediately ran to him because there was just something about him that made a difference--a real difference!

Yes, the Sask. Party has experienced an overwhelming election.  But I am not inclined to be filled with wonder and expectation that they will be able to address the deepest longings of my heart.

Only Jesus makes a real difference.  Only He can do that. 

Jesus, I ask on behalf of everyone who reads this today, that you would somehow reveal yourself in such a way that people are able to see you with the eyes that those in Mark 9 saw.  May we be filled with a wonder and expectation as you overwhelm us with your presence.  We need you more than we can even comprehend and ask that you make a real difference in our lives today.


Friday, November 4, 2011

What a Wonderful Life

I seem to be on a "life" kick lately--it's what I talk about a lot in this blog over the last number of days.  Maybe there is someone out there who is asking questions about life, wondering what's the point, or why life is so difficult?  If so, then I hope that God takes these words and uses them to bring hope and strength to you today.

One of my favorite bands is Altar Bridge--a secular group that plays powerfully and, though not speaking messages that are Christian, they clearly sing about songs that are about searching.  I like honest questions--even if they are hard ones.

In their latest album they perform a song called Wonderful Life, and in it you find this line, "What a wonderful life for as long as you've been by my side.  And I want you to know I love you so. . .What a wonderful life my friend."

They are singing this to a lost loved one, someone who had immense meaning in their life but is now gone.  They are remembering the great moments they shared together, and just how deeply impacted they were when they were together.  It made life wonderful.

Whenever I hear this song I think about Jesus.  I wonder what life would be like without him in it?  How would I feel about the "daily grind"?  Or, how would I approach relationships without him helping me understand what relationships are all about?  I may often think that life is hard, but if I'm honest, wouldn't it be so much harder without him?  I might not want to say that life is wonderful as that seems to conjure images of perpetual smiles, and that is not what I experience.  But if I define life with Jesus as meaningful, where deep questions find good homes and my heart and mind are able to rest--then isn't that worth a lot?

I guess it's true, then, to say that life with Jesus is wonderful because he has shown me such meaning in a world that so often seems barren and grey.  At a time of year when the leaves are falling and the grass is dying maybe it's a good reminder to know that Jesus is walking with those he calls his children, and by his Spirit he is bringing about life all the time. 

Jesus, help us to hear, see, feel and enjoy You.  Help us to receive You--because You are nothing but good.  And, what can I say. . .good is good.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The "Ideal" Life

People have told me that I'm an "idealist".  This can mean a number of things but the most common comes in two packages: the first is that as an idealist I dream about things that aren't realistic and I shouldn't waste my time.  The second has more to do with being a visionary, someone who sees the "horizon" of things to come but aren't here just yet.

The world needs idealists because hope and creative imagination is often tied up in the minds and hearts of those who see and live and talk of things that are not yet manifest.  I believe that an idealist doesn't have to be someone who doesn't have any practical concerns--as always, balance is necessary.  In fact, I believe Jesus was an idealist in the best sense of the term.  He lived out something that was, in many ways, not fully realized.  He was a microcosm in human form of the Kingdom he kept talking about.  Wherever he went he did amazing things that often brought about strong reactions from others but he also talked about "things to come".  An idealist indeed.

I love a statement from Mark Driscoll that talks about ideals and values.  In it he describes the difference between the two: ideals are what we want and values are what we do.  This is what Driscoll writes:
"The trick to uncovering people's (churches) values is to assess how they invest their time, energy, money and passion.  What do they love and what do they hate?  What do they talk about?  What do they rally around?  But values can be tricky because they are often little more than ideals, what people merely wish they valued and cared for, what they are committed to in theory, but not in practise.  many vegetarians eat meat, environmentalists don't recycle, employees don't work and Christians don't read their Bibles.  Ideals are what you want; values are what you do.  Ideals become values only if they are lived out."

So for those who call Rock of Ages Church their home, what would you say are her ideals and values?

A great question--but a tough one too.

Here is what I want to want:  Psalm 37:4 "Delight in yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart."  I want to want to be delighted in the LORD!  I want to find my life and hope and inspiration in Him.  I know I often don't go to him for these desires and so I ask Him to help me to have the desire to desire him.
Here is what I want to do:  James 1:22 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says."  I want to hear the direction of God through His word and then put it into action.  It sounds so simple, but it is really a challenge spiritually.  Nevertheless, there it is--plain as day--what you see and hear, do it!

So coming back to ideals and values:  my prayer for myself and for everyone at Rock of Ages is this; "Lord help us to want the things that please you, and what pleases you most is when we simply desire you--to be with you, to spend time with you, to pay attention to you, to allow you opportunity to shape, and teach and train and really, just love on us!  Thank you for that.  But I also pray Lord that as our desires become shaped this would lead us to live out those desires--to do. May our lives reflect both the ideals and the values that you so perfectly model."

I wonder what your life will look like today?


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep

Today I was part of a conversation about theology.  I like to think about things that have influence and importance.  Theology is an important part of a Christian's life because it provides frameworks through which we can understand concepts and teachings from God's Word.  I am a supporter of theology, but I have to say that my understanding of theology has changed over the years.

When I first began to engage theological teaching I was excited because I was finding answers to important questions related to God.  It was an empowering feeling, satisfying really.  But as the years wear on what I once saw as a liberating force for good has now lost some of its sheen--it doesn't glisten quite like it used to for me. 

The world and life itself, is complex and the older I get the more I realize that fact.  Theologians, just like everyone else, understand that as you advance in years you also rub shoulders with a lot of differing ideas and opinions--many of which are in direct opposition to each other.  It gets even more complex when you begin to realize just how divided people are within the Body of Christ itself!  In the face of all this complexity can rise doubt, and a strong temptation to overcome this diversity and doubt is to become very defensive in the attempt to protect what makes sense to you.  This can often be portrayed in a harsh and unloving manner that seems to project strength, but in reality does little to engender the kind of strength I see in Jesus.

I have come to the conclusion that theology is nothing more than humanity's best attempts to describe God and Truth.  Theological systems of thought include truth, but they are not in themselves infallible, which means they also contain things that are not necessarily true.  Only the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and as such is the authority we hold to, even if we do so in a stumbling, bumbling way.

If theology is placed below Scripture in place of authority, then this should be reflected in how we live then as well.  Our conversations between differing theological views should be very humble in nature because of our growing understanding that we don't have everything theologically nailed down with no questions remaining.  This doesn't mean that we can't disagree, or that we can't know right from wrong, it just means that our hearts and minds must know our limitations and our judgements can only get us so far.

I am struck by this thought:  in light of the complexity I describe, and the innate desire to press into certainty and to defend that certainty at all costs, we have lost something.  We have fallen into the trap of defending and elevating the principle of certainty itself over the One in whom we have any sense of foundation at all--Jesus.  Our theological pursuits gain such a breadth, such a scope that spans the ages and includes wide swaths of ideas, that we have forgotten the reason that any of these doctrines and theological systems exist at all.

When we strive to protect our theological systems of understanding because our identities are found in them, we have become a mile wide and only about an inch deep.

Jesus, YOU are the reason that we are even able to think at all.  YOU are the One who deserves our praise.  If, for example, I have doubts about grace, eternal security or the potential of losing salvation--the fact remains that salvation itself exists because YOU have lived and died and lived on my behalf so that I could be given a gift such as this!

I want to be singular minded in keeping you My Lord firmly in my view.  I might be accused of being "narrow-minded" but I know that you are in the business of teaching me all things--that's a promise that comes directly from You.  I don't want to be a mile-wide and an inch deep, I want depth that comes with hearing and following You. 

Prince of Peace, today I ask that you would grant us the gift of peace to rest in you while our thoughts and our lives whirl about us.  I declare that you are the only true authority, and it is from you that any answers that have any real meaning or depth come from.  Speak words of life to those who are dying inside--for whatever reason.  Give to them today a glimpse of your glory so that light will shine in them and bring hope.

At the end of the day, all I can really say is "I love you."


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Real Life: Boy Do We Need Help!

I was watching a TV show the other day where a movie producer was being interviewed.  In the interview he described why his latest show depicted so much foul language and sex and problem relationships.  His response was something like this: "The kind of stuff I'm showing on screen are the experiences of everyone every day.  This is real life and I wanted to show something that was close to reality."

I may have his words a bit wrong, but the essence of what he said I've described pretty accurately.  What he wanted to show in his movie was what real life actually is.  What a mess!  Now, I have to say that there is some truth to what he is saying--there really is a lot of this stuff that happens regularly in our daily lives.  But the danger in this is that because it is so prevalent, we can begin to think this is normal.  It is certainly common but it is not normal because normal should be a reflection of what lines up with the way things are supposed to be.  What we see here is very abnormal.

We need help!  Do you ever struggle with living around dark things so much that it begins to affect how you think and live yourself?  It can sometimes seem as though there is little light shining.  But I'm here to remind you that the the light is shining!  It's shining brightly; paths are being illuminated; goodness abounds; right relationships are everywhere; it's just that good things are poor self-promoters--they kind of avoid putting their influence on billboards for everyone to see.  Which is very much unlike all the other stuff that is described by the movie producer mentioned above.

I love Paul's comment in 2 Thessalonians 3:5 where he says "May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance."

Wonderful!  Our hearts need to find their peace, life and meaning in the heart of God.  That is where we will learn what real real life is all about.  But Paul knew that it is hard to see through all the crap that seems so prevalent in our lives and so he also added that we need to be strengthened for the journey in the perseverance of Jesus.  Jesus lived out real values, real love, real life but he did so through pretty hard circumstances--and we need to do the same.

So remember that what you see in your day is not necessarily a reflection of what real life is.  Place your heart in God's hands and he will reveal the truth essence of life for you.  But he won't just leave you with a picture in mind and send you on your way.  He will also provide you with perseverance to live out this picture of goodness as well.

It's time to rest. . . .rest in Jesus.  I encourage you to stop today, and just take some time to rest in His hands and let him restore you.  It's so good there. . . . .