Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life Goes On

What a life!

I am sitting in the livingroom of my son's parents-in-law just getting ready to come home after a few days of visiting for Christmas. They were wonderful hosts and made everyone feel welcome and blessed. But life goes on and holidays come to an end. Jobs call us back and the reality and needs of life require us to "get back at it".
But even though our scheduled lives get back to the routine, we still think about our relationships and how they are a blessing to us. The love that is shared among family is the way Jesus designed us to live, and it is good that we recognize that--I think it brings honor to Him.

I think we are able to live better, think better, contribute more, and have a generally healthier disposition when family 'works'. Our connection seems to bring to life aspects of who we are that come out stronger when we are together. Sure, it's not always easy, but I still think it's true.

This reminds me of what Jesus says in John 15:6 "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers.."

Often this verse is interpreted as harsh on Jesus' part--almost like a threat held over us--"do this or else you won't like the outcome.". But I wonder if His heart is little different here...

If you read the context surrounding this verse you find that Jesus is really focussing on relationship with Him that leads Him to eventually call the people who follow Him "friends" because He has entrusted His heart, thoughts and plans to those who are with Him.

Quite a statement if you think about it--we are called God's friends!

There are always rules of appropriate living when you are with family--but those are not things we live in perpetual angst over when you are with them for a time like Christmas. They are just things that are part of a normal time together. I think the same kind of attitude fits when we think of our relationship with Jesus--He says to live in Him and we are blessed when we do so. When we stumble in our sins, He is not waiting for the opportunity to separate Himself from us. In fact, He has done much that would show us the opposite: He died on the cross so we could be with Him!
This Christmas season remember that Jesus considers His followers as friends--and He is willing to go to great lengths to ensure this relationship with Him.

It's kind of hard to express how great it is to live with love around you--it certainly doesn't do justice simply to say it's 'good'.

But maybe it's not the words that really count because they only describe the reality. What really counts is that we have it in Jesus!

Thank you my Friend....

Brian M Tysdal
Lead Pastor
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon Sask.
374-1707 (Church)
291-3308 (Cel)

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Last night we had a wonderful Christmas celebration.  Good friends had come over to our place to enjoy a meal that my wife had been preparing all day.  The food was scrumptuous and the visiting was even better.

A little later in the evening some of our relatives dropped by, adding to the joyous occasion.  My brother-in-law was able to entertain his grandson for the first time in a long while and it was most obvious that he was giving all his attention to this little guy.  It took all of 3 seconds for my brother-in-law to scoop up his prized treasure in his arms and--straight to the chair where he proceeded to show 'home videos' on his cell phone of various adventures from previous family gatherings, and hi-jinx played out on jungle jims.  The joy on my brother-in-law's face was unadulterated and his antics with his grandson were obviously from a deep place inside him that was filled with love.

He was heartstruck.

It will probably be many years before my brother-in-law's grandson fully realizes how blessed he was last night, and all the other times that he receives that kind of over-the-top love.  But that doesn't matter to the granddad because he is free to offer his love for that very reason--love.  Love has it's own reasons for doing the things it does.  Where it exists, it flows.  It can't help it because that's its nature.  Even when the object of affection is oblivious to what's going on, the desire and expression of that love is as steady and true as ever.  And, as I said before, even though the recipient of that love is not fully aware of what is offered, the person who is loved is blessed.  And then one day the love that has been poured out in radical abundance, brings the loved-one to a place where the light goes on and his or heart comes alive to the amazing gift it has been given.  It is at this moment that joy explodes, both in the one who has been given to, and in the one who been doing all the giving.

That's just how love works--that's just how people who are heartstruck are.

Did you know that God is heartstruck too?  Did you know that His reactions to you are just the same as my brother-in-law's were toward his grandson?  When God sees you it takes him no time at all to scoop you up in his arms and his desire is to recount grand tales of adventures that you shared.  His joy for you is not diminished by the simple fact that you don't fully understand him.  Don't be shocked by the fact that we are no different than that little grandson sitting on grandpa's lap, not aware of the magnitude of love being lavished on him.  We are exactly the same--but that doesn't stop God's desire to love on you just the same.

Because that's how love works--it can't help it.

John 3:16 is usually talked about in terms of God's desire to save us from our sins, but the first line is sometimes overlooked in its importance.  It says that God loves us!  Do you hear that?  Do you know that?

I can't state this any more clearly:  God is heartstruck over you.  And though you might not know it yet--he is eagerly anticipating the day when you become aware of that love because he knows how filled with joy you will be.  But, until that day, he will not stop loving you. . . .

Because, that's just how love works.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Healing And the Power of God

Healing is something that many in the Christian church wrestle with.  The wrestling has nothing to with whether healing is good or bad--everyone agrees that any healing from God is good.  But the question has to do more with trying to understand why healing happens sometimes and other times not.

I am not addressing that particular issue right now--instead, I want to point out something that is embedded in Scripture related directly to the healings that take place there.

In Acts 9:32-35 we see Peter praying for a man who had been paralyzed for 8 years.  This man was healed, but what I want to point out is verse 35: "All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord."
Then in Acts 9:36-42 Peter prays for a girl who had died--yes, you heard that right, who had died, and the girl was healed of her death (does that even make sense??).  But, again, focus on verse 42: "This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord."

You will see this again, and again in scripture--that where healing took place, people were brought to relationship with Jesus.

Now I believe that based on Matthew 7 God loves to give his children good gifts, so the healing that he brings to people makes a lot of sense just based on that.  But I think the problem we have sometimes is that we forget to see the bigger picture when it comes to healing.  Our sin makes us selfish, and the gifts that God wants to give us can be held onto for ourselves if we aren't careful.  It can become a little bit more about 'me' and a little less about others, and a little less about God!  But God shows us that the healings that took place in Acts served a much bigger purpose than just an individual receiving a gift--it was done so that people would take notice, and ultimately take notice of the One who did the healing!  People were saved because of the healing.

So when we pray for someone to be healed, rejoice that God desires to give good gifts to his children.  But don't forget that the healing that happens is to serve a greater purpose: to bring glory to God and to bring people into a saving relationship with him.

God is good.

So I want to bring a word of encouragement to all who are reading this today:  if you know someone who is hurting physically or emotionally, you can pray for them and believe for God to heal them.  The healing that will happen will be a blessing to the individual but also it will be a source of evangelism--so let it be that!  Let people know that God did an amazing thing and see what the Holy Spirit will do to draw them to Jesus.

May you walk in the power of God today and may you see him do the impossible--right before your eyes.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dis-Ease of Faith

Let me be clear right off the bat--I don't think that faith is a disease.  What I am saying is that living a life of faith can make us feel uneasy, ill-at-ease.

Why do I say that?  Because it is quite a challenge sometimes to live our daily lives--the lives where we rub shoulders with real people, and deal with the practical challenges that face us regularly--in faith.  It can just seem that faith and the real world are so different, so very unrelated, that to try and live by faith in the world that surrounds us, seems odd--like it doesn't fit.

Just yesterday I was in the hospital surrounded by a number of people I had never met, and they were dealing with a young man who was shot in the stomach by some people that had broken into their home and began to violently attack them.

So there I was, being the 'pastor'--what to do?  I tried to speak comfort to the family and I asked them if I could pray with them.  So I did.  I asked the Heavenly Father to help them, to bring peace, to bring protection and safety, to bring them to Jesus!

And then I left.

There were no angelic visitations, no choirs that sprang into majestic choruses, no sense of God doing anything miraculous at all really.  But that is faith isn't it?  To believe in things not seen?  Can you begin to get a sense of the 'dis-ease' of faith?  These were people in real need.  They needed physical protection; they had a son, a brother, a friend who was lying on a bed with a bullet in his stomach and prayer just seemed not enough to me. 

I'm just being honest with you because I think this feeling of dis-ease with 'faith and the real world' that I'm talking about is something that many followers of Jesus wrestle with.  It's mostly because of sin's presence that this disconnection exists.  But nevertheless the disconnect is real.  So how do we deal with it?  As Christians asked by God to live out our faith here--how do we actually do that?

In Romans 4:18ff we are told about Abraham whose faith allowed him to believe that, even though he was very old and beyond the normal child-rearing years, God's promise to him was still valid.  Abraham had the faith to believe in God to make a real difference in the real world, even though everything around him tried to convince him that his faith did not fit his circumstance. In the end, his faith proved true, and his circumstances changed.

So two things are important to know: First--we need to know God's promises for us--just like Abraham.  Why?  Because our faith needs something to believe--something tangible, something knowable.  This means that we need to get to know God much more intimately.  Second--we need to begin to understand that though faith might not fit our world, it is not faith that should be seen as optional, it is the way and thinking of the world that is optional--so let's give up thinking 'worldly' and allow faith-living to rise to the top!  This will require us to make the choice to live by faith.  Not always easy, but necessary to be sure.

Lord Jesus--today I ask that those of us who struggle with the dis-ease of faith would be given a new perspective, one that plants us firmly in your promises, and one that spurs us on to openly live our faith in you.  Make our ordinary, daily lives today ones that shine.

I am looking forward to going back to that hospital. . . .


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Realistic Expectations

I was driving to work this morning with my son and as we went along we prayed for our day.  One thing that came to mind to pray for was realistic expectations.  With the Christmas season upon us, we have all sorts of gatherings, celebrations, family, and friends--even worship services, and all of this happens smack-dab in the middle of a culture that works overtime to try hype everything.  The danger is that we can begin to have unhealthy or misguided expectations.

Friendships that have struggled all year don't immediately get healthy just because there is a Christmas tree in the livingroom.  What was going on during the year doesn't magically change when lights and stockings are hung on the house and in the malls.

Now, I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade here, I'm just saying that a dose of reality is important, especially when there are so many things around us that can cause our expectations to rise--and rise based on things that aren't necessarily true.

So maybe this is a good time to reflect on something that is good for us to hear, and something that helps us to have slightly different expectations:
In Ephesians 4:1-5 we hear about some expectations that shifts the focus from what we expect from others onto ourselves and what others should expect from us.  It tells us that because we are children of God we are to live a life worthy of that calling.  We are told to be humble and gentle--being patient with each other and to do so with great love.  It mentions that we are to greatly value unity and peace, things that can sometimes get lost in the hustle and bustle of this season we find ourselves in.

It's so easy for us to lose sight of what is good, especially when the things that are tripping us up are wrapped in beautiful paper and bows with the scent of cinnamon in the air--it all looks so wonderful!  But here is the kicker:  we can get so wrapped up in the hype of Christmas--an unrealistically romantic view of what it should look like--that when things don't go the way we think it should, then our expectations start to put a lot of pressure on other people--pressure to satisfy our expectations, and when this happens it usually doesn't have much to do with the things mentioned in Eph. 4.

So here is my advice:  stop for a minute and consider what God values and ask yourself if you are valuing the same things.  If your ideas of Christmas don't include an emphasis on being humble and gentle; about being patient in love; and about working toward unity and peace; then I want to suggest that something should change.

When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, our expectations begin to be fixed in Him as well.  And when that begins to happen our lives begin to reflect Him too. 

Jesus, help us have truly realistic expectations this Christmas--help us to live with great care for others and allow genuine love, joy and peace be our gifts this year.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

You Know When It's Real

You've probably heard of the Wendy's restaurant commercial that boasts of their fresh food and associates that freshness with 'real' food.  Their point is that something is much better when it is real than when it's not.  Sounds silly on the surface, but there is a profound truth that is hidden in this statement--and it has nothing to do hamburger patties.

Many years ago a philosopher tried to prove the existence of God through a rational argument and one of the statements that he made was that God was the most perfect Being, the most powerful, the most loving, the most knowing etc.  But then he went on to say that in order for Him to be the most perfect and best Being, He had to actually exist, because if He was just a theory then He could not be the best. The idea of something perfect is somehow less than the actual existance of that perfect thing. In essence, what he was saying was exactly the same as Wendys:  real is the best!  And when you come into contact with the real thing, you know it.

Now whether you are the most profound philosopher or just someone who really enjoys a Baconator, the same is true when you come into contact with the Living God--you most certainly know that He is real.  But do you ever get frustrated with a sense that life with God, or doing the church 'thing' just seems to come up short?  Like there is something missing?  It just doesn't quite seem like what you think is the real thing?

Certainly sin is always skulking around and causing us to suffer from degrees of separation from God, but what I really want to do in this blog is to remind us of a simple truth that God himself speaks loud and clear: In Exodus 3:14 God introduced Himself to Moses by saying "I AM WHO I AM" This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I AM" has sent me to you."

I AM.  Sounds pretty different than "I Am Not" doesn't it?

God is real, and is reaching out to us.  And I think the best thing about all of this is that this most perfect Being is wanting for me, and for you to know Him intimately--to see Him, to feel Him, to experience Him, to know that He is real.

Isn't it kind of amazing to think that one of the most important things to God is that we would know Him?  If He really wants that, and is the most powerful Being in existence, then maybe we can relax and trust Him to be able to show us what He is all about? 

I can just hear I AM saying 'sounds good to me!'


Friday, December 16, 2011

Not Without Pain But Without Stain

Wisdom.  It comes from the least expected places sometimes.  Some of us are familiar with the Bible story of a donkey that speaks up for what is true when the existing leadership was unwilling to stand for what is right.

God has a special way of communicating what His children need to hear.  He speaks, and even though it seems that He is silent, especially when we are in a time of greatest need, be assured that He gets his message across.  We can trust Him in that.

Recently my daughter gave me a bookmark that she and her ministry team gave out to inmates in a local women's prison.  I thought the verse on it was so relevant:  Prov. 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take."

Pretty appropriate wisdom to be given to a group that has not made good choices in their lives.  This was a call to trust in the One who could make a real difference in them--the only One who could meet their deepest needs.

But even though the verse was great, the phrase that followed on that bookmark hit me even harder.  Listen to what it said:  "God has specially designed you and has fully equipped you to walk through this life with Him by your side.  Not without pain but without stain."

I mean, come on!!  This is incredible!  Can you imagine how someone in prison would feel if they read this?  They are special.  They are fully equipped.  They are not alone.  They are accepted.  Their pain is not shoved under the rug, but is acknowledged, but not elevated to the point of being the thing that defines who they are.  No, the pain is real, but with God in their lives, they are forgiven--without stain."  Can you imagine how a desperate heart would drink that up?

Wonderful.  Amazing.  Breathtaking.

Now, I want to to ask you to do something:  I want you to examine yourself in a mirror (no, not literally, just be thoughtful of yourself).  And as a child of God, I want you to understand something about youself. . . .
God looks at you and is convinced that you are special.  He has fully equipped you to walk through your life.  You are not alone, no matter how lonely you might feel.  You are accepted--fully into relationship with and through Jesus.  Your pain is real and God acknowledges it.  He doesn't minimize it, or sweep it under the rug, which also means that you are fully understood by Him.  But He refuses to define you as a victim, or primarily through your pain because He sees who you really are and what are your greatest needs.  Because of that He has forgiven you through Jesus.  And this forgiveness brings you freedom that is beyond what a soul can imagine.  To Him, the One who loves you more than you know--you are without stain.

Incredible.  Blessed.  Awestruck.

I want to say thanks to my daughter Jenna, who shared this with me, and most of all, I want to say thanks to Jesus for bringing to us, and you, forgiveness and life that makes a real difference.

Not without pain, but without stain.  I can live with that.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Good Advice?

A number of months ago I had the privilege of hearing a speaker at a conference for pastors and leaders.  I so appreciated his approach:  he used humor to communicate and though the points made had depth, it was the method he used that opened my heart to receive them.

So, in typical fashion, the advice he gave us came in a back-handed way. 
The Title of his talk was "5 Keys To Crash and Burn Well":
1.  Let fear rule you
2.  Work at daily pushing away loss
3.  Work hard at being someone that you're not
4.  Do not deal with people conflict
5.  Ignore your basic human needs

It's pretty obvious that he wanted us to do the opposite of what he was saying, and if you look closely you will agree that what he was presenting really was good advice.  But I wonder if we have trouble receiving genuinely good advice sometimes?

Listen to this passage from 1 John 3:16 "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

How often do I hear this advice but live the opposite way?  How often do I misinterpret what being 'responsible' is by thinking that spending my life and my resources on myself and my family, without ever allowing myself to really believe that God is calling myself, and all His children, to "lay down our lives" for each other?  If you're like me I ask "HOW"?  How do I actually live this way and not put myself and my family in a horrible position?  How do I give more time to others when it seems that I don't have enough already?

Here I need to stop.  Period.  Go back to the beginning--to the basics.  I need to hear what God says to me, and He says love others with time and resources.  If He is the God of all resources then He can provide what is needed for everyone.  He might not make more hours in a day, but He will change things to make possible what He asks us to do.  I don't have to know 'how', I just need to be willing to step into it.

Not easy, but really doable!

So here is my 'good advice' as I hear God speaking.  Here are "5 Keys To Ignoring God Well":
1.  Do not listen to God
2.  Make sure that you only care about yourself
3.  Always avoid sacrificing for others
4.  Do not believe that God can change you
5.  Do not believe that God is able to overcome our circumstances

Lord, help us to really hear your voice--deep in our bones.  Shake us out of disbelief, and help us to actually step into what you have for us.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Unexpected Voices

We think we need to have a large audience, with a grand and public stage in order for us to have a real and significant impact.  We tend to think that something is more valuable if more people are interested.  Certainly commodities that are sold to the public indicate that if more want the product then the price will increase accordingly.

But not all things are valued according to the size of the audience, or the amount of demand expressed by the people.  No, in fact, sometimes things that are behind the scenes, apart from the crowds, separate from any public stage, are the most important things of all.

The disciple John wrote the book of Revelation while he was isolated from the world on the island of Patmos.  He had no stage, he had no audience to speak of.  He was alone and really, the only general public sentiment directed toward him would have been one of derision as the Roman government had seen fit to exile him from public life because he was a witness to the man Jesus Christ.

And there is the key. . .he was a witness to Jesus.

Things related to God don't always seem to function in the way we think they should.  If we want the Gospel to be productive, the last thing we would think is to be writing a letter on an isolated island far away from any potential ears or eyes.  And yet, this message finds a way to impact thousands upon thousands of people.  How?  Because the message is about a living God who is not limited to a cell or an island.  John's words may have been spoken in private, but God himself saw fit to have it proclaimed across the globe.

So what does this have to do with you?  I want to tell you that your life is not insignificant.  You don't need a stage, or a vast public network, or powerful friends in order for your life to matter.  You matter, you are signficant because you have the ear of God Himself!  His eyes are upon you, and if you have accepted Jesus, then the Holy Spirit Himself lives within you.

The potential that is in you is unlimited because the God of unlimited power lives within you.

You may not think that your voice counts for much.  I would venture to say that John probably didn't think that the letter he wrote called 'Revelation' would be something that would be as big as it was either.  The point is this:  your voice counts, because God values it.  I'll say it again:  your voice counts because God values it.

Psalm 144:3 says "O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?"  The answer?  He thinks of you because you matter to him.  He cares for you because He has placed great value on you!

So today, even though it might not seem that you are having much of an impact on your world, and maybe you think that your voice is insignificant, please remember the truth--who you are and what you have to say is incredibly valued because God Himself is your audience.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Same Old Grind

It doesn't seem quite right to me to be talking about the "grind" of daily life so close to christmas.  This is the season of joy and friendship; of lights and celebrations.  This is a time to be merry!

And don't misunderstand me, it is all these things and it is wonderful.  But the lives we live the other 11 months of the year don't miraculously stop in their tracks.  We still go to work, make lunches, study and prepare for the things we are regularly responsible for, and that's good too.

It's not really fair to name this blog 'the same old grind' because that implies something negative when my point is (hopefully) an encouragement.

What made me think about this comes from watching TV last night.  As I was tuned into some of the sports highlights from the day I noticed a stream of short clips showing Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, on the field in various games.  Why he is a story for the media right now is that he is playing very well, and has a knack for fourth quarter comebacks.  The word they use a lot to describe his play is 'miraculous', and this is not only because of what he is accomplishing on the field but there is also a playful connection to his spiritual life as well--Tebow is an openly practising Christian.

So when I was watching the clips of Tebow's football play, I noticed again and again that he would kneel after a touchdown, or point to the sky after a particularly good throw, or pound his chest and then look up toward heaven to give a nod to the 'Big Guy' after a successful play.

And this was the thought I had: this is Tebow's job, this is what he does for a living, day in and day out.  He gets up in the morning, brushes his teeth, eats breakfast and then--off to work.  While he is at work he is again, and again, giving a nod to his Heavenly Father, just like it was part of his routine.

And I thought--this is really good!  Maybe I can learn from this guy.  Better yet, maybe he is helping to remind me what God wants to teach me. . . .take a look at the following verse from Romans 12:1 (The Message):

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

Maybe life that seems like a grind feels that way because we don't include God in it? In our efforts to try and see God as holy, maybe we have restricted to Him to the halls of our churches, and the pews of our sanctuaries?

So let's break free!  Let's listen to God's own heart that tells us plainly that He wants to be included in our ordinary, everyday lives.  Here's a few examples:  The next time you are welding and you put down that perfect bead, when you are admiring the good job you did, maybe do like Tebow and pound your chest and give a nod to the 'Big Guy'--include him!  He wants to join in the fun.  Or maybe when you are asked to move a bunch of crates in the warehouse, and when you are finished and looking at how well you have organized everything--take a knee and just say 'thanks' for God's presence and his giving you the abilities you have.  Whatever it is that is part of your 'daily grind', give God glory openly--it is a testimony to be sure.  And if you think it is embarassing that people might see you--just remember Tim Tebow--he is taking a knee before millions of people every time he does it.

Hope you enjoy your day!


Saturday, December 10, 2011


Have you ever been in a desert?  Or maybe you have been in a place where it was so hot and dry that your body was literally sreaming for water?

I remember a time when I was in a friend's attic doing some electrical work for him, and the temperature was over a hundred degrees.  I thought my time up there would be short but the work took longer than I expected--but I knew I didn't want to go back up there so I pressed on.  The sweat was literally running off of me and my thirst grew and grew.  Eventually I finished up and when I came down the ladder I realized the extent of my dehydration as I began to get dizzy and was shaking slightly from head to toe.
I remember my only thought:  I need a drink and I need it now!  This was the only thing on my mind--to get that cool, refreshing water, that was what I needed.  That was all I needed!

Sometimes our lives can look a little like this:  we go about our daily business and we know that things might be a little rough, but we press on and we tell ourselves "just a little further" without realizing that our efforts are depleting our resources quicker than they are being replenished.  If we don't address the problem we can start to exhibit cracks in our character.  Maybe we get a little short with other people, or possibly we just don't seem to be able to handle pressure like we could before, or we get angrier a bit sooner than normal.   Whatever the symptom is, it is only that, a symptom of something that has snuck up on you but is now screaming for attention.

Just like my body needed water right now after coming down from that attic, souls that have been overworked and undernourished are crying out for help right now as well.

It amazes me how much God offers us, and yet how easy it is to ignore His gifts, even when we are in obvious need.  Maybe the following will be nourishment for your soul today:

John 7:37 "If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me. . .streams of living water will flow from within him."

If you are achingly thirsty, there is no way to describe the feeling when you take that first drink.  It isn't just that your body is being replenished, there is an immediate sense of well-being that flows as well--you just feel better.  Jesus knows when our souls are thirsty and that He has just what the doctor ordered to bring healing.  You will be filled up, your needs met with such abundance that you will not receive just barely enough to overcome your thirst, but you will receive so much that your soul will overflow--with more than enough!

I know it sounds hard to believe, but that's another amazing thing about Jesus.  He doesn't ask us to have it all figured out--how it all 'works' before we ask for help.  He just wants us to ask.

I think it's because He already knows he wants to touch our parched souls, He is just waiting for the green light. . . .are you ready?


Friday, December 9, 2011

Reality Check

Earlier this week I was talking with a group of young adults and in the course of conversation I explained that our fallen world can sometimes think of humanity as the epitome of all things.  Even Christians can subtley fall into this trap.  For example how would you decide what is right if stealing something to ease the suffering of another person seemed your only option?  God said stealing is wrong, but what about the person suffering?  If we hold humanity as the highest of all things, then the choice is easy--steal in order to alleviate the pain.  But, what about what God says?  We genuinely wrestle with this because we are fighting between two worldviews: one that says God is supreme and another that says humanity is supreme.

The idea that we are the highest expression of all that exists frightens us--even though many people believe this to be true.  Even our popular culture reflects this scary scenario for us to see.  Consider what the author Michael Frost, in his book Seeing God in the Ordinary says about the movie The Terminator: "Actually, I think we find deeply disturbing the thought that we humans are the highest form of reality. . .so distrubing is it that we hunger for experiences that remind us we are not the final authority, the ultimate being. . . .[in The Terminator] we see the struggle between the creature--the cyborg played by Arnie [Schwarzenegger]--and the creator--humankind.  What makes these films so exciting is the idea that it might just be possible for humans to create a robot or another machine that could outdo us, that could defeat us at our own game.  Deep down inside, we know that machines are created to do our bidding, to be subservient to us. . .[but] what if a machine--a creature--is greater than its creator?"

Somewhere deep inside many people is a gnawing fear: a fear that we might be the highest order of reality, and a fear that we might not be able to actually handle that responsibility!  We have such capabilities that we might be able to create something that actually initiates our own demise.

A sobering thought.

When seen in this context, it becomes starkly revealed that for a creature to become greater than its creator is a recipe for disaster indeed!

Maybe it's time for a reality check?

I think that the reality check we most desperately need is to find ourselves in the presence of an awesome God who helps us to realize who we really are--to find our "place".  Frost writes that this awe-encounter with God creates in us a "sense of majesty, God's unapproachability, a feeling of fascination--including both fear and attraction."  This is something that "can never be adequately described, only experienced--the feeling that we are important enough to be invited to encounter the Holy, but that in its presence we are overwhelmed and made aware of our smallness.  Such experiences of the transcendent are not only frightening; they are strangely comforting.  We need them."

We need them, and we need God.  That's our reality check.  Alone we get too big for our britches and we really don't know how to handle ourselves.  But with God we are able to understand who we really are.

Today, take the time to look up--just look up, and think about God, His magnitude, His majesty, His power. . . .then take a look at yourself.  You may get a glimpse of what reality is all about.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Knowing From Stillness

The last few days I have been wrestling with some things that tend to consume my thoughts.  I woke up this morning with those things rattling around in my head.  To be honest, waking up with your mind already somewhat consumed by problems you are tackling is not the most pleasant way to start your day.

Maybe that's how your days start too?  If so, then we both need some help--and some peace.  Wouldn't that be nice?

In the moments that I am willing to actually listen to God He always speaks things that bring life to me.  This time, as my mind was whirling about with the challenges that I am facing He said to me "Be still and know me."  A very common biblical phrase, but for some reason, the Holy Spirit made me really take note of it--to stop and think about what this really means.

One would think that if you want to know something you need to ramp up your activity:  do more research, have more meetings, search more on the internet, read more books, do more experiments.  But God told me to "be still" so that I could know him--another example of his 'upside down Kingdom'!

Being still is not the same as "doing nothing", it really is actively resting; making the choice to stop obsessing over the issues and challenges that genuinely need your attention, and allowing God to be your #1 priority.  I felt that he was asking me to give him my challenges--I thought to myself "well, I haven't been able to find the answers I'm needing on my own, so maybe He will lead through to the place where things will make sense."  Giving Him this pride of place in my heart hasn't yet yielded the answers I'm searching for, but it has brought me peace in the midst of it all--and that's worth a lot!

I believe that God will provide the practical answers I need, but through it all I believe even more that His desire is to allow me to get to really know him.  I think He understands that when my heart is still, and when I am looking toward Him, He faithfully teaches me about who He really is.  It is there that life begins to make sense and I receive something that just feels right.

Knowing from stillness. . .yeah, I suppose in some ways that doesn't make a lot of sense, but the kind of knowing that is really important maybe can't come to us any other way. . . .

What a journey!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Blind Eyes See Clearly

It has been said that when someone loses one sense, like the sense of hearing, the other senses become more sensitive in order to compensate for the loss.

I hope that's true because I can definitely sense that my heart is blind sometimes, confused by my own desires, thinking that I have the answers, or that I have the right direction to go, but then quickly realizing that it can lead me astray. 

I think I can see, but in reality, I am often blind and confused.

I want to say that we all need a reality check--we all need to be realigned in humility with Jesus--the only place we will find true direction.  When we think we have "grown up", we need a reminder that the only real source of maturity is stay connected to Jesus.  Our wisdom is not something that comes prepackaged that we own, but is instead something that comes to us as we reside or live with Jesus.  It's kind of like the internet, the only way to access it is to remain plugged in, there is no interaction with it if it is not connected.  There must be a live feed.

Yes, we need a live feed with Jesus.

Why am I talking about this today?  I just finished a discussion with some church friends and one of the things we talked about was finances and God and how we are to understand money in a Kingdom way.  Many opinions and perspectives were shared, and I left that discussion confused and frustrated in my spirit.  It is interesting to be in a conversation where you feel free to express strong opinions but then leave feeling like you don't really know anything at all.

My blindness did not allow me to see things clearly--but it can and here is a great example:

In Mark 10:46-52 we read about Bartimaeus.  He was blind and a beggar.  A man who was rejected by society, spurned by the halls of power, perceived as an uncomfortable reminder that things are not perfect in the world.  Someone to be avoided.  But, in typical Kingdom fashion, Bartimaeus is presented to us as an example, someone to be emulated, someone of note.  (Oh, I need you Lord to change me and my hard-headed thinking!)

So this blind beggar hears that Jesus is near and begins to shout out to Him "Jesus, have mercy on me!"  Everyone surrounding Jesus tells Bartimaeus to shut up, probably because they didn't want their "celebrity" to be soiled in any way (their idea not Jesus').  Bartimaeus didn't stop.  He yelled until Jesus heard, and Jesus did not disappoint, responding in love to the blind man's faith and single-minded focus on the One he simply knew could make a difference in his life.  Then, where there were sightless eyes, now light poured into them for the first time!

But I don't think Bartimaeus was blind at all. . . .I think that his lack of sight caused him to have such a singular focus on where his true hope lie that he had perfect "vision".  His need caused him to yell out, to embarass himself, because he didn't care what others thought--he just knew he needed Jesus.

I just know that I need Jesus too.  My heart betrays me too often for me to be able to fully trust it.  My focus gets blurred by my "wisdom"---and I need my Saviour to save me again and again.

Maybe you are blind today.  Maybe you are thinking that you really have Jesus and Truth and Righteous living nailed down.  My suggestion to you is to recalibrate--let a blind beggar show you the way again. 

Maybe we need to become blind beggars so we can finally see clearly.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

UnGrinching Christmas

Everyone has probably heard of the Grinch who stole christmas.  He was a crotchety soul who was described as having a heart that was too small to care about anyone else but himself.  Whenever Christmas came around all the joy he heard coming from the local town (Whoville) would make his blood boil because he just couldn't handle the idea of selfless love.

Well, you may not run into too many people who are as blatantly "grinchlike" as what is described above, but if we are honest, we all probably struggle to overcome sinful tendecies every now and then that pressure us to be more selfish than selfless.

I came across a good example of someone who was feeling kind of wrapped up in their own issues and was not feeling inclined to care for someone else in need.  But, God has a way of reminding us of what truly caring life looks like and for this person, the results were quite noticeable.  Here is a snippet of his story:
"I finally got on the flight and collapsed in my seat.  My carry-on bag was on my lap because there was no room in the overhead bins or under the seats.  The only thing I wanted to do was sin.  I was thinking bad words, and I wanted to say them, but I choked them back because supposedly I am a godly man.  I was repeating Proverbs 17:28, which says 'Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent.'  I knew there was nothing godly about me at that moment, but at least if I kept my mouth shut I could pretend to be wise.  We were ready to back away from the gate when a woman rushed through the door and began stumbling down the aisle.  She was carrying an assortment of bags that were spilling all over the place, but that was the least of her problems.  What made her situation nearly impossible was that she had one eye literally sewn shut, and she seemed to be unable to read her seat number with her other eye.  The flight attendants were nowhere to be seen. . . .I was fuming and feeling sorry for myself when God brought to my mind a proverb that I had read a few weeks earlier. . .'Your own soul is nourished when you are kind; it is destroyed when you are cruel.' (Prov. 11:17LB). . .So I picked up a couple of her bags that had fallen on the floor and motioned for her to follow me.  I helped stow her stuff and take off her coat, and I made sure she got buckled in to 23B.  Then I returned to my seat. . .When I sat down in my seat, a wave of warmth and well-being flowed through me.  The frustration and anxiety that had so filled me for most of the day started to dissipate.  I felt like my parched, dusty soul had just been washed by a warm summer rain. . . .I felt good."

Grinches don't ever feel good.  That's because they don't recognize that God has made human hearts in such a way that when they show love they not only bless others, but they are blessed as well.  Whenever we get so self-focussed that we are unable to reach out to others in their need, then our hearts shrivel and die--just like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

This year, let's listen to God's words and remember that His desire is for people to be blessed.  He has given us hearts to reach out and care for those around us.  Let's unGrinch Christmas by doing what God asks us to do--and then let's step back and enjoy the blessings that He will send.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Amazing Gifts

Have you ever been given a gift that was so over-the-top that you were in a kind of mini-shock when you first realized that it was really for you?
The gift can take many forms but I can remember one that stays with me forever.
I remember sitting across the table from my not-yet-wife having coffee. We had dated before but hit some rocky ground and now we were just beginning to revisit the possibility of getting back together. Well--I should say that I was wanting that but Val was understandably hesitant.
But I remember sitting there and it seemed for the first time that there was a legitimate chance that it might happen and my heart soared! There was hope and it changed everything.
When I think of this I think of a gift: you see, there was nothing I could do to force or 'take' her heart for mine, it had to be given freely--it had to be a gift. And when she gave it to me I really was amazed!
I hear the same kind of tone when I read Paul trying explain what we are given from our Father in Heaven who loves us so much when he writes in Eph. 1:18 "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
God wants us to be amazed by the gifts he gives us, just like I was sitting across from Val that day when hope sprang to life in me.

Jesus, many of us feel hope-less today and if we're honest with you don't even know what hope in you looks or feels like. I pray that all our hearts will be enlightened right now by your Holy Spirit, and that you would fill them with a hope that would be so powerful it would take our breath away.

May your gift change us through and through.

Brian M Tysdal
Lead Pastor
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon Sask.
374-1707 (Church)
291-3308 (Cel)

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Kind of Jesus Do You Want?

It has never been any different: everyone want Jesus to be what they want Him to be.
Right from the beginning the Jews wanted Jesus to be their political Conquerer, overthrowing the oppressive Roman government. To the medievel Church Jesus was sometimes a means to maintain economic control over whole countries. Today, some nations use Jesus to get 'the conservative vote' when running for office. And on an individual level, the liberal theologian describes Jesus in terms of pure love with few lines between right and wrong and the conservative theologian can sometimes use Jesus as a way of defending harsh judgements of black and white morality without allowing the grace and love Jesus to satisfy the biblical saying 'mercy triumphs over justice'.
You and I want Jesus to help us to hurt no more and we long for him to bless us--sometimes to the point where we have difficulty listening to what HE wants to teach us about himself.

We need to stop, really stop, and make room for Him to reveal to us who He is, what is His heart and how He wants to be known.

True, we have been given the Bible as revelation, but the Bible itself teaches us that we still need the Holy Spirit to 'teach us all things', which says to me that we need to have God's Spirit reveal to us from those pages what we should know.

In Rev. 22:13 Jesus says 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, Beginning and the End'. Here is a good place to start in knowing who Jesus is! We need to remember not to interpret His nature through our political, economic or even personal need first--we need to remember that all existence begins and ends with Him! He is power incarnate and as such deserves our praise and worship. He is most certainly not someone whom I should think that I can manipulate for my personal agendas. Lord, keep us humble....

He is the beginning of my life and will be the end of all life as we know it today. A new life will emerge in human history when the time comes for Jesus to 'make all things new', a promise that He intends to keep!

Jesus- as we live out our daily lives and we begin to be overwhelmed with our circumstances, please forgive us when we forget who you really are when we try to make you into someone we want you to be.

We declare to you today that we trust you enough to believe that you will teach us your true identity and also that who you are is more than we could ever imagine or desire.

We welcome you Jesus--thank you for calling us 'your friends'--it's an honor we can never repay.

Brian M Tysdal
Lead Pastor
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon Sask.
374-1707 (Church)
291-3308 (Cel)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Breathe The Free Air

There is a scene in Lord of the Rings where a King, who had been oppressed by an evil spirit, was set free.  His face changed before your eyes and you could plainly see life coming back to him.  The one who set him free said something like this:  "Breathe the free air my friend."

Breathe the free air---I have thought of that line again and again over the years and it seems to have staying power in my soul.

Jesus is all about taking people out from under oppression and allowing them to be free again.  I really believe that He rejoices like crazy when someone receives freedom from Him.  I can see Him smiling at the thought. . . .

The amazing truth that hits me today is that Jesus desires, actually desires, for us to be participants in His mandate to bring freedom to others.  This is not only a gift but a privilege and joy (though we might not always feel that way).  And sometimes the way this freedom comes is to be willing to actually, physically be there for someone else.

Here is a great quote that paints this picture for us a bit more clearly: "We are all called to live real and authentic lives.  That's what a true confession is about.  When we confess we develop a lifestyle of authenticity.  We don't use grace as a license to sin, but we know that when we do stray, there is a loving God who always invites us home.  And this grace gives us the guts to extend compassion to those who are hurting, to offer help when needed, to radically encourage those who need a word of grace.  We're all called to be Christ's ambassadors, living in such a way that we help restore people's relationships to God and each other."

Being there at the moment when someone receives freedom is like nothing else you will ever experience.  But we can't be Christ's ambassadors if we aren't willing to be there when people need us.  And that's all God is looking for--someone who is willing. . . .

Today my prayer is this:  "Jesus, help us to be people who are real.  I want to confess what is true about myself and about who you are so that I can live in freedom and help others to receive that freedom too.  I give up my striving to be perfect on the outside and living by my strength and ask that I would be given the courage to live guided by You, even if I don't know how that will change my daily life.  I'm scared to do this Lord because I sometimes fear what I don't know or what is beyond my ability to control, but I ask that you would take me nonetheless."

I have this picture in my mind of a home after a long winter and the air is stuffy and thick inside.  The first warm day of spring invites the opening of the doors to let the fresh, warm air come in and bring a newness and lightness of spirit.  This is a picture of what the Lord wants to bring into our souls and into the souls of others who need freedom.

Let the free air blow. . . . . .