Friday, December 21, 2012

Evil and Superheros

Does God love you?

I think most followers of Jesus would say yes.  I know I would.  But if God loves me then wouldn't that mean that He would want the best for me too?  Again, I would have to say 'yes'.

But here is the question that must follow:  If God loves me, and He wants the best for me, does that automatically mean that I know what's best for me and that He should do everything that I think should be done?

Hmmm. . . . .

No, simply because God wants the best for me doesn't mean that He should do what I want-even when I am absolutely certain that I know what should be done.

With that in mind then, think about the question for today:

"If God has the power to change everything bad in the world. . .why doesn’t he?  Its like being superman and not using your powers."
When we think about the evil in the world, and the pain and suffering that arises from that evil, we often wonder why it is that God doesn't simply fix it.  Because that would be the best thing to do right? 
How short is our memory?  Didn't we just say that it seems reasonable to admit that God loves us, and wants the best for us, but that doesn't necessarily mean that what I think is best is what God should do?
How seriously do we take trusting God?
I think this question is an uncomfortable one for followers of Jesus because it really does seem right to question God's lack of action.  The world's accusations against God in this matter are tough for us to stand against because part of our own thinking agrees with them.  Not pretty, but probably true.
But is God not doing anything?  Maybe He is actively providing answers to the problem of evil but we disagree with His methods?  Here is what I mean. . . .
John 14:12-14 says this: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
Jesus did some pretty amazing things when He walked this earth.  He healed people of disease, He drove demons out of people and set them free.  He said again, and again, that the Kingdom of God was near.  Basically, we would look at the life of Jesus and say that He really was making a difference, standing against the pervasive problem of evil.  God was at work right?
But what about now?  We get caught up in the evil and sin all around us and have a difficult time seeing God at work in anymore.  Why is 'superman' not using his powers to change things for the better?
Here is a suggestion:  Look in a mirror and ask that same question. . . .Didn't Jesus say in John 14 that His followers would do even greater things than He did if they would only ask according to His will?  It seems to me that He has provided all that is needed to see the evil of this world addressed by the power of the Kingdom of God that rests in the heart and soul of each believer in Jesus! 
He is just waiting for someone to have the courage, faith and trust in Him to step into this role of bringing the Kingdom to bear.
Let me be clear:  God wants to overcome evil in this world far more than we do.  It is the antithesis to His very DNA.  He hates sin and what it does to what He created.  He desires for every person who breathes to find freedom and rest. . . . .
But He is wanting to do this through us----through you.
Are you willing?
So the next time you hear or ask the question of why God doesn't just fix our world--rethink.  And then look at yourself and say 'thank you' that He really is providing a way to overcome evil, and finally ask that God would help you to step out, and into His will. 
Then just watch what He will do!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New View of 'Fair'

Have you ever heard of a 'paradigm shift'?  A paradigm shift is what happens when you are confronted with an idea that challenges a previously held view of something.  But not just that: the new idea that is being presented challenges a very important way of thinking--a way of thinking that is deeply rooted in you.  Genuine paradigm shifts usually make you squirm because they undermine the foundations you have stood on for a long time.

Please take that seriously as we wrestle with the question for today.  It has to do with the idea of 'fairness', and what we think is being fairly treated by God. 

Here is the question:
"I know that God’s blessing isn’t about wealth.  I also know that He gives and takes away, but it seems so not fair for good solid Christians to have financial difficulties for a long time and suffering or getting debts that are not the result of their actions but others.  There are reasons for God doing things like that but I have trouble understanding why He does things—seems so not fair."
First of all, I want to make sure that everyone understands just how much it can hurt when we feel abused or mistreated.  I think this feeling is multiplied when we feel this way about God and how He is treating us.  He is supposed to be the one who helps us right?
One thing God does for us is to help us when our understanding is out of balance.  There is a story in Matthew 20:1-16 that is a vivid reminder of how our perceptions of what is 'fair' do not line up with God's.  And even though there is a strong spiritual lesson here it is still relevant for us to understand fairness in a material world. 
Jesus says that the way God thinks is just like a landowner who hires workers at three different times during the day.  He offers each one a 'contract' that they all agree to, but the workers don't know what the others were getting paid, until the end of the day.  Then it was discovered that those who worked three times longer than the others were getting paid the same wage!  Well, they were pretty upset and told the landowner in no uncertain terms.  What was the landowners response?  "Friend, I am not being unfair to you.  Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?  Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money?  Or are you envious because I am generous?"
Jesus is saying two things here:  First: the workers got what they agreed to--totally fair.  Second: the owner is the owner and as such has the authority to disperse funds as he pleases.  If the workers would never have found out what the others were paid they would never have felt treated unfairly.  So what is the difference here?
Their attitudes!  Their attitudes changed when they compared themselves to the other workers.  Do we do the same?  When we compare ourselves to other people do we wrestle with the same attitudes the workers had?
So here is the paradigm shift that needs to happen:  the workers evaluated their treatment based on camparing themselves with each other--and in doing so discovered they were being treated unfairly.  But the landowner's persective is this:  I asked you what you would like and gave it to you.  At the very least, all were compensated.  But then the landowner decided to be generous by giving more to some.  The workers, by being self-focused became envious and could not see the generosity being extended by the landowner to the other workers.
So what do we need to take from this?  The question today wrestles with comparing oneself with other Christians who have more material goods.  There is hurt involved and it seems very unfair.  But one should be very careful not to blame God (the landowner in this case) because is there not provision being made? 
Everything in me wants to side with the attitudes of the workers who felt shortchanged.  But God is pushing us to have a different mindset:  He is wanting us to get our eyes off ourselves and focus on Him--and He is generous!  He provides and He is generous.
God wants to work on our attitudes in order to make us holy as He is holy.  If we are too focussed on ourselves we will be unable to see God the way He really is.  What if we were able to say 'thank you' for what God provides, be content in knowing that He is a loving Father who will provide for our needs if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and His kingdom.  I believe that He wants to give generously to all--but He wants to shape our hearts first.
To the one who wrote this question:  I know you are hurting and questioning God right now.  Your circumstances are not easy.  But God is wanting you to have your heart turned toward Him so you can be set free!  Free from comparing, free from anxiety and to trust Him and see Him in a way that reflects who He really is.
He loves you enough to help you through this process.
Yes, paradigm shifts are most uncomfortable, they even feel 'unfair' but God knows what is best for us and thankfully gently teaches us what we need for freedom.
I hope we can all hear God saying to us what is good and leave fair in His hands.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Overcoming Loneliness

"Get Real"--This is the phrase that motivated me to ask my church Family to express their most burning questions in their lives--I wanted us to 'get real' and have Jesus address our real-life questions and hurts.

So here is today's:
"How come having faith does not take away loneliness?"
I am convinced that life with Jesus means not only eternal life but also abundant life.  Life with Him means that we are given gifts of fulfillment that cannot be attained anywhere but through Him.  Unfortunately, sometimes we can think that abundant life means that we are not going to experience pain.  Oh, I know when we talk about this sort of thing we immediately agree that simply because we have Jesus in our lives that everything won't be perfect.  But it's not until we begin to actually experience the reality of the pain and hurt, that we also begin to question what life with Jesus is all about.  It just feels like something is wrong.
And it is. . . .
It's called living in a sinful and broken world.  And God knows full-well that things are not as they should be here on earth.  In John 16:33 Jesus says "In this world your will have trouble."  Funny, isn't it, that it is so easy to dismiss what Jesus says?  This simple statment is profound in His awareness of the reality we live in, but our real-life struggles, when they confront us full-on, seem far more real than a few words from Jesus.
Maybe we should pay more attention to what He says?  Did you know that the phrase just before and just after verse 33 give us incredible hope for something better?  Jesus says before "I have told you these things so that you may have peace."  And just after: "But take heart!  I have overcome the world."
Amazing!  In one short verse Jesus indicates to us that He is fully aware of our struggles, and that He is offering to us a way to live that is so much better.
So what about the question:  how come having faith (in Jesus) doesn't take away loneliness?  Well the first thing we need to accept is that having a relationship with Jesus doesn't mean that we won't experience pain--and lonliness can really hurt.  It's important that we understand that, and ask the right question.  Which is not "why am I hurting?"  We already know that--we live in a hurting world and we are a part of that world.  But a better question is:  "Lord Jesus, I know you love me, so what is it that you want to do to help me?"
To the person who is lonely He offers friendship and peace.  Hebrews 13:5-6 says "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. . .The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?"
God's promise to His lonely children is to remind them of His great love.  In fact, His love is so great as to overcome the reality of the circumstances you are currently experiencing.  Has someone left you?  His love can bring you peace.  Has your family abandoned you?  Listen to what God says about that: Psalm 68:6 "God sets the lonely in families." 
Your Heavenly Father really does care about where you are at right now--and He is making promises to provide for you things you may have thought impossible.
Do you need a 'family'?  He knows exactly where to bring you in order for you to be blessed with the abundance that comes from Him alone.  It may not look the way you imagine it--you may find yourself being led by Him to meet new people that will one day become your new family where you will not be lonely any more.  But however He goes about it, all He is asking of you today is to trust Him and to offer Him your hurt--your loneliness.
He won't let you down.
My prayer today is that God will lead people to read this blog who really need help.  And I ask you Father, to make real all the promises you speak to those who are lonely today.
Thank you that we can trust you to hear us and to act on our behalf.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Heart of Darkness and New Hope

So we are continuing to answer the real questions of life.  Here is today's:

"This week I have been praying about this question:  ‘Is there some point that its ok to totally turn someone over to God’s care and make the choice to not walk alongside them anymore because they are abusive, threatening, cruel due to active addiction?"

We can all experience the struggle that comes through relationships.  That's one of the reasons why people shy away from being open and honest with each other--once you get hurt, you automatically protect yourself.  This is even more prevalent in chronic situations, as the pain can go very, very deep.

There are far too many variables to address in this simple question, but I will offer two things that come from God's word. . . .

The first is this: Yes, there are times when it becomes necessary to part ways with someone.  If you are dealing with another Follower of Jesus, then there can be times when it becomes necessary to have some distance from them (Matthew 18:15-18). 
But there is something very important to remember here--as Jesus Followers, we know there will be times when we will be hurt because we belong to Him.  Luke 6: 22 says "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."  If you are dealing with someone who is in addiction, then there will times when that person attacks you, and maybe even attacks you because of your actions based on your relationship with Jesus. 
So don't respond to this person out of a sense of being hurt, but instead, address the situation out of a desire to do what Jesus thinks is best.  That might mean 'cutting them loose' but again, and I can't stress this enough, this needs to be done out of a sense of direction from the Holy Spirit and searching out His Word.

The second thing I would want to say is this:  Even though a time may come when it is appropriate to walk away from someone, Jesus Followers are never given permission to stop loving that person.  This comes through again and again in scripture.  Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

In the heat of the battle it may seem the most useless thing to do--to show love.  But not only do I believe this is the right thing to do, I have seen firsthand how love can transform the hardest heart.  Try and remember this:  a heart that is hardened is a heart that has been confused by the Enemy.  What is most needed is to be shown the heart of God and rely on Him to lead the way.

As I write this I am hoping that God is shining a new hope in you where there was darkness before.  I certainly don't have all the answers, but God knows the best way for you.  If your situation is desperate then there is no better place to go than to the Heavenly Father and ask for His help.

Many blessings on you today.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Being Known

Everyone has heard the famous phrase: "I think therefore I am".  If you are familiar with the philosopher Rene Descartes, you will know this phrase came through a lot of hard work and thought on his part.  This short sentence has impacted western civilization more than most people know, however, there is another, much lesser known phrase, that I believe is significantly more important for us.  I can't remember off the top of my head which Jewish thinker said this but it resonates as true.  It goes like this:  "I am because I am loved."

This incredible statement tells us clearly that the reason I exist is because of God's great love for me.

I was praying this morning and the words that came out of my mouth were: "Father, thank you that you know me."  What was so amazing about this prayer was what God spoke to me: "Brian, I know you, but not in the way that you usually think.  I don't just know you as the one who falls short, who sins and struggles with that.  I know that you have a hard time seeing past all that stuff.  Today, I want you to know that I know who you are meant to be!  I see past your sin; I see past your shortcomings; I see your smile and thoughts and desires and actions that are born out of the man I intended you to be!  And I love you!!"

I'm not quite sure why this hit me so hard, except to say that it was an incredible feeling to know that God loves me, and that He is able to love me through the sin and shortcomings and that He confidently holds onto His ideas of who I am meant to be!  He is not a 'pie-in-the-sky' thinker, holding to some ridiculous notion of who I should be but can never get there.  He is not what most skeptics would call a 'realist', which really means someone who refuses to imagine a better existence in something that is not yet seen and is perceived as impossible to attain.  No!  My God really sees me--He really knows me--the real me!

Isn't that an incredible thing?  I felt such a deep sense of thankfulness and hope knowing that my Father sees me this way: I had a sense of gratitude that I am not stuck in 'what is'--but that with Him nothing is impossible.

I am because I am known.  Incredible.

Ephesians 5:1-2 says "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

As children of God were are not only known, but we are loved.  We may not always feel that, we may not always even believe that, but it's true nonetheless.  We are known.  You are known--and loved, with a love that goes beyond your comprehension.

Maybe you needed to hear that today--that God doesn't just know you as the one who always falls short, or doesn't live up to the standards you think are good.  God doesn't see you as the one who is mired in self-pity, or as the one who can't seem to imagine yourself as anything but second-rate.

Not a chance!  God knows you as the very-best-you!  The noble You, the selfless You, the loving You, the courageous You, and on and on and on.  Why?  Because He made you and knows exactly how excellently well put together you are.

Does this mean that He doesn't see your struggle?  Absolutely not.  And thankfully so, as that would mean that He really isn't able to address reality.  Does this mean that He isn't aware of your sinfulness and your need for help to overcome that?  Most certainly no.  And that's good news, because He is offering a very powerful and practical means to come out from underneath those chains and be truly free.

No, God knows you- the real you, the one who He is inviting you to become.  What incredible hope there is in knowing that God loves His children in such a way that He never gets bogged down in our struggles, but is always drawing us to a place where we can accept His help to bring us into the ongoing reality of being known by Him.

Today, remember that you are known by a God who loves you more than imagineable and that by being known, you may rest.


Friday, December 14, 2012

First Impressions

First impressions are inevitable.  When you meet someone, or when you see someone you know doing something for the first time you automatically get an impression.  Sometimes it is vague, like you can't quite put your finger on it, but it is there nonetheless.  Usually we reduce our definitons of first impressions to 'good' or 'bad' (even though we pretty up the language so we seem to be smarter than we really are!)
Here is the question that I have been asked to wrestle with today:
"Why does our first impression of people keep us from loving our neighbour as ourselves.  How can we get past first Impressions?"
I think there are many answers that would help to address this, but for some reason I have had my mind drawn to one that maybe doesn't seem too direct.  I want to start by sharing a thought by Canadian author Mark Buchanan:  "I've been in a hurry most of my life.  Always rushing to get from where I am to where I'm going.  Always cocking my arm to check my watch, doing that habitually, mechanically, mindlessly.  Always leaning heavy on the gas, in the passing lane, angry that the driver in front of me doesn't share my sense of urgency, that she's in no particular hurry and can't seem to imagine a world where anybody would be.  Always fuming over having to wait in bank lines and grocery checkouts and road construction zones. . . .But all that hurry has gotten me no farther ahead.  It's actually set me back.  It's diminished me."  (The Rest of God)
Now here is my question:  What kind of first impression could anyone possibly give to another person whose heart is so filled with unrest because of how crazy busy they are?  Just think about it:  there is no possible way to discern much about the person who is presenting themselves to you becuase you have given them such a tiny window of opportunity to impress you.  And maybe that's part of the problem:  we have become so overwhelmed with pace and data that the only things that really impact us are those things that can impress us!
Maybe our struggle with first impressions about other people has more to say about us than them?
What would it be like if we were to "be still and know that God is God"?  If we were to make the choice to slow down enough that the next time we meet someone, the first thought going through our heads is "this is a person that God took great care in creating, shaping, forming.  This person bears His image and is wonderful and beautiful!"  Now if we had that thought in our minds do you think that would influence our 'first impressions'?  I think that even if that person were harsh, or abrasive or arrogant, I would be in a better place to understand and to offer myself to him in a way that reflected my relationship with God.
Our first impressions that hinder our ability to love others as ourselves has a lot do with me. After all it is my impression. . . .
Here is something you can wrestle with today. . . .Consider, maybe for the first time ever, that your pace of life is not something that is impossible to overcome, that it isn't an inevitable aspect of a culture that is too overwhelming for you to ever change.  And think, again for the first time, that your attitudes are not at the mercy of this culture of speed and the forces they exert on you. 
Say to yourself "No".  And then consider this:  take responsibility for your own thoughts, your own actions and your own first impressions.  Then say to God--"help me change".  Say to Him "I want to be still and have you be my influence, my teacher so I can love others the way you love me."
Then see what happens.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Walkin' The Line

Hey Everyone,

I'm sure you have all heard the phrase "walking a fine line".  We all have to do it, and it's not always an easy thing to navigate because we make missteps along the way.

Here is a question that makes me think about this 'line':  "How can we help the world to be more accepting and less judgmental of each other?"

A good question to be sure!  As a Christian, I have thought this one myself, and have wrestled with this idea that followers of Jesus should not be 'judgmental' but should be 'accepting'.  So how do we understand what we should be about in this?

Let's look at two passages from the Bible: Psalm 119:66 and Romans 15:7

Psalm 119:66 says "Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands."
and Romans 15:7 "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God."

So what?  Well, in a nutshell the Psalm passage tells me that I should expect to make judgments and that I can make both good and bad ones.  And Romans tells me I should have an accepting attitude of others.

So how can I do both?  How can I exercise judgment and still be accepting?  Let's remember that making good judgments includes judgements about other people.  Our culture works hard to make us think that this is simply not good--it says: "hands off" when it comes to making judgments about other people.  Can't you just hear the comments:  "Who are you to judge me!"  Expressing your opinion about ideas or philosophies is fine, but for me to express a judgment about another person?  No way!

So instead of making God-inspired judgments we veer off this path and go hard after accepting others.  When accepting others looks like the 'tolerance mantra' of our current culture, then we have allowed something other than God to teach us what accepting means.  Pay attention to what God says in Romans about accepting others--it says we should do so 'as Christ accepted you."  What does this mean?  Well, one thing it means is that Christ has not accepted everyone.  This doesn't mean that He doesn't love everyone--He does, but He has only accepted those who have received Him as Lord and Saviour.  Jesus set limits around this idea of 'accepting' people.

There is also a big difference between accepting and welcoming.  Jesus welcomes everyone and those who reject Him, He stills love unconditionally.  When we are told to accept others then we need to also accept that God is giving us some parameters as to what that should look like, and what our hearts should look like too.

Does this make you feel a bit queasy, like it doesn't quite add up? Here is another thought: I have heard some people say that I can 'accept' you but not what you do. I would like to say that this kind of acceptance is much more like Jesus' heart of welcoming than it is acceptance. We need to work hard to make this distinction.

So how would I summarize this for us?  I would say this:  if I want to make the world a more accepting and less judgmental place then I need to do so the way Jesus did.  Those who accepted His terms for relationship He accepted as sons and daughters--close intimacy.  But those who did not, He kept an open and willing heart filled with love for them.

Can we do this too?  This would mean that we don't accept the world's view of extreme tolerance which basically means that there are almost no parameters that explain what acceptance is really about.  And it also means that we avoid judgmentalism by having hearts filled with genuine love for everyone.

Sounds like a pretty fine line though doesn't it?--one that I don't think we can walk on our own.  So what do we do?

Well there is one other statement embedded in the Psalm passage I mentioned above and it is this:  'for I believe in your commands.'  The psalmist is saying here that he is trusting in God to teach him how to navigate this fine line of living like God.

And that is how we must live too--with a belief that we must be trained by God to help us walk the fine line of acceptance and judgment.

Our world will change in wonderful ways if we will take His direction seriously!

Bless you as you walk. . . .


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Way or the Highway

Hey Everyone,
It's been a looooong time since I last created an entry on my blog and it's time to re-engage!  The reason I needed to start again was to help address real questions about God, faith and where people are at in their spiritual walks.  Some of the thoughts from people I will be speaking about in sermons, but I wanted to make sure that everyone was 'heard' so I will be writing about them for a while--at least until they are all given a response (there's a lot!).

So here is the first one:

"If you hear me, why do you let so many bad things happen in our world?"
There are quite a few ways to approach this deep and ubiquitous question.  One could say that bad things happening in our world is an expression of humanity's free will, and rebellion against God--and this would be true, but it isn't always very comforting.
But I want to suggest a different approach:  what if the essence of the question itself is wrong?  It implies three basic things:  1.  There are bad things in the world.  2.  I know these things are bad/wrong.  3.  If I am addressing God about these bad things, then because God is good, it is his responsibility to address them as  I understand them.
In essence, this question is putting me in charge and God in a position of obedient response to me.
Now, what about humility?  What if I am somehow unable to understand the manner in which God will address this issue of bad things in our world?  What if He has a different agenda?  If He has a different agenda that doesn't always fix what I see, does that mean that He is failing in overcoming it?
Now here's a kicker---what if I am ignorant to the depth of how God wants to change this world?  Ignorant in that He wants it to be so profoundly different that He wants to begin the revolution one heart at a time?  And what if He is saying to the person who is asking the question:  are you willing to humble yourself and submit to Me and My ways even if you are unable to grasp them?  Will you allow My revolution to take place in your own heart?
God always makes it personal!
Here is a quote: 
"The world's way of decision making is to weigh all the evidence, compare pros and cons, and then take the course of action that seems most sensible.  If spiritual leaders make their choices this way, they could easily lead their organizations in the opposite direction of God's will (Prov. 14:12).  God doesn't want people to do what they think is best: he wants them to do what he knows is best, and no amount of reasoning and intellectualizing will discover that.  God himself must reveal it. God's Holy Spirit reveals his will to those who are seeking his mind and his heart."  (Henry & Richard Blackaby Spiritual Leadership).
God most certainly does ask us to pray about things in our world that aren't as they should be.  But I believe that the way in which He wants to make the difference is to begin by residing in humble hearts.
So maybe this is something that you needed to hear today:  maybe you are filled with anxiety about the world you are living in.  Maybe you are filled with anxiety about God?  I would encourage you to give up.  Not in despair, but in trust--give yourself, your thoughts, questions and anxieties to God and ask that He would teach you His ways.
He will do it (but in His own way. . . . . .!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jesus' Light

So once again I'm sitting on my deck enjoying the warmth of the sun and it feels good.
I don't really know how to say this--when our roads seem so bumpy, and when it feels like you can't take anymore, there Jesus is, reminding us that He is right there with us. And not just 'there' as though He stands watching from a distance, only aware of your journey, of your heart, but there with His love and power to make a difference.
Living the life of a Christ follower always involves being watchful of the Enemy. As challenging as that may be, there is some comfort in knowing that he is outside, that there is some distance there. It seems a whole different story when your greatest enemy is yourself-pretty hard to get away from that one!
And yet Jesus is still there telling us that He is quite fond of us.
I had a conversation with a friend today and the subject of hypocrisy came up. We thought it hard to live out Jesus, to show love toward others when we are feeling anything but love in our hearts. To us it seemed hypocritical. But then the thought struck me: how does this look from Jesus' perspective?
His view of us is that we are His children--He calls us Princes and Princesses! To Him, since He sees us this way, if we are called to show His love to others and we don't, then that is being more like a hypocrite, because He really sees us as people who are made to shine His light to others.
If you think about it, isn't it incredible that He views us in this way?
Yes He is thoughtful of helping our hearts to grow and be healthy, but the fact is that He sees it most fitting that we would live like the Kids He has made us to be--the way He already sees us.
There is a lot freedom in that.
So today, try and see yourself from His perspective--someone fit to shine the kind of love that changes worlds!
The sun is beautiful here on my deck, but this doesn't even compare to the Son whose light warms my heart.
Brian M Tysdal
Lead Pastor
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon Sask.
374-1707 (Church)
291-3308 (Cel)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


KISS.  Not the Rock band of the seventies and eighties, but the acronym:  Keep It Simple Stupid.

I need to be reminded of this saying every now and again.  I think this is because the world I live in is a very complicated one, and it does everything in its power to convince me to live according to its principles.  There is also a tendency in my sinful nature to try and do things in my own wisdom, and that wisdom often is a reflection of the way the world works.  All this leads to a way of living that is complex and burdensome.

But sometimes I am reminded that it doesn't always have to be that way.  Here is one example: in James 1:22 there are four words that fly in the face of worldly complexity and these four words are "do what it says."

Read the Bible and do what it says.

Sounds so simple doesn't it?  But does God really expect me to just do what He says?  I mean doesn't He know how that would mess things up?  Isn't He aware of how the world really works?  Is He oblivious to how that would rock the boat, and probably bring a ton of embarassment to me?

Yes, yes and yes.

Simplicity is not always easy.

In fact I have coined a term that fits well here:  simplexity.  What simplexity means is a simple way of living that actually works in the nuances and variances of complex life.  It is very hard to imagine, but I believe that when we step out in faith, we will see just how God works his 'magic' accomplishing the things that gladden His heart as we simply 'do what it says.'

KISS.  Simplicity in a complex world--I wonder what God could do if we took this seriously?


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spooks and Stairs

When I was a young lad growing up on the farm, from time to time I would be asked to go down into our basement and get something for mom.  I remember the fear that I felt having to go down into that dark, dank place. . .and the worst of it was the stairs!  You see, those stairs were open and so anything could have been lurking under them waiting to reach out and grab my feet at any time!  I remember that like it was yesterday.

Now being much closer to fifty than to fifteen I can still experience the feeling of fear--not the same kind that rose in me as I descended those rotten stairs, but fear nonetheless.  But there is a common denominator, I think, in the fear experienced then and now:  it rises out of a clear sense of feeling alone.

That's one of Satan's favorite tricks is to make human beings, both Christian and non-Christian alike, feel that they are on their own.  That no one is there who can really help them.  And he also likes to try and convince us that not only are we alone, but that we are also unable to overcome whatever it is that we are facing.

Let it be said, very clearly, we cannot make it on our own; we cannot overcome our deep-seated fears by simply digging deeper and trusting that we will find the answers we need buried deep inside our souls. 

No, we need help.

And thankfully, oh so thankfully, we have been given the help we need--we are not alone!!

At the end of Matthew 28 Jesus says this one line:  "And surely I am with you, to the very end of the age."

Think about this:  if you have come into relationship with Jesus, you are blessed with His presence in your life-He is with you.  His power, His love, comfort, wisdom, protection, guidance and on and on-has been promised to you.  He is going to stick with you no matter what.  Even when the world falls apart and human history comes to an end--He will be there, able to help you, able to guide you, and willing to do that too.

No matter what the Devil tries to tell you, you are not alone.

So today, as you face the odds that might be stacked up against you in life; the loss of work, or a spouse, or close relative--whatever it is that is tempting you to feel that you are alone and abandoned--that there is little hope that you will make it through this thing--remember this:  Jesus is surely with you--all the way and right now.

I would encourage you to pray to Jesus right now and give him your fear, doubts and loneliness.  Confess to him your self-sufficient attitudes and place yourself directly in His hands.  He will take care of you.


Friday, June 8, 2012

To Live a Different Life

When we become Christians we made into a 'new creation.'  We made into something different, something unique, something that doesn't quite 'fit' into the world we had grown accustomed to.

It can be really difficult to understand the difference that has occured, and sometimes it can lead to frustration.

In Colossians 2:20-23 we hear about people who had lived with an understanding of the world's ways, and then struggled to live in their new freedom found in Christ.  Old rules and regulations seemed to dominate their thinking.

But God wants us to be really free!  Not in a rebellious, self-absorbed kind of way--as though I have the freedom to 'do whatever I want', because as a new creation in Jesus, I am now His and my freedom is dependant on obedience to Him.

Let's listen to what Paul writes here:  "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not handle!  Do not taste! Do not touch!'?  These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings.  Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

That's a load!  I don't know about you, but I lack the wisdom necessary to unpack all this in such a way that I can clearly see what areas I am still living by 'the principles of this world'.  But I know this for sure:  God wants me to be free from them, and free in Him.

If the longing of your heart today is for freedom in Jesus, then spend some time with Him and pour out your heart--all your questions, confusions, frustrations and whatever else is burdening you and ask that He take care of you. 

That's where our hope lies, and there alone.

Always remember that Jesus loves you more than imaginable, and His love really changes things!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Attention to Detail

I was sitting on my deck this morning and noticed a tiny, single strand of spider's webbing flowing precariously between a glass on the table and a chair about 4 feet away.  I watched it for a while as the sun's rays glinted off it.  I thought it looked so fragile.  And then I noticed a tiny spider making its way along its length, and how it was so fearless in its daredevil journey!

Then my thoughts went to God and His amazing attention to detail.  All the little things I noticed about the spider and its web began to paint a picture in my mind of how nothing escapes God's gaze.  But even more than that--of how God took the time to create the myriad of nuances that so often fly under our radar.

If God takes the time to be concerned about these details is it possible that He is also concerned about the details of our lives?

It is so easy for us to get caught up in whatever challenge is facing us at the moment because it is just so real and present.  Our ability to retain perspective is difficult for us, and even when someone tells us to try and see the big picture, our reality, or at least how we are interpreting our reality at that moment often overwhelms us.  Well, instead of us trying to see the big picture, maybe it's OK for us to sometimes remember our God who is also concerned about the details, even the ones that are happening to us right now.

Matthew 10: 30-31 says this: "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So don't be afraid. . ."

God has numbered the hairs on your head!  We don't even know this number!  God wants us to know that He is mindful of the details, the specific challenges in our lives and that He will lead us through.  Don't be afraid--rely on the One who is able and willing to know exactly the route for you to take through the valley you are in. He knows it is a big deal for you, and He also wants you to know that He cares and is paying attention.

The question is:  will you trust Him?

I don't know if that spider has the ability to acknowledge his precarious position flying around on that single strand of webbing--but it reminds me of how I can feel so anchorless and tossed around as I wrestle with life.

And God says to me: "I see you.  I know.  Don't be afraid."

In the face of your current wrestling--I invite you to say right back to God: "Thank you that you see me.  Thank you that you know what's going on.  Thank you that my fear is taken care of as you take care of me."

Enjoy the ride. . .


Thursday, May 31, 2012


We all know we need to do it, but it just seems so hard sometimes. 

What I'm talking about is priorities.  What things are really important and what things can be left to the side for now?  It gets confusing when we have to work through that dreaded 'is this something I need or just something I want'.  To be honest, we probably have a lot to learn about our wants and needs too, as God's priorities do battle against the values of this world.

For example: what does it mean to have a generous heart?  To live with a deep-seated understanding that we serve a God with unlimited resources?  Do we believe that we can really live 'abundantly' by offering everything we have in service to Him?

I know that I have a long way to go in this, but I also know that He is working on my heart to change it to reflect Him in this.

Priorities:  In the hustle and bustle of life we can get easily sidetracked from the things that are most important--the things that God values most.

Yesterday I was at a prayer meeting and I asked the Lord to show me a verse from His Word that would be applicable to the prayers being offered up and this is what He clearly showed me:  Psalm 132:2-5, "He swore an oath to the Lord and made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob: 'I will not enter my house or go to my bed--I will allow no sleep to my eyes, no slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob.'

What an amazing word about priorities!

David was so enamoured with his God that he was not going to allow himself any earthly pleasures until he took care of God's business first.  Now it turns out that Solomon would be the one to build the temple, but David's heart cry is still the right model for us to emulate. 

I want to have my heart become so focussed on God priorities that the other things in life, though important too, find their proper place.

I'm sure that many questions arise about 'how':  how do I do this when I have to work everyday?  How do I do this when I have kids that need shuttling around to three different events? How, how, how?

Maybe it starts with our heart and not our schedule?  Maybe God is just looking for a genuine heart that desires this and is willing to include Him in what is going on?  Maybe He is just waiting to be invited?

I live in the same world as you, and all I can say is this:  If God has shown us a priority, then I believe He can make a way to accomplish it--no matter what or where or when.

He is the God of the impossible after all. . . .


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In the presence of wisdom

You may have heard of the saying, "Knowledge is power".  These words spoken by the English philosopher Francis Bacon centuries ago has become the mantra of modern society.  We live in a 'knowledge  based economy' now and if you have access to the data, then you can wield an inordinate amount of power.

But access to data is not the same as wisdom--not by a long shot, and here is one reason why:  knowledge requires no amount of moral character in order to possess it, but wisdom (which is often described as 'applied knowledge') cannot be had without humility.

Think of that for a minute:  knowledge is data acquisition, wisdom is the application of knowledge with a humble spirit.  There is an acquired skill that develops through experience necessary for wisdom to flourish.  This doesn't necessarily mean that only people that are over 60 can exercise wisdom, but the truth is still this:  for wisdom to be wisdom, it needs to have the seasoning of humility.

Proverbs 11:2 says: "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."

I just had coffee with a gentleman who is 'seasoned' in years, and as I listened to and watched him, it was so very evident that he was a man of wisdom.  He exemplified John 12:49 that says that Jesus spoke what His Father wanted and how He wanted it spoken.  The Heavenly Father values humility and wisdom.

I have thought for a number of years now that humility is one of the most attractive characteristic traits.  It is a welcoming thing; somthing that makes you feel accepted and safe.  The presence of humility allows you to honestly examine yourself because you can open up your heart and address the hard and embarassing things without feeling condemned.  And if the most important thing for us is to find our way to Jesus in our heart-of-hearts, then anything that will help to get us there to find freedom sounds a lot like wisdom to me.

Yes, knowledge may be power, but humble wisdom can do the miraculous!

I wonder which one makes the most difference?


Friday, May 25, 2012

To Be Like a Child

I'm reading a book entitled Your Church is Too Safe, and I love it!  In fact, I think there is more to me reading this book than just enjoyment--I think God is wanting to really teach me some things that I need to know.  It's simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking, but all-in-all really good!

In one passage Buchanan (the author) talks about a study done on babies in France and Germany, where they discovered that newborns actually cry with an accent!  Amazing isn't it?  He writes that "In France, babies consistenly inflect from a low to a high pitch. . .[and] in Germany, it's the opposite, high to low. . . .The French language tends to have an intonational rise at the end of a sentence; the German language an intonational fall at the end.  The womb-bound baby hears this, and copies it at birth."

Buchanan then asks this question: "If earth is heaven's womb, if time is eternity's belly, what song do we overhear from heaven that we try to sing on earth?"  He then goes on to say that heaven's song is 'love', and that we are called to sing this out loud and clear to all within hearing distance.

I want to do this--I so desparately want to sing my life this way.  I use the word 'desparate' intentionally because I recognize how weakly and poorly; how falteringly and inconsistently I sing.  My cry is that I would be transformed into a clearer reflection of heaven's song--the song of love.

You may be wondering the same question, asking yourself if you are allowing yourself to be a reflection of God's love in your everyday life.  Well, here is a reminder that should be an encouragement to all of us:  those babies did very little in getting to that place where they cried the intonations of their mother's native tongue--they were just present.  We are asked to do the same: 

To be present.

God is asking us to spend time with Him--to be in His presence so that we can absorb His song.  He does the singing, and through that we become changed and our 'voice', that is all that is who we are and how we live, begins to reflect Him.

My prayer for us today is this:  that God would put in us a willingness, a longing to be present with Him, and in so doing we would begin to sing the native song of love---

Just like a child.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Through the Fog

Have you ever been driving at night through a thick fog--when the swirling gray is so thick that you have to squint to see, even though squiting does nothing to help.  Your best efforts to navigate even start to work against you:  it would make sense that if you can't see well, then you need more light--but turning your lights to bright only reflects more light into your eyes making it more difficult to see!

Sometimes we find ourselves in a fog.  You want to know how to move forward or through whatever it is that you are facing but you just do not seem to make sense of it all, let alone know how to move forward.

We've all been there.  Some of us are there right now.

The last thing I want to do is offer something that puts a positive spin on things in order to just try and sweep reality under the rug just so that things "look" better.  You need much more than that--we all do.

I received an email from a friend who was encouraged by this word, maybe it will be a light for you today:

'The snow and rain come down from heaven, and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They  cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.  It is the same with My word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.'  Is. 55:10-11.

He is sending His word to you today. . .and it will accomplish His good will in your life.  Kind of hard to believe isn't it?

The Lord says that those who follow Him enjoy the fact that He is for you and not against you.  He is the One who is your strong tower when you are facing insurmountable odds.  When you cannot see what is coming next; or if you can see what is coming and it doesn't look pretty. . . .He is there for you.  God does not guarantee that He will change all your circumstances, though He certainly can and does do that often, but He is offering a place where your heart can rest and change your circumstances from the inside out. 

How does peace sound to you?  Like a fleeting dream?  Like something dimly seen through a fog?  Or maybe just something that feels more like a tease than a promise?  How frustrating is that???

God is our guarantee.  He is the only guarantee.  If you want some stability; if you want to be able to lay down your anxieties because you can't see through your fog, He is waiting for you.

When your heart is at peace, the fog turns more into a blanket than a threat.

Enjoy His embrace.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trickle Charge

Growing up in Saskatchewan, I am no stranger to cold winters--very cold winters!  One thing that comes along with bone-chilling temperatures are dead car batteries and when a car battery is dead, it needs some help in the form of a boost.

Well, sometimes we find ourselves in a similar place in our spiritual lives too.  We can find ourselves in a place we didn't even know how we got to--despondant, unsure, frustrated, crying out to God but really not even knowing exactly what happened or why, just knowing something is not right.

When we are there we need a boost.  But I'm not talking about a quick fix, superficial make-over that is so commonly hawked in our popular culture.  Though we need a boost, I'm suggesting something a little different: not a one time supercharge, but a connection to something that will provide strength, hope and life for much longer.

In terms of battery chargers, they can be set to provide one, very powerful boost to get things started, or they can be set to "trickle charge" which is when it will provide a longer flow of energy that will not only make the battery more powerful, but it will build it up so that it performs much better overall.

As I think about it God does both for us.  He provides those major boosts when needed too, but I think we are so used to being taught that everything should happen quickly, that we lose sight of how God wants, yes wants, to be our long-term source of life.

God is also our trickle charger.

But is He really?

Psalm 145:9 addresses one question that may arise:  "Does God really care about me?"  This is His response:  "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."

If He made you (and He did!) then He loves you.  It's that simple.  I think that's something worth pondering. . .

The second question that might arise is this:  "Does God really have what it takes to help me for the long-haul of life?"  Here is His mind on this matter:  "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them--the Lord, who remains faithful forever." (Psalm 146: 5-6).

The Lord who remains faithful forever.

He loves you because He made you and cares for everything He made.  He is willing and able to be your source of life and strength for your whole life because it's just in His nature to do so.  You can count on it--better yet, you can count on Him!

Need a trickle charge?  You know where to go. . . .


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Uncommon and Too Often Unknown

We live in a world that is broken.  We see it all the time, and unfortunately, we can begin to think this is just the way it has to be.

But it doesn't.

You see there is a golden strand of hope that is woven right into the DNA of all things:  and this strand is the very real presence of God who still speaks real hope and real life for all.  It's just that it's hard sometimes to see this strand through the fog in our hearts.

I read just this morning of a time when a young Catholic monk heard the call of God to start a new type of Christian community.  It was based on the simple desire to bring Jesus to the people.  He banded together with two others brothers in a coastal town in Alabama. 

Their meetings were pretty austere:  a short time of music, a brief sermon and then wine and cheese following for fellowship time.

In 2 years, 200 people were attending what was informally called "folk Mass"--which simply meant church that fits with real people.

At one point the monks who were in charge of this folk Mass expressed their joy in this succinct phrase describing their experience saying: This is right.

This is right.  Maybe something that is too uncommon and too often unknown for people who are searching for meaning.  But, as I said before, there is a golden strand of hope being offered by our God who cares so deeply for all people.

As I was thinking about how beautiful this story is, I was reminded of John 3:16, an exceedingly common verse.  But I only repeat the beginning of it for us here:  "For God so loved the world that He gave."

That's it.  He gave.

He gave everything for the purpose of freedom, for life.  He provided abundance to overcome the chains and brokenness of this world.  For our churches, He provided everything necessary for His Kingdom to be manifest in this world.

Maybe we try too hard.  Maybe we miss the point.  Maybe it's as simple as wanting to bring Jesus to people, and when it happens we are blessed with a sense of this is right.

My prayer today is that our hearts would be captured by a sense of God's real presence, and that He would bring us through our convoluted schemes, lists and strategic plans, and get us to a place where we would experience something uncommon:  the simplicity of God's blessing.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Challenge of Following Jesus

Jesus is the Son of God and is God.  This has been, and will continue to be debated until He returns.  It is the central question for all humanity even though it has been squelched in our secularized society today.

But as a follower of Jesus, I believe it's true.  And following this God who loves me is no easy task.  Challenges abound and one that tops my thoughts today is this:  "how tricky it is to live out the mandate of God who tells me 'be holy as I am holy'."  Sometimes it seems impossible to know how to live this way.  The subtle line dividing living in my own strength and living in His is easy to miss and because of my sinful tendencies I can move into selfishness and ignore God's voice.

I am describing a reality for all Christians here.  But all is not lost--not by a long shot.  What we see here is simply the reality of wrestling with our faith and slowly overcoming the effects of lingering sin.  Jesus' blood has set us free, the war is over, but there are still skirmishes happening all around.  When you are in them it can seem as though the battle really isn't won, but that's just a matter of perspective, not reality.

We need a clear call, a clear understanding.  We need to know what God knows so that we can put our faith in that.

Philippians 2:12-13 is where we need to go for this.  "Therefore dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

Not sure how to live according to His strength?  Do you question where that "line" is that separates your strength from His?  God understands.  I'll say it again---God understands.  Working your faith out with fear and trembling includes the fact that God fully understands our shortcomings and our inabilities to fully comprehend things that go beyond us.  This doesn't mean that He makes excuses for our sin, but it does mean that He knows we sometimes go astray.  What He is asking of us is to simply live humbly.  To come before Him with respect and reverent fear, asking for forgiveness and guidance. 

And He reassures us of what reality is:  He is at work in our lives.  "It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."  Certainly, we need to align ourselves obediently to His purposes, and allow His strength to flow in and through us.  But, nevertheless, the fact remains that it is His power that is at work in us, changing us, strengthening us, leading us.  Yes, sometimes it will feel like a war zone in our spirits as God leads us to overcome something in our lives and we resist.  He gets that.  But He also is unwilling to give us over to our sins and continues to work in us His strength so that we can be like Him--holy.

And please don't forget this:  there is nothing that can separate us from His love.  No matter what.  His love is what motivates Him to work in us His mighty power.

So don't let appearances deceive you.  If you are in a tight spot spiritually, and you are feeling like the only strength you are living on is your own, humble yourself and acknowledge what is true:  God is there and He is your source of power and strength to overcome.  Humbly thank Him and ask Him to help you come into alignment with His will and He will give you peace.

Yes, following Jesus is certainly a challenge, but it is worth it.  It really is.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Nothing Like Home

I was reading an article the other day based on the thoughts of one Dr. Dean Jovicebic who was talking about what life is like in Montenegro, a country surrounded by Boznia, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania, with a small portion beside the Meditteranean Sea.

Jovicebic, a doctor who seems to have the ability to see the important beyond the superficial explains his idea of 'home':  "One's home is never small,"  meaning that the size of your house has nothing to do with the size of your life, or better yet, the quality of your life.  I think he is on to something here.

As you listen to Jovicebic you begin to get a sense of his rootedness, that he is experiencing life with a depth that eludes so many of us in our busy world.  He goes on to say "A lot of modern poeple live a virtual life. . .there's no connection to nature.  To reality.  They're unhappy and don't know why.  There's something about simpler cultures--about what they know that we need to relearn. . .connectivity's what's important. You belong to a place and your home is never small."

I would tend to agree with Jovicebic in a way:  it can be dangerous to live with such dependance on productivity and machines--to live in a world made in our image, one that we can control.  But where Jovicebic would attribute to nature the key to finding deep meaning in life, I would say that relationships is where it is really found.

I love how John combines place and relationship in chapter 8 verse 35: "Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever."

When Jesus saves, He makes a place for that person, a place of belonging, where real life and freedom abound.    When He makes us His sons and daughters, he is rooting us not in a virtual life but a life that is rich and deep--authentic and genuine. 

In Jesus, we find ourselves at home--and like Jovicebic says, "one's home is never small".

So if you are walking with Jesus, then let Him show you how great your home is, and if you are looking for a home where you belong, then let Him show you what He can offer.

There's nothing like home.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spiritual Balance

I remember working on the farm many years ago.  Out in the field with the tractor hooked to an implement and tilling the fields.  When I was quite young, I would relish the days that I could stay home from school and drive the tractor!  I felt so grown up and important.

I also remember how dad would tell me the appropriate speeds and depths in which to work the field--good advice when heeded.  Of course, I was too impatient and would often drive a little too fast, which would put the equipment at risk of damage.

What I was unable to accept, in my immaturity, was that there was a delicate balance between the power being applied to the machinery and the proper use of that power so as not to damage anything.

As I thought about that, the same is true for us a followers of Jesus.  As the Church, we have been given incredible power as we read in Ephesians 1:3 that says "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."  The presence of the Holy Spirit in us, is the presence of power incarnate--the same power that brought all things into existence resides in us!  Hard to believe but true.

And this power is meant to accomplish things:  Ephesians 1:11  "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."  God has a plan and He is exercising His strength and will in order to accomplish that plan.

Finally, we are being invited to participate in that plan:  Ephesians 3:7 "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power."  And Ephesians 4:1 "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."

So how does this fit all together?  God has a plan.  He has given His children power.  And He has asked us to loose that power through which can change the world.  It's all good. . . .except. . . .

When I was in the field I would abuse the power of the tractor to accomplish my will, which was to get done the work more quickly!  I do the same with God:  it's great that He has saved me, and has equipped me with spiritual gifts and power, but do I appropriately balance that power with His will?  Or do I use it, or worse yet, not use it all, because of my own agendas or sin?

All the children of God must wrestle with the question of living with spiritual balance.  We must not be only grateful for the beautiful gifts God has showered on us, but we must also begin to recognize that God has expectations of us to use that power, and to use it appropriately--which is according to His will.

So let's start plowing the fields of this world with the incredible power of Jesus Christ providing all the strength needed.  And let's begin to live with a spiritual balance that listens to His direction, and we will begin to see His amazing Kingdom manifest in our midst.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In Our Back Yard

Have you ever wrestled with the thought that God is doing amazing things everywhere except right here?  You know how you hear stories of incredible revivals in Asia, India, China, Africa but here in North America it seems to be such a spiritual wasteland?

Well, I had the privilege of attending a Child Evangelism banquet last night and was pleasantly woken up.  This is an organization that is committed to reaching young children with the gospel of Jesus Christ and it was evident that good things were happening right in our own back yard.

The speaker was passionate and so very obviously in love with Jesus--he had been given a call and was obeying it with everything he had.  The people who were gathered there, both young and old, believed in what God was doing through this ministry to children.  Last year around 7000 children were exposed to the Good News here in Saskatchewan, through VBS-style summer events.  This in itself is impressive but what really struck me was how Saskatchewan is leading the way compared to other provinces.  Alberta, for example, contacted the Sask. branch of Child Evangelism and asked if they could come under the leadership of those here in this province!  They asked this because of what they were seeing God accomplish through the ministry here!

Now, my point is not to compare us to anyone else.  Instead, I want to make note that God really does do His powerful work right here!  Right where we are, not just in foreign and exotic locales.  If you spend a lot of time in one place things can begin to seem very ordinary, commonplace and bland.  Unfortunately, we can begin to lose sight of dreams, of seeing radical change and worst of all, of believing for God to move in mighty power to change lives.

Well, it's happening, and I witnessed it last night.

In Exodus 3:1-3 we read something that fits very well with what I'm talking about.  Here we see Moses who was doing a very ordinary thing: tending sheep.  Nothing radical or dream-inspiring about that!  But in the midst of a common, work-filled day, God shows up and captures a shepherd's attention and initiates something that will change the course of an entire nation, even the world!

As you go about your day today remember this:  God is at work in Saskatchewan.  He is alive and well, and reaching out to people and making a difference.  We can see it if we are open to it.  You can take my word for it, but it would be even better if you would ask the Lord Himself to show you what He is up to. 

If you read Exodus 3:3 closely you will see that once God revealed Himself, Moses decided to go and see for himself what was going on with that bush.  Moses had to choose to go.  And we are faced with the same choice:

Will you go and see what God is doing in your own backyard?


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How Sweet It Is

Sometimes life is really good.

Last week I had the privilege of curling in a nationwide curling tournament called the Friar's Briar.  There were 22 teams from B.C. to Ontario and even one from Wisconsin attending.  I hadn't experienced that competative adrenaline for so long I was surprised when I felt it--those pre-game butterflies were a little unfamiliar to me. 

Our team played very well.  Well enough that we were able to win the bronze medal and it was a great feeling.  One of the things that I like to do after a good game (or tournament) is to think back on the games themselves:  I replay the ebbs and flows of the games, the good shots and the bad ones, and remember how it all felt.  Of course, when you win, the memories are positive and I can find enjoyment in thinking about all of it.

A couple days after the tournament was over, and after I had re-enjoyed the whole thing again and again in mind, I found something else happening:  there was a small emptiness that started to replace the enjoyment I was feeling.  As I thought about it I realized that I was being too pre-occupied with something as fleeting as doing well at a tournament, allowing my ego to be stroked to the point of distraction.  I was distracted from Jesus.

Now, Jesus has no issues with me, or anyone else, enjoying things like curling tournaments, He just doesn't want us to have our hearts be distracted from Him.  My heart was feeling distanced from Him and I could feel it as much as I could feel the thrill of winning bronze.

So, today, I was drawn back to scripture and the words that bring real life.

In Revelation 22:17 we read the words of God reminding us that Jesus is coming back to earth, and that those who follow Him are to be enthusiastically and expectantly calling out to Him to come.  "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'  And let him who hears say, 'Come!'  Whoever is thristy, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."

This is where my heart must remain.  Life makes sense to me when I have my eyes fixed on Jesus, and when I don't, it wanders and begins to feel empty.  I am reminded that one day I will see Jesus face to face, and so today I come into agreement with God's own heart and say to Jesus "Come!"  Come back so that we can experience the fullness that you promise us; come back and fulfill your eternal plan of salvation for humanity; come and allow your children to see the fullness of your glory!

Success in a tournement is so much fun, and it did my heart good.  But it just doesn't compare with life with Jesus. . . .

How sweet it is.