Thursday, December 12, 2013

What's In a Number?

This post will be my 200th entry to Rock Talk!  A brief historical overview tells me that the page has been viewed over 8000 times, with untold views by people who receive the posts via email, and people from over 20 countries have read the words on this page.  I have been crafting entries here for over 2 years and have been so very blessed to have this avenue to share my heart about Jesus and His desires for us.

I am genuinely grateful for the Lord providing me the perseverance needed to continue on this journey of proclamation, and even though the numbers do tell a story, they do not tell the whole story, or even come close to expressing the most important part of the story.

You see, the most important number is not 20, or 200, or 8000---the most important number is "1".

All our efforts, all our desires, all our struggles and victories, all our friendships, all our milestones in life, all point to the number "1".  Why?  Because life itself is only possible through the one Almighty God who creates and sustains all things. 

1 Timothy 2:5 says "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. . ."

That's why I write Rock Talk, to bring glory to the "1", to God the Father who showed His love for us by sending His Son Jesus to show us the way to real life, to a life of freedom and hope.  I write to glorify Jesus who was so in tune with His Father that He knew His life on earth would be the answer that humanity so desperately needed.  Through Jesus a way was made for us to become united with God again.  I write so as to recognize, glorify and follow the Holy Spirit who is God within us, providing and teaching us all things as we walk the path of this life. 

We can so easily get caught up in the many distractions and responsibilities of life, but when you really think about it, it all comes down to "1".

Lord, I declare that You are the "1" that makes life make sense.  And today I honor You.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Got Your Back

I was dropping my wife off at work this morning and as she was getting ready to step out of the truck she turned to me and said "I've got your back".

Her comment made me pause:  we weren't talking about anything pressing, no emergencies or crises, but her words hit a chord in my soul and it felt good.  Why?

Walking the journey of life can be a challenging one, and we all need to know that someone is concerned for your well-being.  At times burdens can pile up and it can contribute to a growing sense of pressure on your heart and mind.  At these times it is nice to know that someone cares--that someone 'has your back'.

But it's not just in the challenging times that it's important to have someone in your corner.  It is also good to be able share the victories and joys that come in life.  To be able to identify with someone else who is walking the same path as you--having the same conversations, seeing the same positive outcomes, knowing that this day is a good day together--nothing like it!

So in good times and bad, it's good to know that someone has your back.  But in this, like all other things in life, we are reminded that the context for our defeats and victories is what comes from the Lord's hand in the first place.  It is part of the mosaic of life that God has carefully crafted for human beings to enjoy.  And one of the main reasons that He did this at all is to remind us that at the end of the day He wants us to see these experiences (as wonderful and important as they are) as introductions to the relationship that will provide the ultimate blessing--our relationship with Jesus.

It is here that we begin to recognize the kind of strength and stability we need to navigate life.  It is in Jesus where we find our model for living the kind of life that brings blessing to ourselves, and where we see an example of how to live with and for others around us.  It is through Jesus that we begin to truly understand what it means to have someone say to us "I've got your back".  He did so in everything that he lived for, and continues to live for.

We may not always think this of Him though.  We may think that our ongoing struggles are proof that Jesus really doesn't look after us, that He isn't all that, and we might need to wisen up and start to realize that we're on our own here, so just make the best of it.  I might be hitting the nail on the head for some people in saying this, and for others I might be overstating it a bit.  However, I believe that everyone who considers themselves followers of Jesus have struggled with these thoughts to varying degrees and from time to time.

Here is a word from God that helps remind us that He really knows the score here.  Listen to Isaiah 40:27-31:

"Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?'  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

In essence here is what God is saying to us:  "Why do you think I don't have your back?  Don't you know that I know exactly how you are struggling?  Put your hope in me, no matter your circumstances, and I will give you the strength and blessing you desire.  I am there for you."

So today, if it seems like you are walking alone, remember the promises of God Himself--He's looking out for you.  Trust Him and you will see for yourself what it feels like to hear someone say to you--"I've got your back."


Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Lonely Path

One of the mantras of today's society is that everyone is a leader. There is some truth to that as everyone has been given the authority to make choices that affect someone, even if that someone is only yourself. 

But mostly I think the ubiquitous teaching that everyone is a leader has been born more out of an inadvertant desire to accommodate a culture of self promotion. 

We desire to have influence because this makes us feel more important. We desire to belong to something bigger than ourselves but too often express this desire by making ourselves look bigger. 

The problem is that if everyone wants to be a leader then who is left to follow?  Even saying "follow" rings hollow to modern ears. It sounds somehow 'less':  less important, less influential, just less.....

And I think that we struggle to understand the heart of Jesus, the heart in true believers, if we do not question the 'wisdom' of the world that resides in us. 

Paul is considered one of the greatest leaders of the Christian church, and these are some of his thoughts describing being a leader:

2 Corinthians 11:27-31 NIV

"I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying."

Sleepless nights.  Why?  Because Paul had been given a responsibility for others that would not easily go away. Cold and naked. Why?  Because his course entailed sacrificing himself in order to accomplish the tasks at hand which often meant that he needed to put himself second. Weak?  This is one that simply is not understood at all in terms of leadership today- to us weakness shows that you are an unfit leader. But then God himself says 'when you are weak, then you are strong'. 

Leadership is a lonely path because it has nothing to do with self promotion, and everything to do with self sacrifice. 

I wonder if there would be such a stampede of teaching, courses, and general agreement that 'everyone is a leader' if the model of Paul and Jesus were seen clearly?

But we must not stop here. Paul concludes by saying that though he struggles, though his life has many challenges as a leader, he knows enough to say that the reason why his life as a leader makes sense is because of God the Father. 

The sacrifice makes sense in the light of the grand picture of redemption. His weakness is acceptable given the fact that his identity is not wrapped up in his accomplishments but in his relationship with God. He understands that the sacrifices he makes only make sense in the context of service, of following

If true leadership means following God, then we are all being called to be leaders because that is exactly what the Gospel is about. 

But it might look kind of lonely. 

Are you willing to go there?  

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Taken To Heart

Hannah Arendt is one of the more important North American philosophers of the 20th century.  In her book "The Human Condition" she writes about significant events that have unintentionally shaped how we think today.

One of the examples she raises expresses how our world has shrunk.  This, in itself, is not a very stirring revelation, but when you begin to examine the implications of this for our spiritual health, this reality takes on a new light.  Here is what I mean:

Think about the explorers of the 16th century.  Christopher Columbus was one among many who had been captivated by the possibility of new worlds.  Arendt states that when adventurers like Columbus took to the seas it was with the intent of "enlarging the earth, not shrink[ing] her into a ball."  What Arendt is pointing out is that to our sensibilities today, what with living in a shrunken global village, where everything is accessible and immediate, when we think of Columbus embarking on his campaign, we think it was with the intent to shrink the world--to make it smaller--because that is what our experience teaches us.  But, in fact, they were motivated to make their world bigger!

But, then Arendt goes further and makes a statement that made me pause.  This is her comment:  "Nothing can remain immense if it can be measured."

I wonder if in our miniaturized world, our shrunken environment, and our technologically advanced reality where everything can be figured out eventually with experimentation and formulas, that we have also subconsciously bought into the idea that God Himself has also somehow become smaller?

"Surely not!" you might say.  But I want you to consider something:

It was not long ago that God was 'welcome' in our town squares; in the halls of our governments; in our schools; and in public discourse in general.  It seems to me that we have, in many ways, succumbed to an understanding that faith in Jesus Christ, and Christianity in general, is something that is meant to remain largely a personal and private thing.  If this is true, then Christianity has been reduced from a large and encompassing presence to something that is hidden from view.  God only resides in our hearts and not in our world.  Now I know that we are theologically aware of God as everywhere present, but do we live this way?  Like Columbus lived his desire to put his life on the line to expand the world he lived in?

As time marches on we get closer and closer to the day when Jesus will return to earth.  When we see him, will we still be imagining our God as one who has been reduced in our minds as one who only resides in our hearts, or will we be imagining the magnitude of the All Encompassing and Powerful One who stands above all things.  Just listen to this description of the Lord from Joel 2:11:

"The Lord thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command."

This is our God--the God of the universe, our world and our hearts.  Let's take this to heart and explore the vast richness of our relationship with Him.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Don't Be Surprised

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had just been hit with something that sent you spinning?  Some bad news, or an ongoing relationship that just went south, or a part of your character that you struggle with until suddenly something broke in you?

Whatever it is, we all experience things that can cause our hearts to despair--it's very hard, but also very normal.  I say that not to make light of whatever it is you are experiencing, but I do say it to let you know you aren't alone!

You aren't alone.  Can you hear that today?  Those may be the most important words you ever hear, and Jesus is wanting you to hear them loud and clear.

I don't want you to be surprised to find out that Jesus is with you no matter what it is that you are going through.  And I don't want you to be surprised to find out that He is at work in his Family--the body of believers--to raise up people who will rally around you when you most need it.  Of course, we fail all the time in doing this, and it would be a hopeless dream to imagine that there are people with God's heart out there who will help you, if it was all up to us.  But that's where God is so incredible.  He is at work in His kids to help out those who need it.

I don't want you to be surprised at any of this because if you are that means that you are really doubting if any of this is true--and it is!

In fact, I want you to know that today is a day when everything could change. 

Don't believe me?  Let me tell you a story. . . .

Many years ago a group of people found themselves oppressed and alienated by a dominant world political power.  This oppressed nation was having its back broken through brutally hard manual labor, and their spirits broken at the thought that they had been abandoned.

But then something happened. . . .circumstances began to unfold that brought them miraculously out of their bondage and they began to believe they weren't alone after all.  They escaped from their captors but soon found themselves caught between a rock and a hard-place--on the one side of them was a geographical obstacle impossible for them to pass to continue their escape, and on the other side of them was the army of that world power bearing down on them with severe anger and killing on their minds.  They were going to punish this renegade group of slaves that had thought it possible that there was hope for them to escape from their powerful grasp.

And then hope was gone.  This trapped nation had been immersed in perpetual defeat and despair for generations, and this little glimmer of hope for freedom and a new way of life was going to be snatched away once and for all.  I bet there were some there that day that even welcomed death because they were just done.

God, however, had different plans that day.  He made a way where no way was possible.  He divided a sea!!  He parted waters so that this beaten down nation could walk through to safety, and then after they had passed, God dealt with that arrogant powerhouse of a nation that thought itself invincible.

In a blink of an eye, defeat and despair turned into joy and hope.

Do you think your problems are bigger than a sea?  Do you think they go beyond the ability of God to overcome?  Do you think God would do things like that for people if He didn't care?

Don't be surprised if today is the day that God decides to bring hope into your life where there once was none.

You know, as I think about it. . . . .God is kind of a big deal.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Tip of the Spear

Think of a spear:  See it in mid-flight, piercing through the air with streamlined efficiency.  See the spear hurtling toward a target with precision and deadly grace.  And behold its uncompromising ability to overwhelm its target as it penetrates and then comes to rest.

And then think of the tip of this spear:  it is the tip that guides the whole process.  It is the tip that points the direction, that divides the air in flight, and that ultimately pierces the prey.  Without the tip--there is no spear.

And now I want you to think of the Gospel.  Yes, that's right, the Gospel, the 'Good News' that Christians always talk about.  It is a phrase often heard, but often misunderstood.  It has become a catch-all phrase for anything that seems to be related to Christian life that is generally `good`.  It could be something that makes you feel good; or something that seems pleasant.  It has slowly become an amorphous sentiment--and that is not enough.

Because the Gospel is the tip of the spear.

It is that which moves with streamlined efficiency as it addresses the obstacles that stand in its way.  It is precise and deadly accurate as it moves with intent toward its goal.  And it is uncompromising as it penetrates its target and accomplishes the tasks it is assigned.

The Gospel is `dual-core` to borrow from the computer world.  One of its cores is theological and the other is based on practical application.  Its theological component states clearly what it is about:  the Gospel is Jesus` sinless sacrifice of His life on the cross to make atonement for humanity`s sins and the purchase peaceful relationship with God for those who by faith accept Jesus` sacrifice on their behalf.  In this, the `Good News` is the now possible forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life and not death.

And the practical component of the Gospel is how it directs life:  this `tip of the spear` provides a clear dividing line between two extremes.  On the one hand is the religious extreme of legalism, which is continually telling people that they must live more moral lives in order to find favor with God.  The other extreme is antinomianism which says that because Christians are saved already it doesn't really matter how we live or the choices we make.

The ancient church father Tertullian recognized these extremes and said `Just as Jesus was crucified between two thieves, so the gospel is ever crucified between these two errors.`

I think he was right.

But what I think has happened today is that the reigning cultural sense of relativism has caused us to stop trying to figure out how the gospel actually functions between these two competing ideologies and because now it is perceived that `there is no real truth anymore`  then why would we try and figure it out?  When this happens the tip of the spear is lost and the flight and purpose of the Gospel becomes very unclear.

I'm thankful that God, in His power and wisdom, promises to accomplish everything He has in mind regardless of the struggles and weaknesses of humanity.  Our inability to always understand clearly the purpose and power of the Gospel is one of the reasons that the Gospel exists in the first place! 

God provides Good News to us in order to save us from ourselves.  And we should be thankful that He is providing this direction and help that we so desperately need.

But this is my closing thought:  If God has provided such a wonderful gift in the Gospel of salvation, then wouldn't it be appropriate to respond to it?  We should be motivated by God's desire for His children to 'make disciples of all nations' because of this Good News that is a spear that is designed to pierce the heart of every human being.  We should be motivated by the love that is expressed to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to invest ourselves with all our hearts, mind, soul and strength.

To do any less is not worthy of this great Gospel gift.

So lets avoid both extremes:  let us not allow apathy and indifference settle into our souls because we believe that the Gospel means that 'there is nothing left for us to do'---that is a lie and it prevents us from participating in the Great Commission.  And let us also avoid the error of thinking that the Gospel message is something that we must earn through our efforts. Instead, let's consider what it would mean to live a life that is infused with the love of Jesus, and to be filled with a desire to serve our Lord with everything we've got, in response to what He has already done for us.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Crowd or Disciple?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

There seems to be two parts to my heart: the part that likes to be around Jesus when the crowds surround him and the part that pursues him when most people are not interested. 

It's not nearly so easy being a disciple. 

The following passage helps me to get a clearer picture of all this:
Matthew 5:1 NIV

"Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them."

Pay attention to what happened here:  Jesus saw the crowds that had gathered and left them behind. Then the disciples separated themselves from the crowd by pursuing Jesus on the mountain. It was then that Jesus blessed them by filling them with life and truth. 

I think Jesus knows that when we make the commitment to spend time with him that our hearts are really ready to receive-  to him who has ears to hear let him hear.......

Our hope rests entirely in the power and love of Jesus. But he also invites us to participate in this faith life too. The disciples "heard" his invitation while the crowd didn't. And I'm pretty sure that any from the crowd that would have come he would have taught them too. 

So where are you?  Are you a disciple or part of the crowd?  If you are like me you are parts of both and Jesus can work with that. 

We are in his hands and he always wants the best for us. He is inviting us to walk away from the crowd, away from half commitment, and to walk up the mountain to spend time with him with open and committed hearts. 

Jesus, give us the strength to walk with you wherever you go. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Owned or Loaned?

Every once in a while you stumble across a jewel that takes you by surprise by its brilliance and intensity.  It causes you to pause and to take in its wonder and beauty. 

Ideas, the good ones, are like that and they have the capacity to transport you to another place---a place where you are able to get your bearings again---where things start to make sense.

I have come across a 'jewel' in the form of a book titled "The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: an English professor's journey into christian faith," written by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield.

This is her account of living as a lesbian, the pressures of academic life, the call of a God who loved her and who challenged her ideas that were deeply entrenched, and the wisdom that came to her from a place not from within herself that led her to rethink what was real and true in life.

This is a jewel. . . . .

One of the statements that she includes in her book comes from an address she made to the 1999 Graduate Student Orientation at Syracuse University.  This is what she wrote. . . .

"King Solomon, one of the many sons of David, ruled over Israel from 962-922 B.C.  Before Solomon stepped into his kingship, he asked God to give him an 'understanding heart. . .to discern between good and evil' (1 Kings 3:9).  God gave him a gift of discernment unmatched by any other figure then or now on the condition that Solomon never forgot the first commandment (the commandment to honor God, not the idols that bolster the autonomy of our own egos.).  As Solomon became rich and successful, he started to believe that knowledge was something that he 'owned,' something that he harbored inside of himself, rather than what it was: something loaned to him,  something fundamentally located in the radical Otherness of a Holy God.  Once he lost his anchor, he lost his wisdom, and it all came tumbling down.  The biblical story does not stop here, because the nature of a Holy God is redemptive, not abandoning, but that is a lecture for another day.  Suffice it to say for today that Solomon failed by thinking that all truth-claims exist in a contingent relationship to the self. Solomon's legacy offers a warning to all. . . .we all need to be anchored in something bigger than we are. . .Real learning, no matter how polished the moves or rehearsed the rhetoric, is empty learning unless we who profess are anchored in something bigger than we are.  Choose with discernment, and don't let the proclivities of the here-and-now choose for you."

Is this what God is trying to tell you today?  Is he trying to get you to believe that the answers you are so desperately looking for are hidden from you because it is you trying to figure it all out?  Is he trying to tell you that what you need is found in Him and Him alone, and that to get there is to stop your self-reliance, to rest in Him and to trust that He will provide exactly what you need?

I do not fear for you, if this is where you find yourself today, because I know that God is able to continue, for as long as it takes, for you to find what you long for. 

He is waiting. . . . .


Friday, November 15, 2013

Take a Trip

As the temperatures begin to dip here in the frigid winter prairies, our thoughts can begin to focus on making plans to visit a warmer climate. 

There is something refreshing about entering into that place where the sun is shining and the warmth just seems to seep into your causes you to have a sense of wellbeing and joy. 

Today I would like to suggest that you consider taking a different kind of trip. Don't be fooled- this trip will also put you in a place where you will move from frigid temperatures and you will experience the warmth that will bring you into peace and joy.....but this trip takes place in your heart. 

I want you to consider Ephesians 6:10ff. Here God offers His children the armor that can bring spiritual peace and joy for you wherever you find yourself geographically. This is what it says:

Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.

There is an enemy who is bent on bringing grief and despair to people. But there is also a God, who is much more powerful than this enemy, AND who loves you and desires to help you to live in freedom! 

The armor of God is there to protect you and to transport your heart and mind to a place of peace and joy. So why not take some time right now and pray all that armor onto yourself and see what God will do for you. 

Why not take a trip, you might like it!  


Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Surprising Bit of Hope

Recently there have been stories flying around in the world of the National Football League about a situation in the Miami Dolphins team. 

It is reported that one member has left the team because of harassment. As the story develops it sounds as though one individual was speaking harsh words about the others background, ethnicity and just general verbal abuse. 

It got to the point where the player who was being abused simply could not handle it any longer-- the evil that was being done to him became a voice that could not be drowned out-- and he was not able to overcome that voice. To put things into perspective this player walked away from hundreds of thousands of dollars rather than be abused any more. 

There are a couple things that go through my mind in hearing these events. First, my heart goes out to that player who was abused. We have all had experiences like this to varying degrees- name calling or just plain meanness thrown our way. 

But the other thing that goes through my mind is the question whether something could have been done- could there have been a different outcome to this story?

Romans 12:21 Has something to offer us here:

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

It sounds like overcoming evil is something that is put on us- that it is my responsibility to make it happen. When we try to do that we fail, just like the abused football player who thought the only way to survive was to leave. 

What God is telling us here is that He provides all that is needed to overcome the evil we experience. He reminds us to stand in him and to draw upon his strength- upon his goodness

God is the good that overcomes evil and he invites us to live out that good when evil attacks. To a harsh word we speak a word of blessing. To a lie that is meant to harm we speak a word of truth that heals. To a slur or cutting comment we speak a word of encouragement that builds up. And on and on, in God's strength and goodness. 

It can seem that the abused football player did the only thing that was possible by leaving. But seems like it leaves things feeling hopeless because the evil was never addressed. God tells us that a better way to live is to overcome evil with good. 

Overcoming evil sounds a lot better than than running from it don't you think? 

Lord today, if we find ourselves being attacked  by evil help us to overcome through your goodness. Fill us with it so it will flow out onto everyone we meet. 

And let the world be surprised by how sweet it is to see your goodness at work. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


"Faithful".  A word commonly heard used among Christians to describe the character of God.  He is 'faithful' in that He is absolutely consistent and unchanging.  He is 'faithful' in that He honors all His promises declared for the world to hear.  He is 'faithful' in His compassion and love for that He has carefully created.  And He is 'faithful' to lead those He calls His own.

And it is the last sentence that I saw at work last night. . . . .

At our College and Career gathering we had the privilege of being taught by Brian Smith who is one of the pastors here at ROA.  His topic was evolution. . .and I have never seen anyone teach on this topic with the kind of passion and precision Brian exhibited last night.

There were many questions that arose as he addressed the reigning worldviews surrounding evolution theory--and there were also some surprised students as they heard of an alternate claim based on good questions and solid evidence, that evolution theory has some significant holes in it and that there just may be a case to be made for the idea that God created this world and did so in the relatively recent past.

The topic touched on microbiology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, theology and was skillfully woven into helping us hear how the Bible and its message can actually make sense in the midst of all these disciplines.

I was not only introduced to some new and very helpful ideas that can make way for faith, but I was also touched by the fact that I was seeing God in action:  He was faithful in bringing to bear the experiences and wisdom that had been implanted in Brian over the last number of decades and in that moment brought forth hope and life for a group who are being called to live their faith in 2013!  The depth and width of God's influence is amazing!

Colossians 1:6-7 says this:
"All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.  You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit."

I believe that last night we were privileged to experience the gospel bearing fruit and it was done through our "Epaphras"---our faithful brother Brian Smith, who ministered the wisdom of Christ to us in a very powerful and practical way.

On behalf of the ROA C and C group I would just like to say thank you Brian for being faithful as Jesus is faithful.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


"Hello, my name is Brian Tysdal and I belong to A.A.."

It's true, I belong to a club with these initials but it might not stand for what you think. You see "A.A." is not short for Alcoholics Anonymous but is instead the letters that represent a group that is far larger- in fact this group is global with members in the billions!

Welcome to the group concerned with "Attitude Adjustments". 

We've all been there: from time to time we find ourselves subtly shifting in our hearts- maybe it's an unnecessarily harsh word aimed at a city councillor, or a slowly growing attitude of bitterness toward a co-worker, or just a general sense of "I deserve better than this!". Whatever it may be, there are times when we just need to have our attitudes adjusted. 

That's where I was recently and it's amazing how I got to that place without even knowing it. 

Disagreeing with an organization or a person is a prime environment for bitterness and eventually self-righteousness to take root. I know this because I allowed it to happen in my own heart. And I didn't realize how it had changed me until God showed me what was going on. 

And it was kind of interesting how he got my attention: through the gentle and humble attitude of my wife as we were talking about some of the things related to the issues I was facing. 

I was certain that I was justified in my position, but as I was defending myself it became more and more clear that I was way out of line and I needed an attitude adjustment. 

And it was a revelation to me how bitterness had taken root because as I began to confess being out of line my heart began to be filled with peace and joy. I was given a sense of well-being as God adjusted my attitude!  

The Bible has something to say about all this:

Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

Maybe you have been carrying around a heavy heart recently?  Maybe you find yourself in a disagreement and you are so convinced you are right that you are slowly becoming bitter toward your "enemy"?  If so, you need to join A.A. and ask God to help you confess your bad attitude and find a new kind of peace and joy. You may be surprised, like I was, to discover how good it feels!


Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Upside Down

I was listening to a talk radio station today as I was driving downtown. The panel was talking about two specific issues that they were expressing their opinions on: the first had to do with a group that are lobbying to remove all gender indicators on birth certificates. So the panel weighed in and were in support of this idea- children and adults should have the right to choose who they want to be even if that means if they want to change sexes. 

The panel wrestled a bit with the idea that a four year old should be free from all gender influences in order to be able to choose for him or herself, but in the end they said even though it is a little "weird" the kid should be able to choose. 

Then the next topic pertained to whether restaurants should be able to serve food like the "deep fried Twinkie burger" which is basically a calorie nuclear bomb. 

The panel talked about this and there were some strong comments expressing that restaurants most certainly should NOT be allowed to serve these heartattacks waiting to happen. Why?  Because it would be bad for them. 

So I had to recap this in my mind: the reigning wisdom of this panel led them to strongly express that they would not want to make a choice that might influence a four year old's gender identity but they would feel free to make a strong choice to hinder someone's ability to have access to a burger. 

And I went "huh?"

How on earth did it come to this?

Then I realized that it makes sense because their thinking was totally  of this earth and not of heaven at all. 

This passage from Romans has something to say about this:

Romans 1:20-22 NIV

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools."

Whenever we ignore God we find ourselves thinking crazy thoughts like it's bad to make a choice that might influence a child but good to make a choice to save someone from a burger!

We live in an upside down world- but there is always hope because Jesus has come to speak it out loud and clear. 

The question is will we listen?

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Walk This Way

I'm a rocker from way back.  In fact, if you were to catch me alone and listening to the music of my youth, you may chuckle at how loud the music is playing.  Of course, I would be too mature now to play it loud with other people around, but it still happens once in a while!

Aerosmith had a hit song called Walk This Way many years ago, and it talked about the kind of swagger necessary if you wanted to impress others.  Somehow, even though I still like the beat, that message has lost its luster for me.

I am captivated by another voice that tells me I should walk a different way. . . . .

In Ephesians 5:1-2 it tells us how we should be walking as followers of Jesus.  This is what it says:  "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Walk.  An action word.  One that invites us to not only hear what God says to us, but to do what God's shows us to do.  Did you hear that last part---God has shown us how to walk in the way of love.  We don't have to figure it out on our own, we have already been given a clear picture of what that should look like in Jesus.

So we are to walk in love just like Jesus did.  Here are some things that this means for us:
1.  Jesus walked in love for others, and that means you.
  I have had conversations with people recently who have had some trouble accepting that Jesus really loves them, and that this love is such that He is not waiting for an opportunity to cut and run.  His love is legit and it runs deep in Him.  He is in this life with us for the long-haul.
2.  Jesus walked sacrificially.
  He was not as concerned about Himself as He was about bringing freedom and life for others.  His love walk meant that He was committed to meeting those in need right in the middle of their issues, their pain, their loss--and we know that when you join someone in their pain that can mean that that investment will require something of yourself in terms of resources:  time, money, encouragement, support and on and on.  Jesus was and is so concerned about bringing and maintaining life and freedom in others that He was and is willing to really invest Himself in them--and that means you!
3.  Jesus walked because of His love for His Father.
  Even though Jesus sacrificed everything for people like you and I, His primary motivation was based on His love for His Father in Heaven.  Everything Jesus taught and did reflected this passion that He had for the Father.  This was His guiding light that oriented His thoughts and decisions.  When He was stressed He laid it out for His Father to hear.  Jesus found His comfort in His Father, and He pointed others to find their comfort with Him as well.

Have you ever put in a hard days work of physical labor and then walked into the kitchen and the scent of the meal being cooked instantly made your mouth water?  Then you sit at the table and take that first bite and it is just so satisfying!!

This is the kind of image that helps us to picture the kind of love that Jesus walked--and its fragrance is so pleasing to the Father and to those who receive it that it makes your mouth water and you long for more.

We should be walking this way--showing the same kind of love that Jesus showed us.  And when we share this with each other it's just like a banquet----only tastier!


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Going Green

I live in Saskatchewan and I have rightly inherited a love for the Riders football team.  I can't help it really--it's just something that gets into your bones.

One of the things that I really enjoy are the fans----it's almost as fun to cheer for the fans as it is to cheer for the team itself.  This is probably true because the Riders end up losing more than their fair share and we have to cheer for something!!

Anyway. . . .there is another thing that I have liked about our team for a long time that has been weakening recently: and that is humility.  For years I have felt that our team exemplified a good attitude with regard to their failures and successes and it has shown through attitudes that are humble.  But in the last few weeks, I have been disappointed in some of the players who have been very vocal about being "the best", and continually stating this, even when losing efforts were showing that they were not the best.  It got to the point where one Rider player was interviewed right after losing a game, and while standing on the field said "we are the best, and they [the team they just lost to!] suck."

I had to shake my head.

Now I know I'm just talking about a football team here and that doesn't seem to be very high on the spiritual scale of things, but it nevertheless shows me what lack of wisdom looks and feels like.  I can find the relevancy of God's word in a post-game interview on the sidelines of a football field.

So, with all that said, here is what wisdom looks like:

"Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."  James 3:13-18

As I write this I can't believe just how accurate this applies to the latest Rider shenanigans!  And, if truth be told, how it applies to our lives as well.  There is a deep longing in us to be noticed; to be appreciated for something good; to be praised.  When our needs for this kind of affirmation comes out of a heart that 'wants it all for myself', then we have a problem.

I love my football team.  As the saying goes 'I bleed green'.  But, I really don't want to fall into the trap of having my heart bath in the green that breeds envy and pride--THAT I want to leave at the foot of Jesus.

Today, I want to encourage all who read this to ask Jesus to help your heart to be humble and honor Him appropriately by living a life that is marked by good deeds.  Serve others, consider their value and lift them up.  Speak words that build up someone else and avoid bragging about yourself.  As you do this, Jesus promises to lift you up as well.  He will bless you with peace and a solidity in your heart that will allow you to praise others without feeling like you are somehow less.  In fact, as Jesus helps you with this, you will find that you feel better than ever!

I wish you blessings as you test the waters of living a wise and humble life.

Thank you Jesus--you are simply awesome!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

It's All Good

Today, for lunch, I was treated to chicken vermicelli, and it was delicious!

To a lot of Christians this statement has very little weight when it comes to our understanding of God--but it really is important.

Why?  It's important because it helps us to see how God is involved in the everyday and most of the time we don't even give Him a second glance.

Think about it:  why does it matter that we have tastebuds in order to savour the exquisite flavors found in chicken vermicelli?  After all, this has little to nothing to say about our future life as a saved child of God right?

The problem arises when we read things like this in 1 Timothy 4:3-5 where Paul is talking about people who thought they knew God but were deceived by evil spirits that taught them things that weren't true.
This is what Paul writes here:  "They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.  For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer."

The first thing to wrestle with here is the fact that everything that God created is good.  I suspect that we spend a good portion of our time as Christians trying to figure out why things are not good, like sin, which is fine except when in our pursuit of truth we end up condemning things that God values.

I think once we begin to get our heads wrapped around this fact that we begin to see our world differently.  It may be that we will begin to have happier, more thankful hearts as we experience our world with new eyes.  In fact, that's what Paul alludes to when he says that 'nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving."  So listen to that:  if we view creation as 'bad' and God says it is 'good' then what is really happening is that is we are not living with thankful hearts toward God for what He has given to us.  In our attempts to value what we call the really 'spiritual' things (eternal life etc), we may have fallen into the trap of not valuing what God clearly says is good!

So maybe it's time to let the Bible speak to us again, to let God speak to us again.  And here is what He is telling us today:  "I have taken the time and care to prepare all these gifts for you and one of the reasons is because I wanted to give you some tools through which you can enjoy Me.  So be thankful and you will be blessed!"

I think that's why my chicken vermicelli is so important--because it makes my tastebuds sing and in so doing makes my heart glad for my Father who gives us such wonderful gifts!

Hope your meals today taste especially wonderful!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Health and Wealth

There is a theology that has been floating around christian circles for a long time called the "prosperity gospel". In essence this teaching suggests that if followers of Jesus will be willing to give their offerings to Him then they should expect to receive a multiplied financial blessing from the Lord in return. 
There are two primary problems with this: first, the prosperity gospel can sometimes emphasize the importance of us receiving financial increase- it becomes more about us and what we can get than it is about Jesus and serving Him sacrificially. 
The second problem we have with the teaching of the prosperity gospel is that a lot of what it says is true!  

I just want that to sink in for a second for effect.......

Listen to this from Proverbs:
Proverbs 3:7-10 NIV

"Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."

God says "honor me with your offerings and I will bless you materially". That is pretty clear here. 

So why did I say that we have a problem because the prosperity message is based on some solid truth? 

A lot of christians who rightly oppose the prosperity gospel's message have also unwittingly grown in their inability to accept that God really does bless his children with material goods. We are so filled with fear that if we accept this scriptural truth then we will fall into the abyss of prosperity gospel sin. 

But let me ask you a question today:  if something stands in the way of a person accepting by faith the truths of God, then doesn't it make sense that that obstacle should be identified, confessed and overcome?  

I say yes.

So Lord forgive us for fearing the prosperity gospel more than we believe your promises in Proverbs 3. And thank you for your patience with us when we don't always receive the gifts, both spiritual and material, that you so deeply want to share with us. 

When your truths shine our world gets little brighter. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wonder and Complexity


The term brings up so many images, thoughts and emotions that to try and narrow it down into a simple explanation is impossible. 

But, even though this true, life is still so compelling!

I have two contrasting experiences that are teaching me about the complexity of this journey we are on. 

The first happened to me a few days ago as I was walking downtown Saskatoon. I was striding down a sidewalk when an elderly woman came up to me and with great intent she looked at me straight in the eyes and with a harsh expression she pointed her finger at me and said : "I am making it my mission to remind people to always 'stay on the sunny side of life'". Then she just walked away. 

Weird, but still caught my attention. Later I looked on the web and discovered that staying on the sunny side is actually a song done by some family folk singers generations ago and it reminded us that no matter what we are going through there is always some sun to be found. 

A good message but it came to me packaged in an expression that was harsh and abrasive. 

Then more recently I spent some time with a person who looks pleasant enough on the outside but it became clear pretty quickly that this person could not see the sun in anything. 

Life is complex indeed!

I thought this for a while and I realized that it can be difficult sometimes to engage in life because it can be so confusing- good messages from harsh faces and harsh messages from good faces-  I think you get the point. 

It can be tempting to run and hide from our world if things get too difficult for us to understand but that is the last thing that Jesus wants for us. In fact, He invites us to embrace the diversity that we find in life and be taught that what might look like and feel like confusion can be understood with a mind that embraces it as wonder

Think about what he wants us to hear in this passage: 
Psalm 111:2-4 NIV

Great are the works of the Lord ; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate.

He has caused his wonders to be remembered.... What do you think this means?  Is it possible that God could show us his amazing wonders through the confusion of our experiences?

I think so, and I think it has a lot do with our attitudes. If our attitude is to see life through the lenses of God and his wonder-filled works, then it becomes an adventure to experience what comes in your day. I'm not saying that all your experiences will be pleasant if we have eyes to see God's wonders, but I am saying that life will make much more sense. 

So how are you seeing your life?  Are its complexities frustrating you or filling you with wonder?

My prayer for you today is that Jesus would show you just how wonderful is the life he has given you. 


Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hidden Hope

We can often think of hope in terms of something that presents itself in obvious ways.  For example, we are filled with hope when our kids graduate and they begin their journey of engaging new lives post-high school.  We are filled with hope when we see someone who has overcome an addiction and has a new lease on life. 

In a nutshell, we are filled with hope when we see good things happening.

But I think there is also hope to be found in hidden places. . .

I have the privilege of walking a road with 20 or so young adults at my church and just the other night they were asked to share what they felt are ten things that people their age struggle with.  There were no rules or guidelines, only the question:  what is a pressing issue, challenge or struggle that you would like help to address?

I read what they wrote this morning, and I have to say, that I was absolutely filled with hope.  Why?  Not because I was reading accounts of people who had overcome, but instead I was treated to the deep, insightful and thought-provoking questions that had real meaning.  The hope I experienced was hidden in the midst of struggle, and it was amazing!

I am so proud of these people, my friends, who have the courage to express the things that really matter to them, and who are willing to be vulnerable enough to let someone else see inside.  There is genuine hope to be found here because the best answers in life start with asking the right questions, and these folks are on the right track.

Vaclav Havel, previous president of the former Czechoslovakian state described hope this way:  "Hope is a state of mind, not of the world.  Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good."

I believe that he is on to something here:  that we find hope when we come to a place where we are willing to invest in things that are good not necessarily successful.  That's why the struggles that are shared by a group of people can bring hope because it is the beginning of choosing to travel the hard road of engaging the good fight even though there is no evidence of success just yet!


Romans 5: 3 says "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

We all face hardship and struggle in life.  I want to encourage anyone reading this today, that if this is where you find yourself, then do two things:  follow the excellent example of my young friends who showed the courage to express what their struggle is and in so doing, were asking for help.  And secondly, look to God for the help He desires to give you---He has poured out His Spirit in order to provide all that is needed for the journey.

Hope is everywhere to be found---can you see it?


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Not Ashamed

My dictionary describes shame as "a feeling of distress or humiliation caused by consciousness of the guilt or foolishness of oneself or an associate."  In other words, shame is feeling humiliation because of something about yourself or about someone you are closely associated with.

Shame can be a debilitating thing.  If you have ever experienced it you know exactly what I mean.  But I don`t want to emphasize shame here.  I only bring it up because it is the counterpoint to the amazing freedom that comes with not being ashamed!

Yesterday I started up with curling for another year (I know---winter is coming!).  And I have the privilege of having my dad and brother on my team.  Neither of them have curled in this league before, and my brother couldn`t make this first game, but dad was there so I was introducing him to everybody I could.  Why?  Because he is a man of character and I was proud to have others meet him, and proud to have others know that I am his son!

There is a peace and confidence that settles into one's soul when you don't live with shame.  You feel that there is nothing to hide; that you don't need to put on a mask; that, even though you know good and well that you are far from perfect, you still have a sense of freedom with others to let them know who you really are.  That's how it felt with dad--that I was totally at peace with other people knowing that my identity is tied closely to him.

I think that's what it must have felt like for Paul when he was writing to a group of people in Rome about Jesus.  He said "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. . . ." (Romans 1:16).  I really think he meant it.  He had a settled peace deep within him, that he was not ashamed to be known as being associated with Jesus.  In fact, I am convinced that Paul was pleased to let people know that even his identity was to be found in who Jesus was.  Just like me sitting in the curling rink being pleased to introduce others to my dad--Paul was happy, and proud to introduce others to Jesus--and to be identified with him.

And now for a moment of brutal honesty:  I'm not always excited to tell the world about my association with Jesus.  I don't always have this sense of pride that fills me when there is an opportunity to let others know about this amazing person who has changed my life.  I am still a person who struggles with sin, and this sin can cause moments of shame--whether it be about myself, or those I am associated with--in this case, Jesus.  And this is just another reason why Jesus is so incredible and kind.

You see, Jesus is so filled with goodness and love, and he understands that I am on a road of continually discovering who I am in Him.  He knows that I am still battling the effects of sin and that I won't always live in the freedom He has given to me.  When that happens, I will sometimes allow shame to creep in.  But He is never content to leave me there!  He knows that the very best thing for me is to find my freedom in Him and Him alone--and so He reminds me through His word, and by the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, that I am being invited to give up my shame and once again be filled with forgiveness and freedom which then causes me to want to introduce others to Him, and to have others know how filled with joy I am to be known as a child of God!

Living without shame is such a beautiful thing, and I hope that everyone who reads this will be able to experience this today.  I know you can because I am confident in knowing what Jesus is all about and how much He loves you. 

The real question is will you listen to Him?


Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Flood

Recently Calgary, Alberta and the region surrounding this city, experienced a devastating flood.  It is estimated that the cost of this destruction will hit the Alberta government to the tune of 5 billion dollars.  Just for perspective--if a person earned 45,000 dollars per year, and was able to put all of that toward this bill, it would take over 110,000 years to pay it off!

This was a flood that created a 'flood' of chaos and suffering.

People share experiences of how the water invaded their homes and as the levels subsided, left behind a thick layer of sludge throughout.  People who tried to clean up were frustrated by the obstinate mess and the mold that quickly set in.  Others gave up and just walked away.

Not a pretty site. . . . .but a telling one.

This week I have felt a heaviness on my heart--one that is generally unnamed but very real.  I tried to figure out what was going on and came up with a few things that made sense.  But try as I may, I couldn't fix it--I couldn't clean up the mess of this little 'flood' that was in there.  The walls were smudged and I couldn't clean them on my own.  And part of me was a bit tempted to just walk away. . .

But instead I went to Jesus and I expressed to Him how I was frustrated at my own weakness and how powerless I was to do anything to change things.  This was no polished prayer, but really just a guy who asked Jesus for some help.  And a beautiful thing happened.

As I was sitting at my desk in the office, thinking about all of this--the flood in Alberta, the 'flood' in my heart, my frustration and really just the daily things in life. . .I realized that the weight had lifted off of me and I felt free!  Jesus heard me and He stepped in and cleaned house in a way that was subtle, no massive cleaning crews or fanfare, just the humble work of the Healer doing His thing.

I think Jesus is so cool.

But Jesus didn't just want me to be healed, He also wants me to grow in my faith for future 'floods'.  In Psalm 30:2 it says "O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me."  This is a true statement that now is true once again in my experience which deepens my trust in Him.

Now I know that I will need many more reminders, and I will go through many more 'floods', some of which will be much, much bigger than this one--but I'm still grateful that Jesus cares about them all, and is able to address each and every one.

Jesus, if anyone reading this is stuck in a flood, step in and bring the cleaning that only you can do.  Thank you my good Friend.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Have you ever been in a spot where you just didn't know what to do?  Maybe you were (or are) facing a decision that needs to be made and there just doesn't seem to be anyway to make it without possibly hurting someone.  Or maybe the decision you need to make is one where you just really don't know what to choose?

In situations like this I have heard people say something like: "Just follow your instincts".  Another way to say it is: "Follow your gut".

I have been thinking about this a little, and on the surface this seems like decent advice.  A practical example of this is when you are taking a test and there are multiple possible answers.  You are told that sometimes, when you don't know the answer, just choose the first one that seems to feel right and go for it.  What do you have to lose right?  At least your instinct is better than a purely random guess!

Now, I do think that there are times when following your instincts is not a bad thing.  The reason for that is because our instincts are trained by our experiences and those experiences are ways in which we have learned.  In this sense, experience is like education even if it is not on a conscious and logical plane. 

But a problem arises here--if our instincts are influenced by experiences, then following them implies that our current body of experience/knowledge is sufficient to guide us.  We are assuming that what we know or intuit is all we can really access in terms of making decisions.

If this is true then two questions arise:  1.  Is our body of knowledge based on reason or experience enough to guide us when we have to make really tough decisions?  2.  Is there another place we can go to get what we need to make these hard choices?

I know that I am over-generalizing here, but I still think a point can be made that sometimes we find ourselves trusting our instincts or even our reason when we should be relying on God to help us to move forward.

Let's listen to Jude 1:18-20. . . .
"In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.  These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.  But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."

When you read this you might be tempted to think that when the author is talking about "mere natural instincts" that he is talking about things related to moral or sexual issues.  This is true in part, but only in part. Because in verse 10 it says "these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct--as irrational animals do--will destroy them."  This is a very broad statement indeed.

A person who bases the entirety of their wisdom on their experiences and instincts and does not pursue God's wisdom and knowledge is irrational!  That means they are really not making decisions based on the most trusted foundation possible--and that foundation is God himself.

Another passage tells us that God's ways are not our ways, and God's thoughts are not our thoughts.  So it would seem that if we are facing tough choices, to try and navigate them simply based on our experience and instinct is not trusting a very good source.  I would even want to say that what sometimes serves as 'common sense' is also very little more than common experience and should be held loosely as we evaluate it with God's word.

So what do we do?  If you are 'stuck' and are needing wisdom through which to make some decisions, then begin by praying in the Holy Spirit.  This just means humbly accepting that the Holy Spirit's job is to teach us all things, and so when we come to Him and ask for help, He will give it.  It will happen the way He wants and when He wants, but He will always come through.  Remember, we almost always come to prayer with our own agendas and expectations and we need to try and leave those at the door in order to receive what He desires for us.

So, the next time you are needing to exercise wisdom in choosing something that is really tough, try avoiding your instincts and lean on God through praying in the Spirit and see what you will learn.  You may be surprised!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Look Up, Look Way Up

As a child I remember a TV program called "Friendly Giant". At the beginning of each show one of the lines said "Look up, look way up......". The idea was to create a sense of just how large this friendly giant really was, and to me, as a little kid, he seemed huge!

I'm a lot older now and I can still be impressed with things that make me look way up. I am writing this from the Royal York hotel lobby in Toronto which is only a few blocks from the CN tower. I attached a couple pictures I took of this imposing structure- the tallest in my country!  

It's kind of interesting to think how easily things can make is "look way up". The visual intensity of these monuments compel us and capture our imaginations.  

But the thought that goes through my mind is "what things make us look down?". What compels us.... captures our imaginations about things that serve as foundations? 

Foundations get very little attention, but consider this: where would the things that rise high be without the foundations that hold them up?

The same is true for people. We can often see people rise to amazing heights of popularity, fame or influence, but what kind of foundations are their lives based on?  Sometimes it can seem that what they stand on can look pretty shaky. 

It seems clear to me that we are being offered something that helps to bring stability to life- something unshakeable and firm. This is what we hear about this foundation......

1 Corinthians 3:11 AMP

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

As a human being it is tempting to base our lives on things that look strong but again, those are the things that are the visible and noticeable. Foundations are much more difficult to see, but are the things that our lives need most!  

Jesus wants to be the foundation of our lives. He wants to be anchored in the soil that is who we are and hold us up. He wants to be the one who provides stability in storms, and to be the one who lifts us to enjoy those beautiful sunny days too!  

If you are looking for something in your life that promises to give you a firm and stable foundation to stand on, stop looking up and being distracted by all the things you see, and consider looking down for that which you need. 

He won't let you down. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Higher Than The Rising Sun

As I write this I'm listening to a song by All Sons and Daughters called "Rising Sun".  It is an impassioned song that cries out the greatness of Jesus as our great Redeemer; whose name is so wonderful; whose character and goodness and power rises far above and beyond even the sun that shines on us everyday.

You know we live in a culture that can throw words around pretty easily.  To talk of this 'great God', for a lot of people, is to be saying little more than 'nice weather we're having isn't it?'.  I know that not everyone will agree with me on this, but today I can't help but just be a little overwhelmed with joy because of Jesus!  These are more than just words to me, they are speaking truth, a truth that meshes with my experience.

That's when words have real impact--when they support one's experiences.  I know that believing shouldn't be all about seeing, but man, when you see God at work it blows you away!

A couple days ago I saw God answer prayers at my church.  God brought a hundred or so protesters from the LGBT community to our doorstep and He saw fit to show His hand of power and love again and again.

We had asked that He would 'shut the lion's mouths' and in answer to this prayer He brought a peace that was palpable on the grounds and in the church itself.  We asked for opportunity to speak and listen to this group and it happened again and again.  We asked that we would be given opportunity to share kindness and love to them and it happened so clearly when many people thought to set up a whole buffet on the lawn for the protesters to enjoy.  One of them even said "we came to protest, but this turned out to be an invitation to build community".  Incredible!  We asked that they would hear the message of the main speaker who lived as a gay woman, who met Jesus and was introduced to a different possibility for her life.  They came and listened and asked great questions all the while hearing about Jesus, maybe for the first time.  There were people who were told to drive from other cities to come to the event because God had called them to go.  One did, and when she got here she led a person to Jesus.  Beautiful.  Christians, who had been guilty of seeing gay people only through the lenses of their small and protected worlds, were exposed to something that opened their eyes and through that questions arose within them.  Exceptionally good!

That day, God reduced the distance and that is what He is all about.  I can't thank Him enough.

I was reading Psalm 100: 4-5 this morning which says:  "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise!  Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name!  For the Lord is good; His mercy and loving-kindness are everlasting, His faithfulness and truth endure to all generations."

Yeah, the name of Jesus elevates far above the rising sun, and my souls sings today.

Thank you Jesus--You are just too much!


Monday, September 23, 2013


This week I had a gift given to me. I have had the privilege of being involved in many discussions about the question of what is the basis of a person's sexual orientation- and it has opened my eyes to the incredible pervasiveness of this topic in many people's lives.

I have heard perspectives that have drawn on the dangers of 'gay therapy', the ambiguity of how the chromosomes of individuals do not always line up in comfortable black and white categories in determining who is male and who is female. Psychological, physiological, psycho-somatic, environmental, social, and theological resources have been used to try and clear the path for some kind of understanding in this minefield of human identity.

I want to say clearly, very clearly here that I respect the insights these various disciplines can and do offer. However, there are two things that I feel should be addressed.  The first is this: all the discussions that are surrounding these debates over one's sexual orientation portray the issue as one where sexuality is the whole of one's identity- and this is just not true. A person's identity is far more complex than one's genitalia or who a person is sleeping with.

One's thoughts and dreams are part of your identity.  What makes you laugh and cry, what words you want to speak and how you want to speak them also points to one's identity. There is a rich diversity within a unique human being that forms a much more robust picture of identity than only your sexuality.

I believe that if this were taken seriously then many of the debates that surround the topic of sexual orientation would take on a very different tone because it would be seen in a more appropriate context.

But with that said, I also believe that something else is missing:  in all the bandying about the latest scientific or therapeutic or social experiment that have things to say about sexual orientation and identity, why do we not hear anything about what God would say in His own words?
In one interview I heard a self-proclaimed Christian endorse what the LGBT community believes about sexual orientation and identity and then went on to say that God endorses this too.  But then he went on to say that nobody has a direct line to God. My question is this: if he didn't know what God was saying about the topic then how could he use him as a reference to justify his position?

I want to say this-  everybody has a direct line to God because He speaks through His Word-the Bible.

Now I know very well that everyone has to make their choice as to what their guide for life will be , and the Bible is not really in vogue any more.

However, I still believe it.....for better or for worse I'm putting my life into the hands of the God described in this book, and He has things to say about the identity issue.

In Genesis 1:27 He tells us that He "created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

I know that saying this opens up a whole can of worms as we can look at examples of the physical DNA of babies that are 'formed by God' and yet have chromosomes that seem to be 'confused' in terms of 'male' and 'female'. Though I think there are biblical explanations for this too, that is not my emphasis here: what I am emphasizing is that we re-engage with the idea that we are made in God's image- that our identities, are fundamentally found in Him.

Maybe, just maybe, if we make room for the idea that humanity was God's idea in the first place then our attitude would change about the things he would like to tell us about our identities? 

People will make their own choices, and using the Bible is no guarantee that people will be unified in their interpretations, but seeing yourself as intimately connected with a living being who seems to care about me and who seems to desire to communicate with me about who I am seems like a fairly appealing alternative.

What do we have to lose?  Maybe we can get some better perspective on this whole thing if we allow God back to the table where we can at least hear what he has to say?


Sunday, September 22, 2013

As Good As It Gets

I remember a movie with Jack Nicholson called "As Good As It Gets." 
In it Nicholson plays a character who is very wealthy but lonely. He always struggled with holding people at a distance because he was unable to be vulnerable enough to let them in. Until he met this waitress who captured his heart. And even though he really wanted to be close to her, he seemed to always make a mess of things- saying or doing something that would hurt or frustrate her. 
But in the end, against all odds and probability, love won out. 

It makes me think of our relationship with Jesus. We have this longing to belong, to be accepted and loved, to have our hearts filled with something that helps us to see past ourselves and experience something bigger, something brighter, and yet we have this innate ability to say things or do things that get in the way. We try to run and hide from God because we see just how messed up and broken we are inside. 

But this is where the love Jesus simply blows my mind: Regardless of how much we mess up, hide or try to push him away, just like Nicholson did- His love for us just won't stop.  And when it overwhelms our hearts everything changes. 

Just listen to how love had changed Paul's heart when be wrote:
Philippians 1:3-11 NIV

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

The love of Jesus had broken down this man's heart and filled it with such a deep affection for others- a reflection of the same affection that Jesus had for Paul. 

It's hard to express how wonderful this life and love is that Jesus wants to share with us!  It's hard, but maybe it's appropriate to say. . . .

It's about as good as it gets. 

Hope that today you are ambushed with the love of Jesus. 


Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Friday, September 20, 2013

In Praise of Clarity

I am abnormal.

Most people probably think that about me, but what I'm really getting at is that I have an abnormality, and it's in one of my eyes.  In my right eye there is an imperfection that is shaped kind of like a sea horse and it resides in the lower left hand quadrant of what my eye sees.  If I am looking at an object I don't notice it, but if I do happen to notice it and then try to focus on it, it always moves away, so I can never focus on it directly. 

I can never get real clarity on this problem, it just sits on the sideline, letting me know it's there, not causing a lot of trouble, but nevertheless letting me know it is present.

I have felt this way about the Christian life from time to time.  We know that sin is present, but we are so focused on the things in life that have our attention we don't really notice it as something that can be addressed directly, because, to be quite frank, it can seem so elusive that trying to get a real handle on it is like trying to focus on that abnormality in my eye--as soon as you focus on it, it darts away again, hiding in the corners of our souls.

It seems to me that as we live as distracted Christians one thing we can struggle with is to get a handle on things that we feel we should know very clearly but don't.  We know that something is not as it should be in the world (sin) but because we are so immersed in it, we don't really know how to identify it.  We know that God shows us things that are right and wrong, but somewhere in the translation of hearing it spoken in a church service or in personal devotional time and then trying to understand it in the rough and tumble of everyday life, instead of crystal clarity there are many questions and doubts.

But even though this is all true I am, once again, in awe of just how great our God really is.

You see, in a few days, our church will be hosting an event where a woman will be talking about her journey as a gay woman who met Jesus and was shown a different way to live through Him.  The Gay community is coming to protest and express their opinions about this event and the message they think will be shared.  And there is a lot of media attention, and tension.  We may be identified publicly as a group that is intolerant, and this could affect followers of Jesus in a very real way--personal attacks, ridicule even loss of jobs.  I say these things because when people in the Bible were asked to stand and be identified with Jesus publicly--things happened. . . .

And yet I still can't stop feeling this deep sense of joy!!

Sure, I'm just as immersed in questions about what it will feel like to be there on that day when there is every possibility that anger, misunderstanding and raw feelings will be expressed.  I wonder what it will feel like to be openly considered 'narrow minded' or even a bigot!  These are natural I think.  But this joy. . . . .what is up with that?

And then I'm reminded of Paul writing in prison--in prison.  He was writing in the midst of a world who probably considered him a failure. To some of his followers, a disappointment; to himself--I wonder if he had times when he questioned his level of "success".  And yet, in the midst of all this stuff he writes this in Phil. 3:7ff:

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering..."  And with all this in mind, Paul says in 3:1 "Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!"

You see, Paul's circumstance brought great clarity to him--things in his life had gotten to the point where he had clarity on what was most important--and the very real presence of Jesus Christ, with him in that prison cell, was enough to overcome all his distractions, all his questions and his soul was rejoicing.

That's why I praise the clarity that comes when Jesus leads us into those times of testing when opposition arises against you as you are being identified as a follower of Jesus Christ; that's why my soul is being filled with joy because even though the times of testing are hard, and you do experience loss, and wrestle with questions and doubt--Jesus holds you close and allows you to have clarity on what really counts--and then your souls sings!!.

Jesus, I know your will will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and thank you so much for the privilege of being identified as part of your Family.  Don't stop!  Don't stop speaking into this dry world, and don't stop allowing us the honor of being able to stand in you in all of this---

it is just too good.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I am in the midst of a debate. It is not a conversation that has much volume, in fact you might not be able to even tell that there is a debate going on at all. 

It is a conversation of one, and it's contained within my soul. But it is real. 

I saw a YouTube video of a debate between an atheist and Christian today that was most interesting: they were both comedians talking about their respective views on religion, God and Jesus. It was very interesting because their views were presented in such a funny way that it was disarming. They had a way of hearing each other but not really listening and that was interesting too. 

But as I was listening, especially to the believer, I found myself disagreeing with some of his take on Jesus, and I was frustrated. I was frustrated because I wanted to agree with him, I wanted to be able to align myself with this person who was funny and quick witted and engaging, but I couldn't. I just didn't see him standing on the mark. 

And so I found myself having a debate, that silent but real debate in my soul. 

This is particularly relevant for me right now because I am going to be attending a seminar that is going to deal with homosexuality and Jesus. It looks like a large number of people from the LGBT community are going to be there too. And there is debate going on in my soul.....

Part of me wants to be able to align myself with my community, my culture. Part of me wants to see the wisdom that has captured the imaginations of these people whose experiences have brought them to a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual life makes sense. 

But I just can't. And so there is a debate happening in my soul. 

As a follower of Jesus in world where it seems that there are so many ideas competing for our allegiance it can seem that every conversation is a potential debate. Jesus says that he is the prince of peace, but then he also says that he has not come to bring peace but division-  more debates. 

I've come to realize that following Jesus is much simpler if we can sanitize our "religion" by keeping it indoors, or hidden in our hearts. We are more comfortable with our beliefs in Jesus if we can follow him with a small group of people who basically believe the same things, say the same things, and generally do the same things. But this kind of faith- this kind of safe, homogenized belief is not what Jesus had in mind at all. He has called us to stand with a belief in Him that defies the reigning beliefs of the day. He has called us to be "out there" with Him, among those who disagree, with those who cannot see how what we believe makes any sense at all. 

And this causes debates. 

These are the words of the One we follow:
   Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I don't know about you but Jesus has said to me that if I believe in Him then I need to be among those who don't know him and might not like me. 

I think that is exactly where we will find the One we profess to love and follow.

I take comfort knowing His promise to me: "I am with you always"....

Even in the midst of a debate. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tuning Fork

I remember an event that happened years ago when I was in highschool. We were hosting a weekend event and part of the celebrations included a professional choir that came to sing for us. I still remember the director who swept into the room with his long grey ponytail flowing and his fur lined coat hanging stylishly over his shoulders. 
Then there were the singers: they were so impressive because they were adults who took this seriously and were intent on performing to a very high standard. 

It came time for the performance. And I remember one number they performed was so complex that each singer had a tuning fork they would tap periodically and then, as the tuning fork was ringing, they would touch one end of it to their temple and hold it there for a short moment. The intricate parts they were asked to perform were so varied and difficult they needed to have these tuning forks to help them stay in tune. 

It looked odd, but ohhh the sound was incredible!  

Each singer had a clear purpose, a gameplan and was intent on following the one who would lead them through. Their purpose was to sing with excellence and clarity;their gameplan was laid out in detail through much time spent in practise; and their attention was given entirely to their director who would confidently show them the way. 

I have been more and more thoughtful lately about what we should expect as followers of Jesus Christ. Is it His desire for us to have some of the same kinds of intent and expectation as this choir?  Did Jesus bring salvation to us only to expect us to do little more than wait for our time to end so we can enjoy eternity with Him?

Or does He desire for us to experience so much more?  Are we being invited to participate in a symphony in which each of us has the privilege of playing a significant part?

I want you to listen to something that God is speaking directly to you as a disciple of Jesus:

1 Corinthians 12:18 NIV

'But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.'

Have you questioned what it means to be a follower of Jesus?  Are you so confused what this actually means that you have have serious doubts that you have a role to play that only you can play?  

God called you.  And he has stated clearly that he placed you in His Family just where he wants you. He has given you a part to sing.  He has put you in just the right section. He has provided you with others who will sing with you. He has given you music you can follow. He has even provided you with a tuning fork you can use to find your way when things get really confusing. Oh, and there is even a Director who knows a thing or two about leading!

The question is do you believe it?  Do you really accept that God has you where he wants or are so preoccupied with all the things in your life that you are convinced are wrong in you or around you that you can't even recognize that you are part of this great choir let alone that you have a part to sing?

God says to believers in Jesus "you belong and you have been given a part to sing".  Full stop. 

Would you like to believe this?  Would you like to discover what your role is?  Would you like to experience what it feels like to sing in harmony with a group that has meaning and purpose?

Then pick up your "tuning fork" and allow it to show you your part. It will help you to find your notes in real life and will give you direction on what that is to look like. 

God's words for you are written on the "sheet music" and the first movement is titled 'Genesis' and the last stanza is captured in 'Revelation'. 

You are one choice away from seeing your whole life differently.........I look forward to hearing your voice. 

Pastor Brian Tysdal
Rock of Ages Church
Saskatoon, Sask.