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!