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.