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.