Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stepping Out

Has God ever taken you on an unexpected journey? You're travelling down the highway of life, cruise control on, windows rolled down, taking in the sublime scenery with the music blaring, when flashing lights appear up ahead. There's construction on the road, so follow the signs down the pot hole ridden, tooth jarring side road to get around.

It is an adventure.

Our posture matters so much when these detours come over the horizon. We can complain about an altered timeline, mope about the changing plans or we can celebrate new ground traveled; revel in new scenery explored. That same posture speaks to our original intent -- as if we were ever really in control.

Time and again I have preached on how God asks us to step out of our comfort zones. How we are to make plans, but hold them very loosely. Jesus exemplified this for us in his ministry and teaching. Countless times Jesus went away to be alone, and the people followed. He would stroll through a crowd and meet people who needed healing or sit down for dinner and instead end up teaching. Yet he lived a life of peace and tranquility in nearly everything he did. 

What good is preaching if we are unwilling to live our the principles? Nearly a year ago, Nicole and I responded to God's calling on our lives to step out of an environment that had become less than ideal and into the great unknown.

He was calling us into weakness.

It has been a wild ride, with fear, tears, anger, prayer and jubilation scattered haphazardly along the way. Woven through it all has been the thread of faith that was our constant guide, holding our hand and gently whispering encouragements into our year.

Now God is about to take me on another adventure. Through the month of January, I will be travelling overseas to Bangladesh and India with my work, Partners International, to observe some of the ministries of our incredible partners -- individuals who grew up in these areas and call them home and are living lives of weakness in their homes. Villages that have been stuck in the clutches of poverty for generations that are getting a new lease on life thanks to local missionaries that are teaching them about health, agriculture, education to care for their physical and emotional needs and the gospel to free the chains on their hearts.

In Kolkata I will be visiting a ministry that is restoring girls freed from the sex trade. Girls that were torn from their childhood and sold into a life they never asked for, who have no understanding of joy, or self or what real love looks like. Through the ministry of our partner and the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is healing these girls hearts and showing them anew what it means to be a part of a family.

Through it all, I hope to photograph, write and share my thoughts. I hope you'll take this journey with me.

It is going to be raw. I know, and pray, that God will break my heart for the things that break His. I'll be processing as I write, and so your prayers are greatly needed.

2015 is going to be an incredible year, not because of the experiences, but because of how the Kingdom of God is going to grow in my heart.

Monday, September 8, 2014


We love the idea of transformation.

Beauty and the Beast. Star Wars. The Kite Runner. Les Miserables. Schindler's List. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Transformation is a fairy tale we hush children to sleep with, the hope nations cling to; the addicted, broken and despondent long for it, and the successful chase it.

Yet meaningful transformation is as elusive as the wind, always slipping through our fingers. Our world bears the wounds of a battle long fought, the infection seeping through her wounds. We are a dying people on a dying planet.

Children hunger for food, while others gorge themselves with excess. Millions drink water teeming with bacteria and disease, while billions turn a tap and complain that the taste does not suit them. Students complain of long hours and homework while billions are forced into labour to support their families, never learning to read and write. Some trumpet the end of modern slavery, while another girl is sold into a life of sex by parents who will no longer recognize her again. Billions turn their eyes while atrocities are committed every day.

But the story is not finished yet.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” - Revelation 21:1-5a
 Our hearts long for the day when they will be free; when the world rejoices with us, free of the burden of sin upon us all. We live in a place of tension, knowing what is to come, but not there yet.

However, as followers of Jesus, we are Kingdom builders. In the here and the now, the King breaks through into our reality, bringing about glimpses of the present reality.

Salt. Light. Seed. Yeast.

Things that make the world around them come alive in new and powerful ways.

God has given each and every one of us the ability to build the Kingdom... right where we are. How are you building the Kingdom? How are you bringing about transformation in this fallen world?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reclaiming the Lost - 5 Ways to Restore the Church

The hardest part of a task is the beginning. Writing that first sentence, running the first step, lifting the first weight, knocking down the first wall is half the battle. After we overcome the fear of the beginning, inertia starts to build and carries us through. As I wrote about yesterday, that can carry us to some really terrible directions.

Or we can use it for good.

The old couch can be made new again. The chalkboard of mistakes can be wiped clean. We are continually offered a new chance to start fresh, forgetting what has been left behind. The only thing that pulls us away is our own momentum.

red_scaffold (guess where berlin) by jonas_k, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jonas_k 

Here are five changes to transfer our momentum in positive and health directions:

1. Give up on numerical growth

Let's face the music -- numbers are a terrible indicator of church health. The number of butts in the seats on Sunday morning speak to popularity -- not spiritual health. They can get up and leave as easy as they sat down. Depending on numbers to indicate success is a unhealthy and unhelpful metric, and it only pushes leaders to focus more on the shock and popular methods, rather than journeying with people through the decades.

Jesus demonstrated something very different in His ministry. Read about it in John 6.

2. Take responsibility for your spiritual health

No one is going to pull you into heaven. You get there on the grace of God alone. No pastor can pray, teach or lead you into heaven. Theologians use two terms to describe our process of salvation: justification and sanctification. 

Justification was the act of Jesus dying on the cross -- we are justified before God and made holy through that one act.

Sanctification is a process that is more involved. It is the process of being made more like God, and it is not a single moment, but speaks to the Christian struggle. Day in and day out, you and the Holy Spirit walking side by side working on your flaws, your weaknesses and your sins.

If you look back on the past year, are you closer to God today than you were then? Do you look more like Jesus or are the two individuals indistinguishable? Dare to walk with God and let Him change you.

3. Stop neglecting your community

We have become a generation of drive by Christians. We drive by our communities to get to our bastions of faith, and then drive right past them again back to our homes. The poor, the broken, the widows and the orphans are standing in front of us.

Are you involved in setting these injustices right? Do you know the people in your community? Are you a part of the community that knows and cares about the people around them?

Do not mistake that for saying that you are a part of a community that talks about it. Actions speak a million words. God does not care about our good intentions, He demands our action.

4. Give up your desire for control

Jesus taught us to lay down our arms, to surrender our pride to Him. He led Israel out of Egypt and asked them to trust Him for food, shelter, water -- and He delivered. Now God is asking you to trust Him to lead you home to glory.

Yet we clutch at our sinful natures like a child to their blankie. It is immature, weak and petty. Like a man or woman reaching maturity, it is time to let go of our old comforts and walk boldly into our new calling.

Then you look like His Church.

5. Recognize you are the problem

You are the problem. So am I. We eagerly await the time when Jesus will return and we will be free from the sin that constricts our souls and tries to drag us away from Him.

So why do we spend so much time picking on other people's faults as though we were perfect? We worry about the smudge on their clothes when we are smeared in oil. Other's sin is just that -- theirs. When you are perfect, you earn a right to start judging them for theirs.

Walk humbly with one another and speak with a great deal of fear and oceans of love. You'll find that the problem that once drove you to madness fades away quickly. After all, when we are so unlovable, it becomes a simple matter to pour undeserved love on others.

What did I miss? How would you reclaim your church and community?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When It Isn't Working

Let's face a fact -- our western church is broken. Perhaps beyond salvage. We have existed in a Christendom imperialistic state for too long, and our spiritual muscles have begun to atrophy. Compounded by the fact that our enemy has not been idle. While we have lounged in the apparent comfort of our Christian culture, culture forgot it was Christian and moved on without us.

We listened to a lie.

Colorkey by 55Laney69, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  55Laney69 

You know that one I am speaking of, even if only deep under the surface. The one that tells you that you are safe -- you belong in this world -- you can look like the world and keep your Christian identity. It is the same lie that tells you that your money and your spirituality are not intimately tied together. It is the lie that has slowly wrapped around the churches neck and is now bringing her to atrophy.
Arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand in hand - M.
 While we were growing fat in our opulent pews, Satan was whispering to our children. While we focussed on our careers and providing safety for our future generations, He was gleefully heaping worry on our shoulders.

Soon we forgot about our calling and mission. Our pastors stopped pushing, and started manoeuvring for a piece of the pie. We stopped depending on the One who leads out of Egypt and lowered our eyes to the Caananites in the Promised Land. They are too big, too strong. Their walls are too tall for us to overcome.

As if the battle was ever ours to fight.

The step forward is a big one. For some, it will be insurmountable. The faith that God is asking of us is not what they believe in -- it costs too much. What they do not know will kill them in the end, and so we must step forward with fear and grace to those who will not follow us.

It is a step towards humility. Recognizing that maybe we were wrong.

It is a step towards Scripture. Approaching it not to validate our opinions, but to learn.

It is a step towards our calling. To spread the Gospel in deed. Uplifting our communities and breaking the cycles of poverty, racism and violence.

It is a step towards our Saviour. Because it was always about him.

When it isn't working, it is time for something new. For insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results.

Surrender to the One who can truly bring change in the world. Through our humility, we find freedom.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Facing the Darkness Within

More than any other fear in our world, we are afraid to gaze inward and face our own demons. Depression, anger and addictions are all symptoms of a deeper beast that lurks under our Stepford lives. Marriages are broken, children are listless and culture seems lost -- we are searching for something greater outside of ourselves without overcoming our darkness within.

The past few posts have been exploring the idea of peace in a global and local context. Scratching the surface of a massive topic, and something that I believe is crucial to living a life in weakness. We cannot be comfortable in our natural weakness without being at peace with a greater strength. We cannot be a part of the solution until we stop feeding the problem.

I am blessed to have been a part of a family with a strong heritage. The blog has been dark over the past two weeks as Nicole and I journeyed East for a family reunion on the farm. A great few days with Uncles, Aunts and cousins as we reminisced and enjoyed spending time with one another.

One thing my family has taught me is that no challenge is too hard to overcome. Through our relationship with God along with friend sand family, whatever demons haunt us can be faced and the wounds healed. Whether it be the loss of a child, the struggle with cancer inside of families, unknown medical conditions or other insidious ailments -- God is enough.

So why do we not live like that is true?

Why do we live our daily routines as though we were alone, as though God really does not look down on us and promises to care for us like the sparrow? Why do we listen to the lies that tell us we are too far gone for God's infinite grace? Why do we allow fear to be our guide?

Jesus' Kingdom stands as the antithesis. Everyone that he met was broken, carrying baggage from their past. Many thought they were too far gone, too far out for Yahweh to save them. Some carried those burdens physically... they were lame, blind, diseased. Others carried it within, having robbed their countrymen for riches, broken marriages through adultery or been told that they would never be good enough.

Jesus came to each of them, bringing a soothing balm to their festering wounds. When the world tells us that we will amount to nothing -- God offers us purpose. When we are told we are unlovable, God loves us all the same. When we are maimed beyond repair, God begins to knit us back together.

"Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, 'I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.'" - Jesus
When we are stumbling through the darkness -- alone, distraught and panicked, God offers us light. There is no darkness that can withstand the light. No wound that cannot be healed. No sin that cannot be healed with repentance.

To truly spread the Kingdom, we must find peace within. We must walk into the light.

What lies have you listened to?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Communities of Peace

What if the Pharisee's are more comfortable in our church than Jesus? Would we care enough to notice? Would we dare to throw our traditions to the wind to follow our maker, or lie ourselves into doomed comfort?

Many churches today do not represent the King they claim.

Claquato Church by garshna, on Flickr

That is to say that their words are often correct, they read from Scripture and offer friendship to many. They are filled with wonderful people who in turn have wonderful intentions. They have all the right ingredients to be the best representations of the Kingdom possible.

But they are safe.

They seek to protect, rather than challenge. They feed each other, rather than others. They build stout walls, but neglect crumbling communities. They love, but often on their terms. They invite people in, rather than going. They run programs to the detriment of relationships.

I live in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. To my west is a cultural and business hot bed of Canada. From high tech to natural resources -- some of the world leaders are within one hundred kilometers. To my East are the beautiful Rocky Mountains, soaring above my day to day life and reminding me of a greater creator.

We are blessed with a mild climate that rarely dips below the freezing mark. With that comes great opportunity, because our communities are filled with those who are not blessed to have a roof over their heads. People that are desperately in need of peace.

In my community, as with any are families of all income levels. Some of these families are barely scraping by, not sure where the next cheque is coming from, or how they are going to pay rent. It can be a source of tension inside of marital relationships, often leaving broken families in the wake of stress. These are families in need of peace.

Canada is a highly multi-cultural environment. There are often many different countries of the world represented within blocks of one another. Occasionally this difference is discusses in hushed whispers, about 'those' people. It is a situation that is desperately in need of peace.

Jesus called us to be peacemakers.

To feed those who are hungry. Clothe those who are without. Support relationships and families with friendship and loving advice. To reach outside of our cultural comfort zones and dig in for the long term relationships required to jump existing boundaries.

Peace never comes easy. It requires each individual to put real collateral on the line. It is uncomfortable, and it rarely comes naturally. Yet when we see Jesus interact with people in his own community, they left changed. He met them where they were, met needs and challenged assumptions.

Does your community do that?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Peace on Earth

Somewhere along the line, we lost the true meaning of peace.

It went from being something holy, something that encompassed our whole lives, to being something that mean not fighting. The insanity of it all is quite wild, when you break it down. It is akin to saying that Mom and Dad are happy in their marriage because they are not screaming at one another. Anyone knows the quality of a relationship is determined by so much more than not biting each others heads off.

So why have we settled for the same in our world?

You do not have to look far to see unrest on the planet Earth these days. Armed conflicts in Ukraine, Israel, Afganistan, Iraq, Somali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Syria, South Sudan, to name the major current ones. Digging deeper, and you see so many more lives being claimed because we cannot get along.

Even when we are not attempting to murder one another, the lack of food and clean drinking water claims over 1.5 million children under five each year. Over 800 million people in our world are considered malnourished. 3.4 million people die each year from a water related disease, 780 million people on this planet do not have access to clean drinking water.

Peace means so much more than not fighting.

When Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, he had something big in mind. A revolution that was so different from anything anyone could have imagined it would sweep the globe. One story about how he treated those who were outcast, sick and alone should tell you enough about how those who claim to represent Him should prioritize their lives. This is a revolution that means putting aside our comfort, stepping out into the great unknown and bringing peace to those all around the world.

Peace through helping resolving conflict. Sometimes by stepping in front of the guns ourselves, even though it may cost us our lives.

Peace through providing clean, sustainable drinking water for everyone. Even though it means leaving our running water to provide for others.

Peace through providing food for the hungry, and giving them the resources to provide for themselves. Even though it may cost us comfort and security.

Photo from

Peace through advocating for the voiceless, the downcast, the forgotten. Even though we may be associated with them and cast away.

The war wages on around us, gunshots ricocheting through the streets. Bombs drop a block over, and the wounded stumble by in a dazed state of shell shock. This is not our world -- it is not the place where we belong. Jesus did not command us to preach and observe, but to be his hands and feet in the world.

Following His example, our roles begin to take shape. We are called to bind the wounds of the broken, to provide for those who cannot, to bring about lasting, sustainable change in the name of a loving God. Then, and only then do we earn the right to speak -- but we no longer need to.

This is the peace that God desires. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "The Kingdom of God is near."

How are you spreading the Kingdom?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pursing the Prince of Peace

One need not look far to see the need our world has for peace. In every nook and cranny, people are at each others throats with weapons, words and more. In our hearts, we wrestle with our pasts, presents and futures. Like spectres, they haunt us hovering over every decision and relationship.

We are a people at war.

As I reflect on the glory of God each day, He has been impressing on me the absolutely foundation that is peace in our understanding of Him. Our earthly kingdoms are built on the blood of those who were slaughtered in the name of power. On the backs of those who were subjugated, every nation in the world has been founded. We laud our modern ideals of freedom and expression, but we neglect those who are inconvenient and easily forgotten.

How important is it then that the one who had every right to come and subjugate us chose a different path. Heralded from heaven above, clothed in legions of angels He came to this earth to set us free. I believe there was a part of us that sincerely believed He would come with sword drawn... it was certainly the hope of many of his Jewish contemporaries.

The one who had the power of the universe at His beck and call chose not to use an ounce of that power, but instead chose to establish a different kind of Kingdom. Rather than force us to bow a knee, He lead by example: teaching the lost, healing the sick, restoring the broken.

This Kingdom, like the others is founded on blood. It is the blood of its' ruler, the King laid down His life to establish His Kingdom, rather than draw the blood of others.

That difference is everything.

For a people at war, Jesus showed us that peace was costly. It would cost us our wealth, our fame and maybe even our lives. He showed us that none of those things matter when you have a Kingdom perspective. Suddenly our eyes are opened to a new world, one that surrounded us before -- but we are babes taking our first breath.

Next week, I want to dive into this topic in more depth. Peace in our own lives. Peace in our relationships. Peace in the world. Our Prince showed us a totally radical way, and even His bride seems to have lost her way. It is not too late to reclaim our calling.

We are peacemakers.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Lucha Libre by Brian Auer, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License by Brian Auer

Every good story needs an underdog. Someone who, hurdling all obstacles, challenges the giants looming over them. They take on a larger cause and through hell or high water to bring about change.

Scripture is full of underdogs.

For every underdog, you have their antagonist. They are the favourite, the top-dog. Usually, they have been present for some time and viewed in a different time and different light -- would be the hero of the story. Yet time and power have often corrupted them.

Scripture is full of top-dogs.

What is interesting is not that they are present in scripture, but how God works on each of them. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Elijah, Daniel, John, Jesus, Peter, Paul... the list goes on.

God has a long, storied history of watching over the underdogs.

He does not need people who know they are strong, but people who know they are weak. "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Jesus regularly scorned the leaders of his day, who thought they knew about God and what He wanted for the Israelites. Rejected by his own people, Jesus turned to any who would listen.

The question is... which are you? Are you open in your weakness, humble in your strength or are you rigid in your knowledge, firm in your ways?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Of Hopes and Dreams

Crossroad by Funchye, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Funchye

There is no human who has not dreamed of more. That insatiable desire within us that dares to hope for sun when the thunderous clouds roll overhead, that dream for morning as darkness overwhelms us. Somewhere, deep inside of us, is the blueprint for hope.

It is interesting then, how quick we are to crush that same hope in ourselves. The mountains are too big, the air too cold, the water too deep. Excuses bubble out of us like an unending spring when the journey is set to begin. The dreaming from the night before quickly forgotten in the reality of today.

"What did you want to be when you were younger?" is a question that is often asked. It speaks to our innate desire to be more. Policemen, firemen, a pilot, a princess... left with unbridled passion, children often flock to their images of nobility, grace and safety. How quickly we forget.

As time ticks methodically by, we are left with the doldrums of everyday life. Classes, bills and hours spent longing for the weekend start to erode our keen sense of hope. Suddenly a policeman becomes an accountant, the fire fighter a salesman. The young child who leaped with joy at the thought of being a beacon for others is more concerned with meeting the bills.

There's no problem with any profession in and of itself. I know many people who get excited at the thought of spreadsheets and ledges. Others who get a thrill out of providing a service and hunting down the big sale. Even if I think they are insane, it is not for me to judge.

However, when that same thinking starts to creep into our understanding of God and His Church, it should give us pause. Jesus came and established with the disciples an unbridled passion for the global community. No more would walls, nations or divisions be a part of His Kingdom. It was open and free for any who would take it, and there would be an established place here on earth where all could see it.

Then we turned it into Annual General Meetings, committee's and by-laws.

These things are necessary in our modern world, but they should not be the guiding force behind the mission, purpose and passion of the Church. We are a people, a holy nation set apart. God has called us and we have responded into a calling of healing and hope for a broken people.

Each community has its' own flavour, its' own way of expressing what the Holy Spirit is doing. Are you dreaming in yours, or making your weekly appearance because it is your duty?

I pray it is the former. Be an ambassador of hope to the hopeless.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Walk on Water

Wave energy - Fuji FinePix XP20 by kevin dooley, on Flickr

Peter must have been nuts.

After seeing Jesus break five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand people (with leftovers), the disciples were on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night. It must have been peaceful, with the stars overhead, a gentle breeze against your skin and the sound of waves gently lapping against the boat, rocking you to sleep. Until the wind started to bite, and the waves began to roll threateningly.

Soon the disciples found themselves far from any safety facing a storm that no sane man would be out in. All because they followed the advice of a carpenter on when to go sailing. "Smooth move, Jesus" they may have said to one another as they attempted to figure out how they were going to survive this. "Last time we trust a carpenter to put us out on the water. He does not have a clue about how to stay afloat."

All this to deflect the very real looming dread that hung over the group. They might not see the morning.

In their terror, the weather began to play tricks on them. Howling over the waves, ghosts reflected on the water. Soon their dread had developed into a full fledged panic attack. At the height of their panic, a ghost seemed to materialize on the water as they all saw it this time.

Then the ghost spoke.

It was not a ghost, but Jesus. Who was walking on the water. Of course he was, why not?

Now their panic attack became genuine curiosity. Were they dead? Was this some ethereal trick that their souls were succumbing to in their final moments? Count on Peter to look for the concrete. He wanted to step out on the water with Jesus... if this was Jesus. He called out to Jesus to be able to join him on the water.

With the calling of Jesus, Peter stepped out on the liquid, undulating waves focussing on Jesus who stood away from the boat. Even though his mind cringed at the very real thought of drowning, his feet were not sinking into the deep.

Then the wind gripped at his cloak, and the waves licked at his heels. Peter was no longer looking at Jesus, but at the deep, menacing water around his ankles. The he noticed his knees were cold. As his elation of walking on water turned into terror, Peter was sinking and trying to swim in a storm. The waves rolled over his head as he gasped for air between the wave crests. "Help me Jesus!" Peter cried.

There was a hand of salvation, and a word of rebuke. "You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?"

You know this story well. You have seen it played out in your own life over and over again. The high of a miracle, the blame when God seems distant, the lack of trust in the storm, a moment of trust -- and then doubt. It is a story we live day in and day out in our own lives.

Yet Jesus is there.

He wants our attention on him. The storm is inconsequential, the fact that you cannot stand on water is irrelevant. He is God.

Whatever the storm, the waves, the menacing wind in your life -- He is God. This trial will pass, this momentary trouble will fade.

I have lived for the past few months in this tension of trust. The water below, Jesus ahead. There are times when the water envelopes my knees, and my heart is clutched in the claws of terror. He offers me a hand to pull me up out of the water and then invites me to continue walking with him. It is freeing, it is terrifying. That is a glimpse into faith, because it is never safe.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where the Seats Have No Name

Brooklyn Museum NOV2011 Chicago The Dinn by Mark B. Schlemmer, on Flickr

There is something about being human that makes us want more. We want more stuff, more friends, more money, more in life. There is a yearning deep within us that claws at the walls of our souls, digging millimetre by millimetre attempting to break free. It seeks some sense of satisfaction in the great abyss of more.

We see the disciples succumbing to its siren calls in Matthew 18 when they come to Jesus asking which of them are the favourite. Who will get to sit on the other side of God? Who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

Little children, jostling for their afternoon snack.

The Pharisees were notorious for their political manoeuvring. Always attempting to gain greater status, jockey for more power and more platform for their own brand of theology. They would throw dinner parties, inviting one another, offering barbs and encouragements based off of where you were seated in comparison to the other guests.

It was petty, and Jesus knew it.

You see, while we are busy elbowing one another for a better spot, settling into our sprinters blocks and waiting for the sound of the gun, God is already at the finish line wondering what we are fighting over. It is not about our own sense of power of accomplishment. Nor is it about how many things we can accumulate while we are here on this earth, as God makes so clear here, here and here.

In Luke 14, Jesus picks a fight with the Pharisees, telling a parable about these exact situations. A feast was prepared, and the guests invited. When the day arrived, each waited eagerly outside the door for their chance to earn their spot at the table. The person hosting, you see, was a very powerful person, and everyone wanted to sit right next to them. As the doors opened, people rushed to their seats in the order that they thought they stood with the host.

They were wrong.

When the host entered, they began to rearrange the table as they saw fit, embarrassing some and lifting others higher. Yet they left the seat of honour alone until the very end, when a smelly, unkempt beggar shambled into the room. The host saw this beggar enter, and immediately moved to take his arm and walk down the table -- past the rich, the popular, the powerful. The host escorted the new guest right to the head of the table, and looking upon the individual who thought they were owed the guest of honour seat, asked them to vacate it for this beggar.

The first shall be last.

Our pride gets in the way, demanding what we are owed. We have put in our time, done our duty -- all without complaint. How dare God give us less than what we believe we were owed.

Because that is the attitude that will get you into heaven.

God is throwing a party, but there are no placards to tell you where to sit. We only have the teachings of Jesus to guide us. He went to the sick, the lame, the downtrodden and the lonely. He went to those who could offer him nothing in return, and asked them if they wanted a great seat.

Do we live our lives like this? Are we selfless, or has selfishness crept into your day to day life? Are you busy staring at what your neighbours have, neglecting a roof over your own head?

Remember, Jesus taught that each of us should presume to be that beggar, thankful to be there. An attitude of humility leads to the most unexpected of situations.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Resting in the Storm

rest here by estherase, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  estherase 

Rest. Shalom. Sabbath.

Words you may have heard, but so few in our western world truly understand. We are a busy people, scurrying this way and that. A recent report said that most people would rather suffer electrical shocks than be left alone with their own thoughts.

Are we that afraid of ourselves?

Meanwhile, we spend less and less time with the people we 'love' -- more and more distracted by screens in front of us. Checking in on other people's lives, worried about missing anything that we could comment on, like, or repost.

It speaks to our priorities.

Over the past two months I have had plenty of time to be left to my own thoughts. I am an introspective person, and have made it a habit to spend regular time with my thoughts, allowing them to wash over me and to properly process them. It has helped me grow, challenged me and changed me. Spending time with my thoughts has forced me to learn how to rest and face my own selfishness.

Being busy is the easy path. Even while people are exhausted and emotionally drained, they willingly choose that path then growing as a person. It is easier to distract ourselves than to ask ourselves, "Why am I here? What can I accomplish? What can I do differently?"

Contrast that attitude with Jesus. Whenever he approached someone, he often was not concerned with what they were doing, but why they were doing it. He was all about challenging people to stop, rest and reflect on who they really were.

It is about priorities.

For some, they walked away with their head hanging low. The path to salvation was too tough. For others, they found new freedom and release from their baggage.

Your soul does not need a vacation, but it does need to trust. Whatever you are struggling with today, God is bigger and He promises to never leave us alone. Take His hand, spend some time with Him and your thoughts and see what God has in store for you.

You will find your soul renewed, and your heart closer to God.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Drowning on the Ocean

 by Capt

Have you ever felt lost, overwhelmed? Moments when the waves of life come crashing over you, tugging you under and throwing you around. Disoriented you are not sure which way is up, holding onto the last whispers of breath. It is hard to imagine a safe harbour when the waves are upon you, and shore seems unreachable.

We like having our feet on solid ground. There is something comforting about knowing that you can move with impunity and freedom as you will. You are the master of your own destiny, commanding your feet to walk, picking your own journey.

We like control.

Why do we grow so much more in the storms of life? Security seems to be the antagonist to our personal growth, harrying our progress and hunting our trust. Having our feet on solid ground of our own making only serves to build trust in ourselves as it seductively whispers that we are our own destiny makers.

Jesus was out on a boat with some of his disciples one evening, crossing the sea of Galilee and Jesus was naturally resting as they glided across the water. Peter and the other fishermen were right at home, checking the rigging and sharing old stories as the water rushed underneath. Until the water began to grow choppy, at first nothing for concern but growing to huge swells.

The wind whipped against their faces and the rain began to pour down upon them. A seasoned fisherman understood that this was not a time you wanted to be in the middle of the sea. Pulling the sails in, buckets out bailing water that was now crashing over the sides of the boat the panic was palpable on the boat. All hands were on deck to try to keep the boat above the water.

Except Jesus. He was sleeping.

Finally noticing this, the disciples yelled at him, one of them shaking Jesus awake. As he yawned and rubbed his eyes, they were worked into a near frenzy -- yelling at Jesus to grab a bucket and HELP. If he was only going to sleep, they were all going to die.

Jesus, in what can only be a moment appreciated rose, barely steadying himself on the mast and looked at them all with a look of fatherly disgust. "Why are you such cowards? Have you learned nothing about trust?" Jesus crawled over the disciples as they continued to bail out the boat in panic, standing at the bow of the boat and looking out at the storm, sizing it up.

You can imagine the disciples confused looks between bucket tosses as they watched Jesus not help them, but staring at a storm. He steadied himself in the boat, rising up his arms and looking to the sky Jesus said, "Silence!" The thunderstorm subdued. Jesus looked at the waves and said, "Quiet!" and the immediately pacified.

The disciples, bailing with less and less water in their buckets started to slow and look at Jesus with a mix of horror and awe as they realized what has just happened. The man they followed, their Rabbi had calmed the elements, and the boat was left on a piece of glass in the Sea. They were safe, and it was a perfect night for sailing.

I cannot speak for you, but I often feel like these disciples. I set out on a journey that God has asked me to undertake, and I find myself in a storm. My first reaction is to panic, to do what I have been trained to do and start to bail. "God, where are you when I need you?" I ask. He is in the boat with me, because this is the voyage He sent me on.

My faith is so small. I am worried about drowning on the ocean when I am safe the entire time. I need only ask.

What waves are crashing over your boat today? God is watching over you.

You can find this story in the Bible at Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 or Luke 8:22-25

Monday, June 23, 2014

Making a Community Shine

Cape Hatteras lighthouse by haglundc, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  haglundc 

Have you ever wondered what makes a community worth it? Worth participating in, worth following, worth pouring our hearts and souls into? I know I have and do.

Moving forward comes with some natural consequences, such as leaving behind a community that you have been deeply invested in. For my wife and I, that has meant leaving a community she grew up in and I cared deeply about for the past five years. It is a bitter sweet thing, knowing that it is the right thing to do yet stepping into the great unknown. Much like taking a dose of unpalatable medicine that will cure your infection, it can be a tough pill to swallow.

Out of every crashing thunderstorm comes beautiful rain that brings new life. There is turmoil in the throes of the storm, but an awakening in the following calm.

One of the privileges we have revelled in over the past two months is the option to attend different churches and observe and partake in their styles of worship. It may sound strange, but the ability to simply participate in worship as a congregant is a privilege too often denied to those in church leadership. Instead, we as members of the community expect our leaders to be there week after week preparing the worship for us to consume, without often a thought of their own personal renewal.

A dirty little secret that most pastor's will not tell you is that they themselves will not attend church in the few weeks they have 'off' each year. Their calling and vocation has made communal worship a job, and the weeks spent away are a great chance for individual renewal or time spent with family. What this leaves us with are communities that are completely unaware of their surroundings or how the larger story is developing around them. It can leave them stagnant.

Passionate people never stop pursuing their passions. The Church has always been one of mine, and so observing and participating in a different set of churches has been refreshing and a great opportunity of growth. There are things about communities that reflect who I am, and are naturally attractive. There are others that are entirely foreign -- some for good, and others that push me away. As I have reflected on the communities we have briefly visited, there are a few things that I believe every community should have in their own flavours.

Hospitality -- beyond the doors

 Nearly every church has greeters and ushers, which means by definition that they are not what makes a community hospitable. An important part for sure, but the standard handshake, hand off of the bulletin and 'How are you?' does not a hospitable place make.

It is those communities where people are paying attention that stand out. Those who notice those who are new, engage in meaningful conversation and follow up that make a place hospitable.

Does this community care about me?

Joy in worship

We worship a living, loving, risen Lord... amen? Then why do our services feel like it was a chore to get out of bed?

I understand fully that we all have those weeks. The ones where nothing is going right, the kids were a wreck, the car would not start, and I am here out of obedience more than passion. We all get our Mulligans, do overs and free passes when it comes to weeks like that.

However, is it too much for the worship leader to convey some passion in the songs they sing? For some meaning to be conveyed behind the melodies and harmonies? Having played music and done a smattering of choral singing, there is always an intangible in muisc -- those who play. Some are able to translate beautiful ballads that convey otherworldly meanings through an instrument, others are lucky to be in tune.

In the same way, does this community reflect the joy of the Lord, or are they going through the motions?

Purpose in Learning

This one is for the preachers. Can we do everyone a favour and put an extra 5-10 hours of work into our sermons? I understand that Mrs. Jones was sick this week, and that people were calling, and there was a leak in the roof at the church. We are a busy people. Please, PLEASE learn to say no to the things that are not your duty, especially on the weeks when your duty IS to bring the Word of the Lord.

The duty of a preacher is to make the text come alive, relevant to where this community is and understandable for all aged. It also is not as easy as it sounds. It takes a huge amount of work, prayer and effort to jump onto that bareback horse and break it until it is tame. I have huge respect for those that have the gifting and passion to pour into their people's lives week after week.

I learn a lot about a community when the preacher opens (sometimes) the Word and begins to unpack the passage or story for that week. Some do it with a great amount of sensitivity and brevity, while others serve rancid meat to a vegetarian. I am there to learn, to soak in the wisdom that God has given you through hours of study. Please give me something worth taking notes on, along with something that I can put into action that day. Too many sermons are a third to double in length what their content defines, filled with inconsequential filler that only detracts from the true meaning.

Do these people love God's Word? Is there meat in the teaching, or milk?

Challenge in Living

Is this a community that is going to draw me closer to God, or lull me into a safe sense of security? The latter is the easier road, but the former is what I really need. This is more of a holistic look at community, and one that I do not draw from a singular morning or visit. There are, however some good litmus tests that tell us more about the deeper community such as if they are actually involved in their local community or in missions.

This is one of the hardest things to judge, because it involves so much of the other three. A hospitable community tells us about their priorities in including outsiders and attitudes on love. Their joy in worship can be a window into their passion and understand for God. The hunger for good teaching speaks to their priorities.

Every community is different, and every community has its purpose. There are many communities in part because of the need for that diversity. The question is not what will I get out of a community, but which community can I contribute most to? Where will God challenge and use me? How is God using these people as a light in a dark and foreign land?

Be a part of the community God has you in. Shine with it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Beautiful Things

"Beautiful Things"
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

As you walk into this weekend, remember that you are beautiful. God is making each of us beautiful, bringing order to chaos, showing us that even the dried and parched land will see spring again.

Soak that in.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You Can Do This

That’s Enough by Lee Winder, on Flickr

We have all been there.

Plans carefully laid, hopes set and our futures decided. Then the water rushes out from the bay, and your eyes rise from your preparations to see a massive tsunami on the horizon rushing towards you. Before you can even take a breath, you have been plunged under an ocean of water, totally disoriented as to which was is up.

You can do this.

Our decimated plans are an opportunity to learn to trust. When our body begins to panic, our mind reminds us that calm is the best course of action, and that we have promises to rely upon. Look for the light and swim towards it, it will bring you safety.

You can do this.

You are not the first person to be laid out, swept away, feel washed up. Many have gone before you -- some that you would never have suspected.

Noah was called to build a boat when no one had ever seen a body of water worth floating on. His faithfulness preserved the human race, and all life on earth.

Abraham left his family to go to a foreign land, where God promised him descendants like the sand on a seashore. They waited eighty years for their child, who Abraham then was asked to put on an altar and give up to prove his faith. Isaac was spared by God, and Abraham's faith began a family from which Jesus was born.

Moses was abandoned by his own people when he wrongly killed an Egyptian trying to protect them. Wandering the desert decades later, God called him back to Egypt to lead God's people out. His faith, even in its weakness lead the people of Israel back to the Promised Land.

Daniel was ripped away from his family, put into impossible situations including telling someone else their dream and being lowered into a lion's den for a night. God saw Daniel and watched over him in every circumstance.

Elisha ran for his life after a huge victory against the priests of Baal. A sentence out on his head, he asked God for death... what he got instead was rest and a renewed purpose.

David was run out by King Saul, and hunted for years. He lived in caves, pretended to be insane and much more to survive -- this after Samuel had anointed him the king of Israel. Saul eventually died in battle, not of David's hand and David ushered in one of the greatest times of prosperity in Jewish history.

Hosea was an Old Testament prophet who married a prostitute by the command of God. He spent his life preaching to a nation who ran away and prostituted themselves to other gods, all while collecting and loving his wife while she slept with other men. God was using Hosea to show His own love towards His people.

Jonah was called to preach to a nation that had completely abandoned God. Instead of following what God had asked him to do, he ran in the opposite direction... only to wind up on the shores of Nineveh anyway. His preaching turned them from judgement and he pouted on a hillside while God made a point about sovereignty and grace.

Peter was a devout follower of Jesus, passionate literally to a fault. When Jesus needed him most, Peter abandoned and denied him three times. Jesus later restored Peter and out of his preaching, the Church was born.

Saul was a passionate Sadducee, hunting down Christians and killing them for their heresy. Until one day he was struck blind and Jesus Himself appeared to Paul and gave him a new vision. Paul planted many churches, and gave us much of our New Testament.

No matter where you find yourself today -- downtrodden, frustrated, depressed, alone -- you are in good company. God never asked us to be whole, or to have everything figured out... only to trust in Him and allow Him to work in our lives.

You can do this... with the help of God.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hills Worth Dying On

No hay búfalos - Arte Rural by -Dj Lu-, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  -Dj Lu- 

If you will not stand for anything, you stand for nothing.

How can I know that what I stand for is worth anything? The oceans of culture are constantly washing up against your banks, threatening to erode away your shoreline and eventually everything that mattered to you. There has been much discussion lately about how very few people are willing to take risks. We have grown into a culture that expects everyone to always be polite and correct, but we neglect that progress comes from those who are willing to stand apart.

When you look back on your life, will it be the routine days that you remember or the times when routine was broken for something extraordinary? Routine is our soft blanket, our warm fire on a winters night. It keeps us comfortable when the icy tendrils of winter's chill scratch against the outer walls. Yet very few words are written about those who stayed comfortable. It was those who went charging out into the night, aware of the dangers of the adventure ahead, yet heedless of what it may cost them. These are the people we write stories about.

The question that remains, then, is what will you stand for? What are the lines that you refuse to cross, the hills that you will defend until your dying breath?

The answer to those questions are deeply personal, and shaped by your own past experiences. They should also be intimately informed by your relationship with God... because we need perspective. Picking the wrong hill on which to die can bring about a lot of pain not only in your own life, but in the lives of many others around you. Inevitably there will always be those who disagree with your choice, but it would not be a hill to die on if people were not throwing stones, now would it?

So we hold them firmly with conviction, but constantly ask the worth of these hills.

In my journey, here are a few that I have discovered hold true for me.

Family First

Priorities are a tricky thing, but they bring an immense amount of clarity. The fog lifts and the path is illuminated when priorities are in the right order, because they immediately show you which questions to ask where. If God is my first priority, then my wife is my second, family third, and then everything else. 
What does that mean in practice? My first job on this earth is to love and honour my wife. With my time, my efforts, my love. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing gets my ear when she needs it. It also means that I have her back in whatever battles she might find herself in, whether that be internally or externally. 
The same is extended to my family. I am thankful for the family God has blessed me with, because I know that they reciprocate the priority -- and aren't afraid to tell me when I am wrong privately, either.

The Right to Ask Questions

Too often I have seen in churches and broader leadership contexts a herd of people, blindly following a leader because they have bought into some measure of secret knowledge or foresight. It is my firm belief that in our walk with God, anyone has the right to ask questions of leadership. We are a priesthood of believers, not believers following the priesthood. 
This is a scary hill to plant a flag on, because it means defending those who are searching and those who challenge the status quo. Sometimes it even means defending those who are clearly in the wrong, but on an important journey nonetheless. 
God is bigger than your questions. Nothing in His character is afraid of the questions we can ask here on earth. Instead of fear and retribution, I believe God listens to our questions with a loving heart and open arms. That does not mean we will hear an answer, or the answer we were looking for -- as God showed in the book of Job.

Local Community

A community has no right to speak into their local context until they are involved in it. There is no throwing of stones from the pews, and no criticizing from the sidelines. Has someone come to you with a complaint about someone or something? 
The answer is simple... go talk to that person, go get involved in that thing you are complaining about. Enact change from within, instead of attempting to mould someone from the outside. The church is not meant to be a manipulator, but a salve on the open wounds of this world. Is there a homeless problem in your city? Do not merely complain to the politicians about it, but participate in the change that needs to happen, whether that be a local food bank, soup kitchen, low income housing, etc. 
We cannot lead from our hills, behind gates and expect to empathize and relate to those in the valley.

Above Reproach

No one is above accountability. Those with the most 'power' should be the ones under the most accountability. Those who lead should be first to follow and submit to the authority of others. Those who have the opportunity to speak should be the first to listen and learn. 
As Christians, we have seen in the past decade the damaging results of leaders standing above the structure and accountability. It is something that we should rally against fiercely, and hold any leader to account for decisions and actions taken. In the same, yet counter-intuitive way, we should ensure that our leaders are adequately supported and loved. 
Do not drive your leader into the ground. Give them times away to refresh and renew themselves. Give them the benefit of the doubt when assumptions are being made, and put down any rumours with the truth -- which you no doubt have gone to the source to procure. 
As Christians, we should always be above reproach, and when we have stumbled, be the first to own up to it. Not waiting for the scandal to break, but with integrity humbling ourselves before those wronged and the community to seek restoration.
Following these guidelines has cost me much: friends, community, jobs. Yet reflecting back on those times, I can never say that I regret the moments I took a stand -- because I knew where my lines were drawn.

What stands true for you in what God has called you to? Are there any hills that are worth dying for, or is needless grandstanding? Maybe God is asking you to stand up for something you have let slide... do not let it slide any longer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dust to Dust

Dust by Kaptain Kobold, on Flickr

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
-Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (MSG)
There is a time in everyone's life when we hit a wall. All of our actions, our relationships, our work are suddenly up for question as we turn the scales we usually reserve for others upon ourselves. Putting each building block of our life upon the scales we are faced with our own imminent mortality and the seeming triviality of our pursuit.

We will amount to nothing, leaving nothing behind that was not present before.

The weight of the world comes crashing down on us like a skyscraper collapsing, where can we find relief? Where is there hope in the rubble? We are left coughing and blind from the debris invading our lungs and scratching our eyes. Left here for too long, we will succumb to the inevitable and be forgotten by the broader world, a phrase erased from a chalkboard.

In those moments when our legs buckle and our vision dims as we find ourselves clawing at the pavement to find relief that God extends us a hand. "Come, I will show you a different way." From the very beginning, we were nothing but dust, shaped and formed by the hands of God. As our form took shape, it was He who breathed our first breath into us and gave us a significance.

It is in Him that we find our significance.

In Matthew 9, Jesus rebukes the 'religious' of his day when they question his choice of company. Jesus was not associating with the rich, the powerful and the religious as one might expect of the King. Instead he chose to go to the homes of the traitors and the reviled. He sat with them, laughed with them and broke bread with them.

You can imagine the conversation that would take shape over supper as they got to know one another -- a sinner and the Son of God. One unsure of whether Jesus would be handing out judgement for their many sins, the other pouring love out on people who had lost their way. Jesus was eating with them not because they had lost their way, but because they knew it. Their hearts were not clouded with self-righteousness or hardened with years of religious teaching, but soft with a longing for deeper significance.

“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” - Jesus
You and I are nothing but dust. There will come a day when each of us will return to the state from which we were formed. Our actions will be left as an obelisk to stand against the winds of time, slowly being chipped away until they are unrecognisable.

But our actions were never the reason we should be remembered.

Our significance is not drawn from our works, our attendance or our generosity. It is drawn solely in relationship with the one who created us. He invites us until a new family, a new way of living life so that when our spirit returns to Him who gave it, He can say to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."