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.