The Heartbreak of Moving On

by admin

I just wanted to share an excellent blog post about moving on.  I actually struggled with how to share this because so many good things are happening, I don’t want to dwell on those difficult moments that have been mixed in.  Our church plant is growing and people are getting baptized and maturing in their faith and it is great, but even in the short time we have been together there have already been people and families who have begun entering into community and then decided that what we are doing and the direction of ministry with us was not where they were ready for.  Some have emailed a goodbye note, some have simply disappeared.  The awkwardness and struggle of Debra I deeply relate to.

I pretty much agree with everything she said.  People move on, nothing is permanent in this life.  But if you are ever that person who is moving on, please share it in person, with honesty and transparency with those who care for you – for your sake and for theirs.  It is never easy, but it does bring closure that blesses God’s heart and leaves less scars.

2011: A Retrospective.

by admin

2011 is almost past, but not without a substantial dose of perspective.

I think it is impossible for me to say that 2011 has not been the most successful year of

Winter Road in Medicine Hat

my life.  Is it arrogant to say that?  We bet it all on God and He paid in spades.  We ditched a nice house in a nice neighbourhood in Surrey, a fantastic church, solid jobs – all to chase the idea that God wanted to do something with our lives bigger than we could imagine.  We pulled up stakes in 2010 but by the end of last year, all we had was faith that what we did was the right move.  Faith, debt, and very little income.

But 2011… just wow.

It began with hope.   Read the rest of this entry »

Moses and Jesus: Encouraging Copycats

by admin

It’s been a little while since I have blogged on here!  Wow.  Ah well.  I am not writing this for anyone but myself anyway.  If people find it interesting to read, you’re welcome to read it. I don’t promise earth-shattering insight, only what strikes me.  In my life I have spent a lot of time worrying that everyone else knew more than I did.  Now, I don’t worry so much.  So if what I find to be a new and original though is something you learned years before, give yourself a gold star and then celebrate with me.

On with the show.

So, obviously Jesus is going to have similarities to other great prophets.  His miracles were not just miracles to identify Him as God and King, but to also demonstrate supremacy over other prophets.  So as I was reading through Numbers (which was like a breath of fresh air after 3/4 of Exodus and the Law) I was struck with the similarities between Jesus feeding the multitudes and the whinging of Israel for meat (Numbers 11).

But right smack in the middle of the miracle of the quail, there is this little account of God establishing 70 men to have leadership under Moses.  God gives them a measure of the Spirit that is on Moses, causing them to prophesy.  A couple of them do it in the middle of the camp.  Prophesying when the Spirit is on you obviously involves speaking with a certain level of authority, and Joshua, Moses’ right hand man takes exception.  To him it looks like these two guys are pulling a Moses in front of everyone.  But Moses’ response is strikingly similar to another one.  Check it out:

28 Joshua son of Nun, assistant to Moses since his youth, responded, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses asked him, “Are you jealous on my account? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets and the Lord would place His Spirit on them!”  Numbers 11:28-29 (HCSB)

An interlude with Jesus:

49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:49-50 (HCSB)

Both feature people who appear to be assuming the authority of the master, and the follower of the master acting jealous for their master.  But in both cases, the master (Moses and Jesus) feels no need to protect what is perceived to be his, and encourages others seeking to emulate himself.  I find that lesson to be enlightening.

Quiet Time: For God’s Benefit or Yours?

by admin

ians Like. Read it. For fun and profit.

Jon Acuff will likely never notice this linkage, but his most recent discussion about what pleases God and what doesn’t spurred me to add a thought.

I used to set my timer on my iPhone to 30 minutes, sit down and then try to get my quiet time on. If for whatever reason I could only grab 15 minutes that day, I felt like God was 50% less happy with me. If I missed an entire day, I imagined he was picking out the right lightning bolt to get me with like a golfer picking a club.

My formula was:
“10 minutes of prayer + 10 minutes of writing + 10 minutes of Bible reading = Happy God.”

Trying not to judge him for his trendy use of an iPhone (I still believe that using anything produced by Apple but an iPod constitutes at a minimum being “of the world” if not idolatrous – go ahead, Apple zealots, crucify me for my beliefs!)  He really has illustrated a case-in-point of the all-too-common religiosity of Christians.  Religion Jesus came to destroy.  We can’t satisfy God with anything we do.  We must communicate clearly that there is nothing we can do to please God.  God saves us by grace, a free gift that can’t be earned in any sense.

But what about verses that call Jesus’ followers to obedience?  Sure, I’ll give you that, but I’ll need some help finding the verse that says, “Christ followers shall have a ‘quiet time’ with the Lord every day.”  Interestingly, I didn’t see Jesus have a “quiet time” with the Father every day.

Lest I be chastised for doubletalk (this blog isn’t that big yet, and only a few posts down you will find a couple on my efforts to create a daily office for myself), what I wanted to say was this: quiet time with God is not for His benefit.  He does not love us more or less if we have it, how often we have it, or what we do with it.  It is for ours.  We grow closer to Him.  Our souls become a better reflection of His.  We become more closely conformed to His image.  It is for our own personal holiness and sanctification that we do well with quiet time.

Never think that God is happier with you or you are more blessed because of anything you do.  But recognize that you do profit by seeking first His Kingdom.

Al Mohler and “Adam and Eve” Speculation

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"Adam and Eve" from the Creation Museum in Kentucky

"Adam and Eve" from the Creation Museum in Kentucky

Were Adam and Eve real people?  Al Mohler comments on what he sees as a trend in conservative evangelical circles away from a Adam and Eve’s literal existence.  In his article, he cites one such scholar –

Venema … explained that there is simply too much genetic diversity among human beings than would be possible with an original reproducing pair.

Too much genetic diversity…   Notice the assumption implicit in the statement.  Too much diversity, assuming the rate of genetic change stays the same from that time to this.  There is one simple flaw in all discussion of evolutionary theory.  It assumes factors that exist today have always been the same.

Funny, the writers of the Bible (inspired by God) saw this one coming two thousand years ago.  2 Peter 3 reads (emphasis mine):

1This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.

Peter was explicit in pointing out that it would be the miraculous interventions of God that would be questioned.  That people would try to explain them away or simply suggest that no such interventions ever happened.  Of course, in addition to the great flood being a factor, there are other direct interventions – the curse of Genesis 3, the confounding of languages at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 being two that spring to mind as well, which could very well have involved God modifying the genetic code of humanity.

But it really comes down to a simple question.  Do you believe God?  If you do, then there is no need to reconcile evolution or old earth ideas with the Bible.  Man’s attempt to look back into antiquity from today’s perspective is never going to be perfect.  We simply can’t know what conditions existed prior to modern recorded history.  Apart from an eternal being inspiring and preserving a text that recorded it, that is.

Bert and Ernie: They Have to Be Gay

by admin

You know what troubles me sometimes?  The need for certain members of the gay community to manufacture cultural icons to support their lifestyle.  Not that it needs supporting anymore – as a culture I think we’re mostly well past the days that people pass judgement based on sexual orientation.  But just this thing where some of them seek out situations that “look gay” and so they grab hold and attempt to force the issue.

Case in point: Ernie and Bert.  They are puppets, who are portrayed as roommates in Sesame Street.  They are also portrayed as being male.

Two men living in the same apartment?  GAY!

Umm, seriously?  No two people of the same gender can share a living space anymore without assuming that they are having sex?  I first heard of this trend when I heard about some gay history researchers concluding that because Abraham Lincoln in his biographies was found to have (and it was by no means hidden)  shared a bed with a couple of different men in the early 1800’s in Indiana.  Of course, by today’s standards, that sounds pretty gay.  But the early 1800’s weren’t like today.  People lived in one room log cabins.  With no insulation or central heating or electricity.  It got stupid cold in the winter.  The best way to stay warm was to share a bed.  It wasn’t gay, it was survival.  And by no means did it mean that you slept naked.

So anyway, I am done ranting.  It just frustrates me that we have reached a point in culture that we assume any sign of affection between people means they are having sex – and by the gender of their partner we then assign sexual orientation.  Men used to have close friends, good friends, best friends, who they could hug and be physically close to – but have NO interest in sexually.  Today, they are hiding something.  I think as a society, we have lost something precious.

Missional (Relational) Vs. Attractional

by admin

A funny thing happened in the middle of my sermon yesterday.

I didn’t write this down but as I was talking about relationships being the heartbeat of the first church in the book of Acts and reinforcing that this must be a value for us as Grasslands Church, it struck me.

The debate about missional vs. attractional is a little artificial.  When we consider John 15:15, Jesus says “they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another” and think about what Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15, we are to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in us, it seems plain to me that to be relational as a church body IS attractional.  That to put the correct focus on creating a community that truly loves one another, that is self-sacrificing to the point where there are no needs amongst the brethren, a church like this is by its existence so revolutionary and counter-cultural that people not in it will deeply desire to join it just for what it is.  That our love for one another will draw people to Christ.

So there it is.  Relational or missional IS attractional.

Finding the Time for Prayer

by admin

In my previous post, I talked about how I was inspired by the monastic pattern of daily life to pursue a new pattern of prayer and devotional time in my own life.  I managed to find the space in between my work, my care for my family, and my ministry to spend over 2 hours a day in prayer, devotions, and meditation on God’s Word.  Here’s how.

I was always overwhelmed by other “more spiritual” people than I who pray for an hour, two hours a day.  I didn’t know how they did it.  Watch for my next post on how I found the time.  Then I took a spreadsheet, broke my day down into 15 minute segments, and began to slot in what I wanted to do, in terms of devotions.  It quickly became clear that I had so much time in the day… so much wasted time every day.  I was just squandering my time on things like meaningless TV watching, aimless internet surfing, or useless Facebook games.  My kids, not realizing what they have, come to me and tell me they are bored – I find myself not admitting I am bored – instead just tuning out the world and engaging in completely wasteful activities, that too often actually led me into temptation of more sins.  What does that old saying mean, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playthings”?  I think I figured it out.

When I actually began to create real structure in my day I found I had so much more time than I had thought.  I encourage anyone to sit down for a minute and take an inventory of how you spend your average day.  Or as you go one day, keep a sheet of paper and write down roughly how much time you spend on everything you do.  Try to account for every minute, or at least every 15 minutes.  You will be astounded how much time you have.

The secret to having more hours in the day is knowing where your time goes and being able to stick to a schedule.  Good luck: I used to think it was impossible too but I know it’s possible now.

A New Pattern of Prayer

by admin

Inspired by the life of monks, who I recently watched in the BBC reality series, “The Monastery“, I began to investigate the cycle of services they live under.  They Pray “The Hours” and their services follow a cycle called “The Daily Office“.  A lot of what they pray and do strikes me as overly formulaic, but there is something to be said for a structured prayer life that leaves room for really engage spiritually – to seek with your very soul a moment with the Lord and have Him be that glass of living water that refreshes you in ways that drink never can.  There are precious few moments where I have felt that, but I can tell you that several have been in the past two days.

I am a pretty unstructured guy.  I like spontaniety.  I like discovering, flying by the seat of my pants, and happening upon random things.  However, in terms of growing and learning, the truth is God made us to learn best in a rhythm, a pattern, with discipline and consistency – things that I am not horribly good at.  In looking to deepen my walk with God, I decided to take it upon myself to create my own “Hours” to add rhythm to my day.  To make my relationship with God more central.  So for the past two days I have been beginning my day in prayer and devotions, taking 30 minutes at noon, and another 45 minutes before bed.  In that time I have been praying through the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 and Psalm 117, working on memorizing new Scripture, and reading out of four books that I need to read as well as working on reading through the Bible in a year.  One a traditional devotional, one a pastoral book, one on missional life, and one from antiquity.  As a pastor of a newly forming church, I have determined that I cannot rest in where I am.  God needs me to be growing, stretching, and putting His purposes in my heart.  I can’t lead the way He wants me to unless I am doing this.

The rest is good, but I want to focus specifically on the prayer time.  As I mentioned above, I have struggled with feeling really close to God as I pray.  There have been relatively few times when I have just been feeling His presence in a real way.  But it has already happened several times.  How?  I point to the preparation that comes from praying through the passages of the Bible.  Before I even begin to pray for myself, I am just praying through the Lord’s Prayer.  And then at lunch, I pray through Psalm 23.  Finally, in the evening, I pray through Psalm 117 before I turn to other things.  The preparation of my heart through meditating on the words of Scripture is doing wonders for my state of mind.  The luxury of not having to search for words, but to just let the words I have long ago learned pour out of my heart, it just wipes my mind of worries and cares, and gives me a chance to come to God centered on Him.  I can’t recommend it enough.

You might have been shocked by the numbers I put up there for the time I am setting aside.  I was always overwhelmed by other “more spiritual” people than I who pray for an hour, two hours a day.  I didn’t know how they did it.  Watch for my next post on how I found the time.

A Salt Collector or a Salt Distributor?

by admin

On this stormy morning in Medicine Hat, I am reading Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church
by Reggie McNeal.  Getting a lot of thinking capital out of this book.

He describes a modern perspective of life as having “silos” for work, politics, health, etc.  In this model, “church” is one of the silos.  It is one amongst many compartments to life.  In this concept, silos draw human capital.  If you work in one, then it draws you out of another.  It means if you “get” people into your church, you are effectively becoming a salt collector.  However, missional life, the idea that you are on mission for God and are a part of His team, means that you are sent into other silos.  A missional church does not steal you away from the places you are called to be salt in – in fact it enables you to be salt and encourages you in your efforts to grow in your ability to “flavour” the environment in which you are living.

Food for thought.  I am going to have to go over the entire book and re-read all my highlighted bits afterwards.

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