Wednesday, December 30, 2009
There is an age old argument of free will vs. predestination; the idea of having the freedom to make your own choices vs. the notion that all the choices we make are predetermined. I don't really want to re-hash hundreds of years worth of theological arguments here, but I do what to ask a question to those of you who may happen to read this blog entry. My question is this: If God chooses to place limits on Himself, how does your view of God change? What I'm saying is this. In the instances I described above, Jesus chose limitations for His miracles. In particular with the feeding miracles (the 4000 & the 5000), I wonder if these would have even happened without the partnership between Jesus and His disciples. In a round about way I am trying to ask how the world would be different if we accepted God's invitation to partner with Him? I wonder if things like poverty and pollution would decrease dramatically? I wonder how many more orphans would have homes? I wonder how much larger God would be in our world and in our hearts as a result of this partnership?
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
We have a tradition in our family to be intentionally generous to another family during this Christmas season instead of showering ourselves with more stuff we don't need. What I'm learning more and more about is how this spirit of generosity needs to permeate my life beyond this Christmas season. Generosity needs to be a family value; something that we live out on a daily moment by moment basis. Generosity can play a role in purchasing someone's coffee, donating some time to help someone out of the ditch, and/or giving up clothes that we do not need in order to give to those who are in need.
I stumbled upon this verse from Proverbs that spoke to me: "He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God" (Prov. 14:31).
Singer/songwriter Brooke Fraser summed up this thought in her song "Albertine." She penned the lyric, "now that I have seen I am responsible, faith without deeds is dead." As followers of Christ, as believers who walk in faith and call ourselves Christians, we have a responsibility to let generosity overflow out of our lives and into the lives of others.
There is an old hymn that comes to mind "freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give." Christmas provides us with the opportunity not only to slow down and enjoy family, food and fun, but also to re-prioritize our lives before heading into a New Year. Christmas is the symbol of the gift that we have been given that keeps on giving. The "spirit" of Christmas is about learning to be generous with our lives (time, talents & resources). As we journey through this season for yet another year, my hope and prayer is that each of us would be compelled to give to others in a manner that speaks of God's generosity. Let us be known for our compassion towards the poor and our pursuit of justice through generosity!!
Monday, December 21, 2009
My mind began to race...how true is this above statement? I believe it may be more true than we might be willing to admit. Popularity, everybody loving you, is a fleeting thought...a casual affair. Pleasing people is exhausting. You're always seeking to do something to be noticed and appreciated by those who's opinions you value. Once you begin the process of people-pleasing, you are in constant need of having to engage in the game of one-ups-manship with yourself!! You're constantly trying to outdo yourself and gain more credibility while attempting to maintain the certain level of "achievement" that has now become par on your life's scorecard.
I'll tell you something, being in ministry it is so easy to become swept up in this game of popularity. When people like you, it seems to be easier to go into work and invest yourself in building community. But, when there is conflict...well, that's a different story! Tough conversations are inevitable, but conflict without cause is extremely frustrating and exhausting. It's so easy in these situations to begin to play the popularity game. You can become swept up with the desire to "win people over" with your charisma and charm. But the larger truth that is at times overlooked is that popularity is a casual affair. You can invest time, effort and energy into gaining that approval of people, but at the end of the day, does their opinion truly matter?? I'm learning that the answer to this question is not what I am programmed to believe. In all honesty, what people think ultimately does NOT matter. What does matter is what my actions say about my response to God. Do my actions speak of obedience or disobedience? If my actions speak of anything less than obedience, then I'm out of line...simply put.
The approval of others is a casual affair, it doesn't last. Obedience is the only true legacy we can leave behind that points to faith be relevant and practical.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I'm only 29, but in light of recent events that have shaped our December as a family I find myself in more of an introspective moment today. 2009 brought to us our son, Cannon, more memories, a bunch of firsts and a lot of life lessons. As I begin this process of looking back and reflecting upon what was and what I've learned from this past year, I'm searching for something in which to measure success. For some this can mean how much money was earned, or spent, or stuff was accumulated. For others it may mean what sort of challenges were overcome or changes occurred. Still others would define success by the growth of relationships in their lives. I'm learning more and more that success in light of the kingdom of God, success is defined not by any of these other things that I've mentioned. True success is defined by one's obedience to God's prompting and leading in their life.
As I look back on 2009 for the Frizzell house I can see God's hand at work and moments where we engaged with what He was doing and responded to His prompting in obedience. In other cases, we wrestled with responding in obedience.
A good friend of mine was said that obedience is perhaps the only way we can show God and others that we are truly in love with Jesus. One year is but a chapter in the great book of life, and as a co-author of your life's story, how has 2009 helped shape the view of God people have from what they have seen in you and through you? As I look back on my own journey, I'm hoping to find more moments of obedience that point to life in Christ; moments that push me to continue to grow, mature and become who God has created me to be. My prayer for each of you is the same, that your life's story would point to Christ and that your obedience to Him would be a fragrant offering of hope and life in a world that is in need of truth and encouragement!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
"For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
The key phrase that is rocking my world lately is "For God so LOVED the world." Often times we may here preachers or other Christians say that we are called to be in the world but not of it. The earth is only our temporary home, not our final destination and other common catch phrases. While each of these statements is true, in the past these statements have been used to segregate Christians from the rest of the world. We've even used them to justify our actions (some good and some bad) at certain points in time. What I'm learning about more and more is that God loves the world. And if God loves the world, as His child, I need to love the world. Think back to the beginning of creation, what is the world? The world is God's craftsmanship. It's full of life. The world is nature and people...all of creation!! When God was creating the world, at each point where He created something new He looked at what He had created and said, "it was good." Now yes, all that God has created has been marred by sin, but guess what...God still LOVES the world!! If He didn't, why would He send Jesus to restore the world to its' original design and intent?
The earth is our temporary home, for sure, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of it (both people and nature). Imagine being without a home and having someone give you their house for you to live in. It's a temporary solution because at some point in time they will be back to see what you've done with the place. Living in this home you've got a choice, you can choose to take care of it, or you can choose to neglect it. Knowing that the home you are living in really isn't yours, wouldn't you be more intentional about the care you give to it? Imagine this generous person who gave you a home to live in coming back to see that you've absolutely trashed the place. I think our giver in this illustration would be frustrated and perhaps even hurt because the home you trashed wasn't yours to begin with. Transfer this line of thinking into your worldview. If the earth is not our permanent home, which it isn't, it still belongs to God...the earth is the Lord's and everything in it. We are stewards of the earth, of this home. Remember that God so loved the world that He first created it and even now He continues to work in and through it to bring honor and glory to Himself.
I think it's time that we fall in love with the world again. Falling in love with the world doesn't mean letting the world dictate morality, or pace for life, these things come from God and the truth of His word contained in scripture. Falling in love with the world means learning to see creation (people and nature) as God sees it and responding to what we see accordingly through obedience to our loving Heavenly Father. God LOVES the world...if God is known for His love, I think is high time we as His children are known for the same thing.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A few verses from Daniel 2 are standing out to me today. Daniel 2 contains the portion of Daniel's story where he is being used by God to interact with King Nebuchadnezzar in regards to interpreting a dream the king had. As Daniel begins to interpret this dream, of which he has no prior knowledge, he first gives credit to God for revealing His truth through his servant Daniel. As the chapter unfolds and Daniel begins to wrap up his conversation with the king, verse 44 sums up the root of the truth from the king's dream that Daniel is interpreting. Verse 44 says this, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, no will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever."
Verse 44 is prophecy regarding the Kingdom of Heaven, God's Kingdom...the one that Jesus spoke about over and over again in the New Testament. I've read these verses before but what stuck out to me is the fact that God's Kingdom is never ending, it will endure all things. The church around the globe is experiencing life and death all at once. In some parts of the world the gospel is thriving. In other parts the gospel, or perhaps more correctly the body of Christ (the church), is decaying or eroding. Regardless of what season Christianity is facing in whatever part of the world, the point is that God's Kingdom cannot and will not be defeated. The Kingdom of Heaven is advancing even as I type. The God of both heaven and earth is marching forward and restoring the world to himself despite feeble opposition offered up by His enemy. This same God invites you and I to participate in the greatest unfolding story ever written for His Name's sake.
No matter where you are at in your journey of faith, know that it is the kingdom of God that will endure all the hardships thrown your way. As citizens of this kingdom, we are invited to participate in and inherit the benefits of citizenship. It's like being on a team that cannot lose. Crazy huh? Just remember that Jesus uttered these words on the cross, "It is finished." In that moment the victory of heaven was sealed for eternity. Join with God at work because you cannot lose...even when it doesn't make sense to carry on!!
Monday, December 7, 2009
This was the third in a series of a similar type of conversations I have had with another prospective leaders in youth ministries over the last month or so. Often times we only celebrate the moments when our leadership vacancies are filled and we forget to stop and thank God for the moments when they aren't. If any of these three individuals had responded to our inquiries to serve in youth ministries, they would have been disobedient to what God has called them to. Please don't misunderstand me, each of these three individuals shows a high capacity of giftedness and passion in the area of youth ministry, but the question of commitment is never about giftedness or passion alone, it's also about calling.
Far too often have we undervalued the notion of God's calling in every avenue of our lives. I had a friend who served in children's ministry in a local church. This friend of mine was gifted as a leader and had a passion to do so, but was not called to work in children's ministry. I watched my friend's desire and joy for life and ministry fade over the years as they chose to answer the "call" of the pastor rather than the call of God in their life. This might sound like a far fetched type of story, but haven't we all done that at some point in our lives? Maybe we've stepped up to the plate to work through an issue or resolve a conflict because we can or we were present at the time and we may never have stopped to ask whether or not God was leading us to respond to what we were seeing and experiencing at the time.
I'm reminded of a story regarding the Israelites' attempt to inherit the promised land after escaping slavery in Egypt. After wandering in the desert for 40 years, the nation of Israel was finally ready to answer God's call on their lives by responding in obedience to Him. They began to take the promised land by force, following God's call and prompting as they did so. After they tasted success however, the habits of disobedience began to creep into their lives. Instead of finishing the task that God had asked them to, the nation of Israel began to make concessions in their obedience to God. The people began to justify their partial obedience to God as we all seem to do at one point in time or another. The result of their choices is something that still haunts the nation of Israel to this day...they are at war with their neighbors.
The Christian band Mercy Me wrote a song entitled Where You Lead Me, I will Follow. I thought this was an appropriate title for this blog because it sums of the simplicity of complexity that is obedience to Christ. Celebrate the moments in your life and in others when we respond to Christ through obedience, nothing more and nothing less. Obedience is the only way we can demonstrate to God and to others that our love is real, authentic and alive.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Lesson #1 - Generosity...every time I met Grandpa Joe, I left his presence with something in my hand...money, stories, time spent, a firm handshake and random stuff from his house. The great memory I have of him is from our wedding. Grandpa Joe had been really sick every since I knew him, but even though it was a challenge for him to be at our wedding, he was there. Pulling me aside, he shoved $300 in my hand and asked me to by Bonny a nice sandwich. This was one of the many moments where Grandpa Joe showed his love and care for others by giving them stuff. As my father in-law was going through his dad's things after his passing, he found out that Grandpa Joe had been sponsoring 4 kids through World Vision for the last 10 years without anyone knowing. That was Grandpa Joe...giving to people and not gathering attention to himself. In Matthew 6, Jesus talks about giving in secret. Grandpa Joe lived this simple truth...he gave and served others. He and Grandma Evelyn bought both my kids presents and kept sending things to them even though we saw each other rarely.
Lesson #2 - Love. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Evelyn enjoyed a story-book romance. He was the war hero and she was the fair maiden. She left everything for him and vice versa. I can remember being in their home a few years back. Grandma was standing in the kitchen and Grandpa got up to fix tea for himself. On his way past her he pinched her butt and said something like "he pretty lady." This was their type of romance. At 85 years of age this man was still COMPLETELY captivated by his lifelong partner. After his passing, my father in-law went through Grandpa Joe's wallet and the first thing that fell out was a picture of Grandma...he carried her with him always as we will carry him.
Lesson #3 - Gift of conversation. Saydie is only 2 years old, but she is a bright little girl. She LOVES engaging people in conversation. When Grandpa Joe went to the hospital after falling at home, we began talking to Saydie about him. After his passing, we mentioned to her that Grandpa Joe is now in heaven with Jesus. Today Saydie told Bonny that she wants to go to heaven too in order to be with Jesus. This is yet another gift our living legend leaves behind for us as his family...the opportunity to engage another generation in conversation about Christ.
These are just 3 of the many that Bonny & I have learned from Grandpa Joe. Life is a true gift, and Grandpa Joe's life is a gift that will keep on giving through the memories that linger in our hearts and minds.
I hope my life reflects my love for God when my time is over...
Thursday, December 3, 2009
What also came to mind was my own personal spiritual journey with Christ. I understand that there are natural rhythms in life. We have seasons of growth, seasons of maturity and seasons of struggle that seem to intertwine themselves along with the daily grind. This old saying about the weather made me think about what others or even myself would say about my relationship with Christ. Did I start out strong only to fade at the end of my life? Did ever year I lived here on earth help me to gain momentum in my faith journey? How many mountains have I climbed and how many valleys have I wallowed in?
I'm not sure what will be said about my life at the end of it, but what I can influence is what is being said about my life right now. When people look at who I am, do they see Jesus? Do they see passion? Do they see faithfulness and a host of other Christ-like qualities?
My words and my actions help me to run this race we call life. My hope and prayer for you and for me is that each of us will run this race in a manner worthy of the calling we have received to partner with Christ in the restoration of our world.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Our words are a gift that we can use to build each other up, or tear each other down. There are so many moments and memories that I can recall of times when I used my words for good and times when I used them for evil. Today I was asked the question, "if you could have a super power, what would you choose?" As I answered the question, many of these growth moments came to mind. If I chose time-travel, perhaps I could go back in time and undo the wrongs in my life...I could change what I said when I said it. It seems like a great idea, doesn't it? But the truth is, without these short-comings in my life, I'm not sure I would have been able to learn the lessons Christ intended for me to experience through the pain, suffering and grief I experienced when I made a mistake.
It's these very memories of failure that help me to make a different choice when faced with a simliar situation. Moments of growth...they define us all!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
As our conversation continued onto the later hours of the night, I began sharing with her 3 different things that I have been observed about Christianity, faith and spirituality: Aesthetic, Apathy and Affluence. These three A-words summed up conversations I had been having with students and parents about what they see in church. Usually AAA is a good grade to give something, like beef for instance. But in this case AAA is the killer for authentic and relevant faith in our world today. I see three categories emerging that we need to be aware of in order to combat in an effective and efficient manner.
Aesthetic - This kind of faith is summarized as something that looks good on the inside, but reeks of rot on the inside. Basically, this category refers to keeping up appearances; making sure others' opinions and presuppositions of who we are stay intact at the cost of our joy of salvation and our assurance of faith in general. How many times do we engage in some sort of spiritual activity in order to look good or to make sure people don't speak negatively of us? Is there really any substance behind our motivation? I am reminded of 2 stories from scripture as I think about this dilemna of faith. The first is Samuel annointing David as king of Israel. In Samuel's summation, David was not the best option for his long list of brothers. He wasn't the tallest or the strongest. There wasn't anything that really made him stand out as an effective leader. But God chastized Samuel saying, "I do not look at the outward appearance as man does; I look into the heart." The second is the story of Cain and Abel offering sacrifices to God. Cain's sacrifice was rejected while Abel's was accepted...again, a matter of the heart, not the action itself. It's interesting when we begin to dissect our actions in light of God's interpretation rather than man's.
Apathy - Another word that comes to mind here is apathy. When you are trying to build muscle, you need to exercise it regularly. When you don't, over time the muscle begins to detiorate or atrophy. The same thing can be said of our faith relationship with Christ. If we don't put into practice what we believe on a regular basis, our spiritual muscles and our relational connection with God can atrophy, not because God isn't living up to His end of the deal, but because we have chosen to begin to slowly let our relationship with Him die. I realize there are many different theological opinions and ideas around this topic, and I don't have the time nor space to tackle each of them in this post. But what I will say is this, our eternal resting place may never be in question, but our willingness to take up our cross daily to follow after Christ just may be if we are not actively practicing what we believe from God's truth found in the Bible. We must be known for something other than apathy in our approach to faith in Christ.
Affluence - Perhaps the latest greatest spiritual craze to sweep our nation is this one...affluence. Affluence refers not only to stuff, but to choices as well. Think about how well we eat, sleep and live in comparison to someone living in a third-world country or even someone living below the poverty line in our great nation! Even right now, I'm sipping on bottled water as I type instead of tap water...just another sign of how deep the root of affluence is in our society. In the gospels Jesus talks about us storing up treasures in heaven instead of here on earth. There is something to be said about the need to eradicate affluent behavior...the accumulating of things beyond what our needs are...from our pursuit of Christ and our desire to partner with Him in changing the world.
If you look back over these 3 categories as I have, perhaps you have begun to wrestle with the feelings of guilt and shame. IT IS NOT my intent to guilt trip you or to make you regret something you have said or done. My hope and prayer is that as we become more increasingly aware of the pitfalls in our world and our society to following Christ, we may be able to combat them alongside our all-sufficient Savior and begin to take back ground from our enemy. The Holy Spirit will teach, convict and correct as need be. Remember, each of us is a work in progress, and the God who began the work in each of us will be faithful to complete it in His timing. I'm so grateful that He is able, and I am learning more about what it means to be willing!!
Monday, November 23, 2009
In any case, Monday seems to be a tough day in the week, for me at least. My motivation isn't too high and my energy level is often low. I've learned over the years that on Monday I need to do smaller projects rather than anything that takes too much thought power, energy or effort. This doesn't mean that I'm lazy, but this does mean that I am learning to understand there is a certain rhythm and pace to life and specifically to how God has created me to function.
If you look back to the story of creation, you can see this very idea of rhythm and pace incorporated into God's design for life. God worked on projects for 6 days and then rested on the 7th. God didn't complete His to-do list on day 1, but He spread the work out through the week so as to ensure that everything was created fearfully and wonderfully. I wonder if there are times where we're so concerned about getting things done (whether that is tasks or meeting people) that we miss out on the Christ-like approach to our day?
I'm learning a lot as of late. I'm learning about rhythm, pace, grace, life, love, being a dad and so much more. I must first look to Christ and follow His example in all matters of faith and life in general (which faith should speak into!!). I'm a work in progress, and I'm learning to be content with that.
Friday, November 20, 2009
When my schedule starts filling up and the "busyness" of life and ministry begins to take over, I sometimes need a remember of what balance is all about. I've seen many friends and family members fall into the trap of the Canadian rat race...the pursuit of more stuff...power, money, possessions, relationships and status. I too have found myself flirting with the grasp of what I'm beginning to call the Canadian dream!!
My family is a great source of balance for me in life. My wife and my kids help me to understand when I'm reaching my limits. My attitude and demeanor change, my values shift and my priorities begin to reflect this unhealthy realignment.
Yesterday was one of these reminder moments for my life. Sitting in staff meeting I began to feel burdened as I listened to my peers share their exhaustion with each other. As we began to pray for one another, I stepped out of the room to find my bible. Turning to Psalm 23, I read these words: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."
The word restore lept out off the page directly into my face and into my heart. Balance is about pursuing God. Pursuing God brings restoration for what is truly important. Meditating on what restoration meant for me on a personal level, I felt all the burdens and frustrations of ministry and life begin to melt away one by one. God, the restorer of souls, brings balance to those who desire to follow after Him and be obedient to His lead.
This is what is rockin' my world today...thoughts about balance & restoration.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
There were four other words that came to mind regarding team as well. The first is trust. In order to function like a team, you need to trust your teammates. Whether your team is in the business world, the church world or in a recreational sport...if you don't trust each other, you are not a team. Trust means releasing responsibility to others and knowing that the task will be completed. Trust doesn't mean making everyone do things in the same way. Trust leaves room for uniqueness, creativity and collaboration. Trust also comes with a deadline. Trust is broken and hindered when responsibility is not taken seriously or is not dealt with in a timely manner.
A second word to describe team is authenticity. This refers to being real, honest, genuine and truthful in your interactions and communications with each other. Authenticity works hand in hand with trust. Where real trust is built, authentic behavior is its' building block.
A third word is appreciation. Teams need to value each other as teammates. In the sports world this is described as playing for each other. When a team trusts each other and is authentic in their interactions with one another, it is because they have learned to appreciate each other. Each of us has something unique to contribute to a team. When our contribution is valued, and we feel appreciated, our trust and our willingness to be authentic and real increases.
A final word is mobility. Change will happen. Teams that are mobile, flexible and willing to adapt to change will have longevity and success in whatever tasks they face together.
What do you think about working as a team?
Monday, November 16, 2009
One of the largest lessons that I learned this weekend was that it's not about me. God is so much larger than all of the details, and yet God is always working in the little details and taking care of everything behind the scenes and in front of things so that His will and purpose are accomplished.
As a youth worker, I'm learning more about what it means to partner with what God is already doing. This was never more evident than during this past weekend. Hearing and seeing students respond to the love of Christ was all it took for me to understand, yet again, that my role is about letting go and letting God. Sometimes I can get in the way of what God wants to do simply because I'm trying to rescue things or trying to make things look and feel a certain way. While it is good to plan and to focus and to pursue excellence, when these things become my goal, I've lost sight of what truly matters.
I'm learning to approach life in a different way. My perspective is changing. Instead of trying to cultivate spirituality out of thin air, I'm learning to find where God is at work and see how I can partner with what He is doing.
I'm more and more convinced that these younger generations are blessed and anointed by God to do a work that only He can do in and through them. I'm excited to be a part of it and to partner with what God is doing. May the name of Jesus continue to reign supreme in the hearts, minds and souls of the men and women who claim to be followers of Him, and may the world we live in benefit from the richness of God's grace and mercy flowing through the body of Christ here on earth.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Our freedom has come with a price. Now that we have freedom, what do we do with it? The same can be said of life in Christ. Jesus came to grant us freedom, and now that we enjoy living in freedom, what are we doing with it?
Freedom comes with responsibility. I think living free means learning to fight against injustice in the world around us. I think it means standing the gap for those who do not have a voice, and fighting for basics rights for all humankind. So again I ask, what are you doing with the freedom you have been given? Here is a quote that rocked my world today: "A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."
You have freedom...use it!
Monday, November 9, 2009
After this time away I have found clarity in more than one area. First of all, I am more convinced than ever that being a part of God's family extends beyond the boundaries and borders of time, space and government. The language our brothers and sisters were using mimicked what the Spirit seems to be saying to the church in Calgary as well. God is stirring in the heart of this generation...there is something HUGE on the horizon. I pray that we as youth workers don't snuff out the fire!!
My second conclusion is that the bonds of friendship are forged in the fires of time, trust and hardship. My good friend Matt and I travelled together to Vancity for this conference. We enjoy a 15+ year friendship. It's good to be completely real and honest with others. This level of connection only comes after time spent together, hardships endured and trust built.
My last epiphany is that my family is absolutely essential to my sanity. I don't enjoy experiencing life without my wife and kids by my side. God designed the family for love and support relationally, emotionally and spiritually. The more we keep outsourcing these needs to others, the less of a priority family will be and the more issues we will face in our world, in our churches and in our homes.
We'll see what tomorrow brings!!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Having been immersed in a new ministry context for the last few months, I've learned more about these two things than ever before. I'm starting to think that this is also the best thing I can offer students as a youth pastor as well.
Last night the family and I were hanging out in the mall. I was so thankful for the chance to catch up with Bonny and shoot the breeze a little bit together. She shared a concern with me, and I immediately put on my "pastor" hat and began trying to find a solution for her. I'm so quick to try and solve problems that I forget to listen and I forget to take the issue to the one that can actually do something about it. Bonny finally injected herself into my rant and said, "Hey, I'm not asking you to solve this issue, I just want you to listen."
Huh, who would have thought that my wife just wants to be heard!! :)
I wonder if other people feel like this sometimes as well. I know I do. It's part of the reason I started this blog. I want to be heard. I want people to hear me. As an introvert, this is a non-instrusive way for me to say what is on my heart and mind while sharing it with others.
Think about this for a moment. When we stop to listen to others we do two things: 1. We value them and 2. we invest our "talent" (in this case our time) into God's Kingdom. The kingdom of heaven is the community of believers mobilized to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Taking time for others, even if it seems like a burden, is a way of investing in the kingdom.
Listening doesn't mean agreeing with another person, but in order to be heard, we sometimes need to earn that right by listening first.
Try it for a week, I dare you!! In each of your relationships, ask questions that require you to listen. Engage the conversation with your non-verbal communication using eye contact and other postures that suggest interest rather than disgust or busyness. I bet you will learn more about those you love than by doing anything else for them that week. I know I have!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
In particular, Acts 2:42-47 is a favorite of mine. These few short verses contain an immense amount of depth in terms of vision and mission for church. There are four themes that are often taken from these verses: teaching, community (fellowship), breaking bread (generosity or hospitality) and prayer. The theme that I would like to share a thought on today is teaching.
Verse 42 says, "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching." They refers to the fellowship of believers, or the early church. The apostles is a reference to Jesus' 12 disciples, those whom He walked the closest with while on earth. These twelve men included Matthias, who was added to their number to replace the fallen Judas after his betrayal of Christ.
What I am starting to believe more and more about this particular phrase is that the emphasis wasn't so much on the teaching as it was on the learning. Think about this for a minute. What makes a great teacher? Answer truthfully!! I'm sure each of us immediately thought of someone that may go easy on us and let us slide through their class, but in fact, a good teacher is someone that is able to help their students own what is being taught. So, what this verse is actually referring to is the early church valuing the opportunity to learn; the opportunity to hear the truth of Christ and have it shape the way that they live.
There is a new buzz word running around the educational system nowadays...it's called experiential learning. The basic presuppostion behind this premise is to allow each student or person learn in his or her own way, or how they learn best. For instance, if someone is more of a hands-on learner, they are referred to as a kinesthetic learner. For students that learn in this way, they learn best in an environment that fosters hands-on learning through group projects, activities and exercises. There are also people who learn best by listening. They are called auditory learners. The last group of learners are those who learn best by seeing, called visual learners. What these categories mean is that there are different ways people learn. This doesn't mean that an auditory learner cannot learn visually, it simply means that an auditory learner learns best by listening.
Here is what I believe makes the difference when reading this portion of scripture and understanding a little bit about different learning styles. Verse 42 begins with the statement of "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching" followed by "and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." The early church valued learning. They took what they heard, and began to live it out in a hands-on and visual way. The body of Christ found a way to engage every person in the way that he or she learned best. Those who were unsure of what the apostles' were saying learned more about it as they saw their friends and family begin to live differently. These people observed truth in action, and then were invited to be a part of the community of faith because of what they had experienced.
Imagine for a moment if church today really emphasized these basic principles? What would change? What would stay the same?
As someone who is charged with the task of teaching, I believe I will be held accountable for how I helped others learn. Therefore, my teaching approach must become increasingly more interactive and less directive if my true goal is for others to begin to learn and experience Christ at work in their own lives.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Plainly said, there is no peace in complexity...there is only peace in simplicity. Consider what this statement is referring to. Think of the chaos and stress that surrounds pulling off something that is complex in nature, be it an event, trip or experience of some kind. Each of the details can bring frustration, joy, discontent and stress!! Now think of engaging in an activity, experience or event that is derived from simplicity. Let it stew in your heart and in your mind. Get past the notion of needing to fill time and space with stuff, and really embrace the idea of this simple approach to whatever memory or experience you've decided to create.
I'll tell you something. After doing this simple exercise I have found that the complex memory brings me stress, but the simple one brings me peace...and in peace I find joy!!
I want to deconstruct some myths about simplicity. Simplicity does not mean being lazy. Sure, a complex event takes more time, effort and planning to pull off...or does it? I believe that choosing to embrace simplicity takes as much, if not more effort than complexity does. Pursuing simplicity means setting up boundaries that keep you focused in the task at hand. Simplicity requires discipline; a willingness to submit to whatever guidelines, boundaries and parameters are set up to guide the experience, journey or event.
Think about this example of a marriage. In basic terms, a marriage is a life-long relational commitment between two members of the opposite sex. The notion of marriage is simple, yet we can begin to make it complex. Add in the dynamics of bills, jobs, kids, cars, vacation, in-laws and other things, and you soon end up with a complex image of what marriage is. Yet, at it's core, a marriage is still defined by the relational connection between these two people of opposite gender. Choosing to define a marriage by these simple standards is hard. It's hard because all of the other stuff begins to attach itself to a marriage, and our quest and thirst for complexity overshadows our need and desire for simplicity.
There is beauty in simplicity...and there is also complexity!! Yep, that's right, there is complexity in simplicity. Consider this statement: "Love one another as I have loved you." Jesus spoke similar words to His disciples. This is a simple statement, but its' implications are complex and profound. In this case, choosing to love other people means to personify Christ-like characteristics in every relational connection with others. Seems simple, but it's complex. It's not complex for the sake of being complex, it's complex because it radically reshapes the way we see the world around us.
Complexity for the sake of complexity is more like a list of do's and don'ts that you need to follow in order to gain a reward. This kind of complexity doesn't bring anything but frustration, hopelessness, fear and bewilderment. There is no peace in this kind of complexity.
Jesus said this to His disciples in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." I wonder what Jesus was referring to? I believe He was talking about simplicity, not complexity. How about you, what do you think?
Monday, October 26, 2009
In the church, we seem to do a great job at keeping our calendar "full" of stuff. Much of this program based routine is our attempt to spiritually form people. But what happens when the programs don't measure up to their original intent? What happens when the programs begin to detract from true spiritual growth?
Jesus came to give us life to the full. I believe His reference was directed towards the heart, not the bank balance or day planner. I've heard a lot of talk about divine appointments in my life. While I do agree that God sets things in motion to bring people across our paths so that we can impact and be impacted, I don't believe that God operates out of chaos or busyness. God is not lazy, but God does not how and when to rest. Think about this for a moment. The creator of the universe (everything we can see and can't see) took time to rest on the 7th day of creation. If He took time to rest, why don't we? Why do we feel the need to overprogram ourselves...to keep busy?
I believe it's because of fear that we fill up our schedules. We're afraid that not having a full plate will invite other people to judge us and comment about our inactivity as Christians. For my job, I have to hand in contacting information...a list of the people I have connected with on a monthly basis. While this can be good in terms of accountability, it can also be something negative if I allow my fear of a poor job review to govern my desire to fill up my schedule with stuff to do and people to meet.
Life to the full speaks to the heart. I believe Jesus extends the invitation to each of us to build new life into our very being. He desires to fill us with compassion, mercy, hope, love, peserverance, truth, honesty, integrity and other Christ-like characteristics. This is what a full life is all about...Christ-like character being developed in us and through us within the context of relationship!
If you're looking for a truly full life, I suggest you begin letting go of your day-timer and freeing up your time to allow God to direct and to move in and through you as He sees fit.
Just a thought...
Friday, October 23, 2009
On my ipod I have a bunch of music that I recorded; songs that I had written when I lived under the delusion of being a rockstar. As these sweet melodies and guitar riffs rattled through my brain, it got me to thinking. Gifts and passions manifest themselves in two different ways...personal and community. Some of the things that I'm gifted in and enjoy are for my own personal growth and maturity in my faith journey with Christ. Others are meant to be shared within the context of community and relationship. The challenge is discerning which gifts are meant to be personal and which are meant to be shared in community...on top of defining what community means!! Sometimes sharing a gift and passion in community means with a small group of people, other times it means a large group of people.
There is a parable in the gospels that talks about talents and gifts. There are 4 main characters in this story: The master and his 3 servants. Two of the three servants invest their talents while the other servant burries his. The master praises the two that invested and reprimands the one that hid his talent. Usually this is interpreted to mean we need to use our gifts for the benefit of others. While I agree with this basic interpretation, I think there is more to this story. For instance, what does it mean to invest a talent? The songs that I have written are used to bring me life and joy on a personal level. At times I have had the chance to share them in community, but if my focus is for my gift and talent to be seen by others, then I think I might be missing the boat on what investing actually means.
The bottom line is that gifts and passions come from God. They are birthed in each one of us to help us grow and become whom we have been created to be. The challenge is learning the difference between using these gifts and passions personally and in community. Now that's one big puzzle if you ask me!!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
One thing that stood out to me today was hearing the story of one of the dudes I play hockey with. His name is Kevin. My buddy Tony and I were chatting about a mutual friend of ours who has been trying to find a full-time ministry position and the challenges that he has been facing. Kevin, a non-churched individual, piped in with his thoughts about communication which got me to thinking.
Kevin shared about how it's better to over-communicate than under communicate. He shared about what it felt like to be kept in the dark at his place of work prior to the company going belly up, and he shared about his desire to be kept in the loop in order to feel valued as an employee.
Like I said, it got me to thinking...maybe this is why relationships break down. In fact, I know this is why. We simply stop communicating with each other. I read a stat somewhere that said 80% of communication is non-verbal. That's a lot!! When you think about what that means for relationships, it has HUGE implications. Is it more important that students heard you say the right things, or do them?
I see this presupposition played out in the lives of my family. Our daughter Saydie is 2, and our son Cannon is just over 7 months old. Bonny & I have never sat Saydie down and told her how to show love to her brother. Saydie has simply picked up on our actions, and in her own way, and begun to show love to others. We take the time to use our words, and our actions to communicate our love for our children to each of them. In turn, they take what they have experienced and begin to apply it to the other relationships they are forming in their lives.
I know I seem to keep harping on the same theme, but love is an active word. I think communication is a large part of the love equation. Taking time to connect with people, call them back, email them back, and actively LISTEN to them first instead of trying to download one's opinions can do way more good than harm.
I know that Obama's foreign policy has come under much scrutiny. Regardless of what you think of him as a person, you have got to admire his tenacity to stick to his principles. Essentially, Obama has suggested, implied and demonstrated that he is willing to sit down and listen to any and every other foreign leader in our world. When I hear about this, I can't help but think that Obama gets it. He understands that in order to be heard, you must first be willing to hear.
Jesus modelled this very same lesson. Jesus took the time to listen to people first, and then share His story with them. In choosing to listen, Jesus communicated more to the people He took time for than any number of words others could have shared with them. Jesus' communication reached its' culmination with His death and resurrection on the cross. Jesus again took time to show people what He wanted them to know, communicating a timeless message of love that will outlive us all.
Communication is the key.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
One thing that has been impacting me as of late is the notion of listening and obedience. As I child I can remember getting in trouble for not listening to my parents. But now as an adult, I'm beginning to understand that there is a separation between listening and obedience. What I was getting in trouble for as a child wasn't about listening, it was about obedience. There is a huge difference between these two words. To listen to someone means to hear what they are saying. To obey some means to do what they have asked you to do. These are two totally different things.
Unfortunately, I think we've confused these two words. We get frustrated when people don't listen to us, but I wonder if it's because we're expecting obedience instead of listening.
I'm learning this concept with my daughter Saydie. She often hears what I'm saying, but doesn't do what I'm asking because I haven't asked her to both listen and obey.
Something for you to think about today. When I ask others to listen to me, am I expecting them to obey, or simply to hear what I'm saying?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
"It's scary to be fragile"
As a youth pastor, I evaluate my success in ministry based on two criteria: 1. Love for God and 2. Love for others. Looking at the life of Jesus, He focused on two things when building into His team, the disciples: 1. Environment and 2. Experience.
Worded a different way, as a youth pastor I need to be focused and evaluating success in ministry based upon what sort of environments and experiences I help to foster and create for students.
Now take into account the lyric from this song, "It's scray to be fragile." There is a lot of truth in this statement. Being real is scary. It's scary because of the environments and experiences we've been exposed to. When we "put ourselves out there" and we didn't receive an agreeable response to our real-ness, then we shy away from pursuing authenticity and getting real again.
I know that I've felt this level of uncertainty and fear before. I've hid from opportunities to be real with others out of fear and worry that I may not be accepted, loved or cared for. But then there are also times when I have been real in my approach to life that have been positive experiences as well...marrying my wife would be one of them.
My thought for today is simply this: Be real...lead the charge in the pursuit of authenticity and be the change you wish to see in the world. Create environments and experiences that foster depth, truth, life and encouragement for those around you. Accept others for who they are in Christ and be intentional about demonstrating your love for God and for others in a real and authentic way.
This is the only way that I see of how we can burst out from under the oppression of fear and run into the freedom of living life to the full...the way Jesus intended!!
Friday, October 9, 2009
This morning as I was putting our groceries away, Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars began to play. I've listened to this song numerous times before, but this time a lyric jumped out and grabbed my attention.
I need your grace
to remind me
to find my own
I really think this simple lyric is brilliant. There is so much depth here when you analyze these words in the context of your spiritual walk with Christ. Not only do we need continual grace flowing from God the Father in our lives, we also need to be agents of grace by extending God's love and compassion to others. The gospel must not only be proclaimed, but must also be demonstrated in tangible ways that point people to the overtures of love flowing out from the throne of heaven and permeating the very core of our lives and the world around us.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
This morning as I was getting ready for work, Saydie was following me around. It made me feel important that she wanted to be with me and near me. I was glad that I had some sort of signifcance in her life.
This got me to thinking (boy does my brain hurt!!) that the sum of my personal significance is defined by what I give to others in terms of relationship. True relationship is motivated by love, not results. Saydie and Cannon are my children. Regardless of their desire to be around me or not, I am their dad, and my significance in their life is measured by the love that I give to them. They are times when they disagree very passionately about what may be happening to them (that comes with the territory of us as humans wanting and needing to be our own boss!!). Regardless of the circumstances, my love for them must saturate my actions.
In the same way, when we're thinking of having significant impact in our world, our love for God and for others must saturate our motivation. We cannot simply care about the eternal destination of a person's soul if we are unwilling to care about their physical circumstances first!! If my focus is simply about getting people to heaven, I've lost sight of the true impact of my life. I cannot, nor am I able, to get people to heaven...God is Savior and Judge...not me. I can, however, be an agent of love or restoration...someone that points people to Christ by what I give to them through relationship...through love.
Think about it. Each of us is headed somewhere. Why not stop at Destination: IMPACT and see what a little love in the name of Christ can do to really change the world!
Friday, October 2, 2009
We were making lunch today and getting Saydie to help us wash grapes and cut up from strawberries. Being her Dad, I'm always bugging her and trying to get her to smile and interact with me...making memories is what I call it!! I can't remember how our conversation started, but I said something about her name and she said, "Saydie...that's me!!" She knows that is her name...she owns it.
The book of Revelation talks about names being written in the book of life. These names are the list of people who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and will receive the gift of eternal life once their physical life on earth is over.
What struck me about my daughter's simple comment today was this whole idea of ownership. Do I really own my name? What I mean is, as someone who enjoys a relationship with Jesus, knowing that my name is written in the book of life, do I own that name. In order to have my name written in this book, I need to have the name of Christ written on me. The scripture calls this the circumcision of the heart...Christ alive in us and through us. It's a relationship based on faith and lived out through good deeds. The very name of Jesus, our Savior, is written on the hearts of those who enjoy a relationship with Him.
Do I really own my name? Do I embrace this idea that my name is written in the book of life because the name of Jesus is written on me?
This is what is making me think today.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I realize the above description may seem somewhat ludacris, and perhaps even outlandish...but I also think it is somewhat true. We've often looked to church or to faith as a service to us, instead of a place to serve, to give and to belong. We can become so blinded by our need to "feed" that we shudder at the thought of not have our spiritual needs met at our earliest convenience. And yet when you think about it, truly living in a relationship with God and with others is so not convenient!!
Relationships are messy; they are "organic"; they move and sway, grow and rescend, bring joy, frustration, hope and life. In the midst of this chaos and messiness, relationships are still about connection.
I love strategy. My mind thinks in waves of systems, structure and order. I love functioning within parameters like this in all facets of my life. But sometimes relationships don't follow a pattern or system or set of guidelines. In these moments where my desire for structure and order smashes headfirst against the wall of chaos I am faced with a choice. Do I cling to my system, or do I cling to the relationship?
When you read through the Bible you can see our default human programming and how we crave structure. But if we elevate structure above the relationship, we miss the very purpose of life.
Spirituality is messy. Relationships are messy. Rest in the fact that God is so much larger than we are and in His economy messy is good because messy means we are learning that we are not in control...only He is.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Jealousy leads to anger, and anger to hatred...and it's a slippery slope, that's for sure.
I've found myself thinking the most selfish thoughts as I've let my heart and mind be filled with jealousy and anger towards others. I've even caught myself engaging in activities that encourage my jealousy to flourish instead of diminish.
So why is that? Why can't we simply celebrate the successes of others instead of longing for our own moments of glory and recognition? The sad reality is that we even do this in church. We become jealous of another faith community because of what is happening in and through this part of the body of Christ; wishing all the while the part we may be connected to would be experiencing similar or greater growth.
So what do we do in the face of jealousy? We end up seeking to sabotage the people, the group or the movement of which we have become jealous. Jealousy drove the Pharisees to try and discredit Jesus. Jealousy will motivate you and I to do similar things.
Jealousy doesn't belong in any sort of healthy relationship. I honestly believe that the only way to rid ourselves and the world of jealousy is to practice love as described in 1 Corinthians 13, while learning to fix our eyes on the bigger picture of life instead of becoming bogged down with the details that only our human eyes can see.
Friday, September 25, 2009
My Oma always likes to shoot the breeze about a variety of subjects, and being the good grandson that I am (cough, cough), I tried my best to oblige her today. We began our usual chat and then she began to share with me about her spiritual journey with Christ. As an 83 year old, my Oma has walked with Christ for over 70 years. That's a long time!! The best part of my conversation with her today was how full of life she became as she talked about what God was teaching her. Dedicating the majority of her life to the study of God's word, I listened to my Oma share with me about how God's story still captivates her heart. She spoke about how each time she opens the Bible she learns something new about God and how much He loves her and others.
Can you imagine still be captivated by God's story after 70 years? As I sat and listened, and interjected here and there, I couldn't help but be humbled by my Oma's desire to continue to learn. She also spoke about how our lives need to speak of God's love, and our actions need to become louder than our words.
Love for God and love for others needs to be demonstrated. It's in the demonstration of love that love is truly proclaimed in a way that those who do not yet know Christ are able to understand.
I guess there is still a lot that I can learn from my Oma and the Jesus alive in her!!
Monday, September 21, 2009
This one song on my playlist stuck out to me unlike before. The song is You Wanted More by Tonic. These lyrics in particuarly hit me in the face today.
Love is color
Love is love
Love is never saying you're too proud
Love is trusting
Love is honest
Love is not a hand that holds you down
There is no separation in the sacred and secular...Christ can be found in the midst of the chaos. I don't know about the spiritual health of this band, but I know that these few lyrics depict the struggle of pursuing and living out love in the way God intended.
I hope the love I am pursuing reflects the qualities painted by this lyrical collage of emotion and experience.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
What's got me busting my gut lately is trying to learn to dance...something that would make my Grama shudder I'm sure!! Growing up I was always taught that dancing was sinful....yet another reason to make sure that we actually teach biblical principles and don't simply hand down human made traditions.
Anyways, back to my reason for writing. I'm attempting to groove with a handful of peers, and it's got me literally rolling on the floor with laughter. Laughter eases tension, it brings joy to the heart and soul, and it also reminds us to not take ourselves too seriously.
Genuine laughter is absolutely essential in regards to learning to live a joy-filled life. Remember that we are created in the image of Christ, and our humor is a gift from God. Enjoy life...enjoy laughing and enjoy the rich joy that comes from connecting with God and with others in the wonderful gift of pure joy!!
Monday, September 14, 2009
Why is it that sometimes we need to run into brick walls before we realize they are there? I don't know about you, but it seems like I've been hitting my fair share today. Shortly after I got to work my car was broken into. The culprits stole a letter that I needed to mail, but nothing other than that. $250, some frustrated moments, some words I'd like to take back and a headache later I found myself evaluating whether or not I can run through walls.
I'm not saying there is something super spiritual about my car getting busted into or anything like that, but I do believe there is something to say about pursuing balance in life. Pursuing God means learning to live life according to His design and rhythm. The foundation of this design is rest. All throughout scripture God asks His followers to wait for Him; to rest in Him. Jesus Himself talks about an easy yoke and light burden for the weary. Yet when push comes to shove, we seem more intent on living life the way we've always dreamed; or at least in the way we think it should be. We begin living out of our own strength and then become frustrated with how little energy and "life" we have.
Some wise spiritual guru once said that he desired to live according to God's grace and didn't want to move without God's grace giving him the strength to do so. Seems like a ludacris idea until we've hit one too many brick walls, doesn't it?
I'm all for moving, but how about moving and living according to God's pace instead of our own? How about being driven by His word instead of our schedules, tasks or to-do lists?
Today I was at the end of my rope, learning once again what it means to find rest in Christ and freedom in His grace.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Today I read through an article entited "Found in Darfur" from Relevant Magazine. If there is one magazine I would reccommend anyone getting, it would be this one. I have not seen a better un-biased piece of journalism from a Christian perspective.
This article contains the story of a woman who does relief work in Darfur. If you know anything about Darfur, you know that it's one of the most deadly places on earth. Conflict has engulfed the region for quite some time. Fights break out over almost everything. Islam is the dominant faith in the area, so being a Christian in this kind of space can be challenging, as you may well imagine. There were two comments this woman made that inspired me. The first was "My personal witness hinges on the way I live out my faith." Everything inside me leaps when I read this. It is absolutely essential to have our faith inform how we live. There cannot be a continental divide between the two. If these two do not meet up...then is there actual evidence of faith in a person's life? I don't know. All I know is that I can have faith that my chair will not collapse, but if I never sit in it, will I know if my faith means anything?
The second statement was "I know the most important things is to say 'yes' to God when He asks you to do something." Living life according to God's rhythm and design is the only way to really live. Can you imagine saying no to everything? We'd miss out on so much. Obedience to Christ is the only true way to live. Yes isn't always easy, but it's the best option.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Today was a day chalked full of different experiences. I had planned on doing some work around the house (tiling and fence repair), but had no idea what God would have in store for me. I was finishing up odds and ends in regards to my to-do list when something unique happened. Bonny & I recycle (as should you all!!). I haven't had the chance to take our bottles and cans in for some time now, so I mentioned to Bonny the other day that I would really like to bless someone who digs in the garbage for cans with our lot in the basement.
I was just coming into the house when I heard the unmistakeable sounds of someone riding on their bike with cans in bags. I quickly ran down into the basement and threw our recycling into bags hoping to catch up with this person. I made my way outside to see this individual stopped beside our garbage bin. I walked up to him and gave him our cans, muttering some clever line like "Lookie what I got!!" Then something awesome happened. Gary, the man I had aimed to bless, began to tell me his story. He lives in the area by us, but has recently fell on hard times with the recession and all. He just lost his job and was out scrummaging for recyclables in order to keep food on his table. He told me that he doesn't normally go looking for cans in dumpsters, but that someone told him to sit down by our garbage bin. Trying to satisfy my curiousity I asked who. Gary said that God told him to sit down and wait.
I didn't know what to say. I stood there with some sort of dumb-founded look on my face and Gary got up to leave. He said that he didn't need to be here any more and it was time for him to go. Hopping on his bike he gave me a big grin and said, "May God be with you." I had the wherewithall to at least utter, "and you too!!"
In Matthew 25 Jesus talks about serving the less fortunate. Summarizing His words, Jesus basically says that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me. My goal was to bless Gary with cans, and instead I found myself blessed by Gary. I wonder who was the least of these in this situation...Gary or me?
Friday, September 4, 2009
The basic premise of the book is examing in detail the parable of the man who had two sons in Luke 15. We often refer to this parable as the prodigal son, but in doing so we miss the impact of the elder son's role in this story as well. I encourage you to re-read this story before reading any further.
One son chooses to walk away from his father, while the other chooses to play it safe and do everything "right." But what is impacting me the most in regards to these two sons is that they were both after the same thing...control over their father's resources. One chose to demand his inheritance up front, while the other kept 'slaving away' in order to ensure he achieved the 'good son' label. The end of the story sees the father welcome back his younger son into his home with a huge party. The elder son receives the same invitation to be a part of this celebration, yet chooses not to.
This inspired me to think about what this means in my own life. There is a stark difference between playing church and living church. Playing church refers to doing all the right things, while living church focuses on the motivation and intent behind one's actions. It is so easy to fall into the habit of doing something for someone in order to get something in return. As followers of Christ, we can easily become engulfed in blind ambition as we seek to earn a greater reward. In doing so, I think we merely personify the character of the elder son from this parable. We do all the right things, but not for the right reasons.
I can only imagine if I approached my marriage to Bonny in this fashion...oh boy would I be in for it!! Over time, she would be able to see through my motivations and notice the lack of authenticity in my behavior. And what would I be accomplishing in this pursuit? Ultimately, the destruction of the most important human to human relationship I have.
Instead, my actions in my marriage must be rooted in authenticity. I do because I love, not because I have to or need to...but because I choose to.
Let me pose this question to you. What are you doing for God that can be categorized in the same fashion as the life of the elder son from this parable? Remember that the expectations of God vastly outweigh the expectations of other people. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. No matter how good of an actor or actress you are, you're not fooling anyone, let alone God almighty.
Authenticity is a dangerous word...but it's really truly the only way to live.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Tonight was yet another moment I hope I don't quickly forget. Following bath time we were gathered as a family in Saydie's room while Bonny was wrestling with her to get her dressed for bed time. Saydie was jumping on her bad and singing and babbling to herself when Bonny asked her what she was singing about. Saydie replied, "I'm just singing about Jesus." Now I'm not a softy by any stretch of the imagination...I'm able to feel things, but I don't usually become overwhelmed with emotion. But listening to my little girl sing about her Jesus, even as a one year old in a language only God (and maybe her mom!!) could translate, I was beeming with pride as a dad and humility as a follower of Christ. How many times has someone caught me jumping on my bed so excited to sing about my Jesus, so to speak?
The words of Jesus began to echo in my head when He spoke about needing to become like little children in order to inherit the kingdom of God. My little Saydie was giving me a glimpse, through the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit at work in me, about what it meant to be like a child in God's kingdom. As a doer I sometimes get caught up in getting things done and tasks completed while forgetting to simply slow down, enjoy and celebrate being a part of God's family. I need not worry about what another person might think of me, I need to be consumed by the presence of God and respond to this consumption with utter joy!! I need to let loose and sing about my Jesus in my words, my actions, my time, my resources and my everything else. How about you, do you find yourself pondering this same conclusion in this moment?
Who knew jumping on a bed would teach me so much...
Thinking about this today, with being hungry and all, I began to think of what my life would be like if I craved God's presence and God's word on a consistent basis. There are times when life gets so busy that we begin to squeeze out our time connecting with God or with others.
I think part of living like Jesus means learning to grow in our hunger for Christ, His presnce, the Word and our time spent with Him. I know that last night before I went to sleep I just needed to pray with Bonny in a spirit of thankfulness for who God is. I expressed my fleeting desire to move only in His rhythm and grace, knowing that there will be moments in each and every day where I begin to claim to do things in my own strength once again. Maybe it's time that I learn more from my hunger. Sure it signifies that I need to eat, but I think it can and should also represent my need to feast at my Master's table.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I've been waking up each day this past week with a new perspective on life and ministry in general. It is truly a privilege to serve in and be a part of the body of Christ. Last night, in particular, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the opportunity that we as the church in Canada, and specifically in Calgary, have during this upcoming season in our lives. Two pictures came to mind that kept me up a good portion of the night. The first was the celebration that took place within the nation of Israel recorded in chapter 3 in the book of Ezra. Having endured exile in a foreign country, the people of Israel were finally given their freedom, and together they pursued rebuilding their nation and more importantly, their place of worship...the temple of God. This happened in two phases, the rebuilding of the altar, and then the rebuilding of the temple itself. The entire project would have come out looking something like this following photograph.
After completing this project, the nation gathered together to celebrate. The young people shouted for joy while the older generations broke down in tears. As I was picturing this unfolding in my mind, I couldn't help but wonder what it would have felt like to be a part of the older generation in this moment. To witness restoration firsthand would indeed be overwhelming and would definitely push me towards brokenness as well.
As I was pondering this thought, lyrics to the Delirious song, Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble, began scrolling through my head. There were two word pictures in particular that captured my fascination: Young and Old will turn to Jesus....open up the doors and let the music play, let the streets resound with singing, songs that bring your hope, songs that bring your joy, dancers who dance upon injustice.
This to me is a picture of the living, breathing, body of Christ uniting for a common purpose...the love of Christ. Compelled by love, I believe the church can and will do amazing things in and through Jesus. I believe we are entering a season where we will begin to see these word pictures recorded in the book of Israel and in the lyrics of this song come to life again. I sense God is calling the church into a greater relationship with Him...and this call extends beyond generational boundaries. I believe God desires the parts of His body to engage the world around them with tenacity, vigilence, determination and love in action. The change we desire to see in our world will come in and through us as we seek to become the church that Christ sacrificed His life for each and every day.
The time has come for generation united...people of all ages gathered together to partner with the mission of God. The world around us needs hope, joy and people who will stand against injustice. The call of Christ compels us to act and to intervene and to demonstrate His love with an ever increasing awareness of compassion in our world today.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Having sat in meetings all day I felt a little drained myself. I jumped in to be dad in the moment and tried my best to engage and help out where I could. I took my son upstairs and finally got him to sleep after 45 minutes of coaxing. I then sent Bonny upstairs to get a cat nap in while I headed out into the garden with Saydie to "dig carrots Daddy!!"
As the evening rolled on I found myself getting more and more depleted and less and less filled with compassion in my interactions with my family. My answers to questions were short and pointed. My actions were precise and strategic...and inside my heart anger begain to swell. I was frustrated that things weren't going easy or right in my opinion. I was overwhelmed with my own emotions and the emotions of my family members. I grew more agitated with my own growing frustration and before I knew it the vicious circle was in full swing.
During this experience I failed to realize that I was trying to do things on my own. I'm a bit of a rebel in this way. I don't like the status quo, I love to push the envelope and not to settle for what is, but to strive for increasing obedience in Christ. Tonight I missed the mark. I missed the entire point of what it means to be a dad, a father, a husband and a friend. I was trying to manage the situation in my own strength and I forgot to simply be present in these moments. My heart broke during this realization. Sure I had gotten a lot of things compelted (including this blog) but I think I might have missed out on the greater things God had in store for me tonight.
I apologized to my family and asked for their forgiveness. I apologized to Christ for the foolishness of my heart to believe that I could do this whole family thing in my own strength. In this broken place is where I found strength to be who God created me to be and to love my wife and kids with the love that Christ poured out for me on the cross.
Starfield has an album entitled "Beauty in the Broken." I've caught a glimpse of what this means before, but tonight I truly experienced it on a different level. I hope that I continue to learn from this experience and do things differently next time. Somehow I know there will be another opportunity for me to test my 'metal' again in the near future. This time I'll be prepared, knowing that there is no way I can do this alone. Only with Christ living in and through me will I be able to serve my family in the way they deserve.
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