Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God & Limitations

So the thought that has been stirring in my heart as of late is the whole idea of Almighty God choosing to put limits on Himself.  Here is what I mean, Jesus (fully God and fully human) could have at any point chose to rescue Himself from death on a cross, but He chose not to...He chose to limit Himself.  If you look at some of the miracles Jesus performed you see this similar theme.  Take the feeding miracles for example.  In these instances Jesus chooses to use what His disciples and others provide in order to make the miracle happen.  We're talking about Almighty God here, and in these instances He chooses to limit His power and influence.  Why is that I wonder?

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

Entitlement Kills

I heard a stat the other day that floored me.  During this holiday season, the average amount spent is $1000 per adult in the province of Alberta.  $1000 is the average.  Calgary's population sits at just over a million.  Roughly 650,000 of that number are considered adults.  That means that as a city, we potentially spent about 65 million dollars this Christmas season.  Crazy right?

You know what's even more crazy??  Entitlement.  These numbers of what we may have spent this holiday season seem staggering (and they are!!), but what's even more staggering is the attitude that drives this spending. We believe we have the right to "do what we want" in a sense.  While it is true that we have the freedom to choose how we live and how we spend, do not be disillusioned, at some point we will need to be accountable for our actions.  For instance, if we rack up huge debt on our credit card, at some point the creditor will come collecting what they are owed...and that can be very unpleasant!!

I guess what is shocking me at the moment is the effects of entitlement that I see in my own life.  When I feel that I am owed something, whether that is in a relationship or in a situation, I find that my attitude begins to take a down-ward spiral.  We call Christmas the season of good tidings and joy, but I tell you that my joy is fleeting when I'm stuck in traffic or waiting in line to make a purchase!!  This lack of joy is rooted in my sense of entitlement.  Deep down I believe I am owed something from this world or from other people because I am who I am and who I am is the man!!  Arrogant I know, but that's the's something I'm not very proud of.  I think that in all reality many of us struggle with this very same thing (perhaps with feminine undertones if you happen to be a lady instead of a dude!!).  We want to be valued and appreciated.  But when we pursue fulfillment of these needs through entitlement, we are literally driving the wrong way down a one way street!!

What I'm learning in my life is that the only way to battle this sense of entitlement is to pursue generosity.  True, authentic generosity cares for the needs of others instead of your own needs.  One of my absolute favorite things to do after Christmas is to go through my closet, movies, video games and other stuff to pull out things that I do not need that I can give to other people.  Some have dubbed this habit as re-gifting, but I believe it's more about generosity than anything else.  Living a life that is a simple life is more fulfilling than one that is full of stuff.  Entitlement spits in the face of such a practice.  Entitlement feeds our carnal nature, our hunter-gatherer default programming and our hoarding mentality. we need all the stuff that we have?

Watching my daughter and my son this Christmas brought me a new perspective regarding the pursuit of generosity vs. the pursuit of entitlement.  My kids are learning from their dad and their mom about what generosity is (among other things).  If we are giving to receive, then I think we missed the whole point of generosity.  If we are giving because we are pursuing a life steeped in generosity, then I think we're on the right track.  This year Saydie and I took a bag full of toys down to good will.  As I stepped out of the car to get the bag from the trunk my daughter asked me what I was doing with all the toys.  I took a moment to explain to her in my fatherly way (the awkward mumblings that I seem to have when I'm asked a serious question by my 2 year old!!) that we wanted to share toys with other little girls and boys that don't have as much as we do.  Saydie looked at me with her wide open gaze and said, "that's nice daddy."  Yes Saydie, that is nice...and it's what we need to learn to do more of considering that who I'm basing my life on is Jesus, and generosity is a huge part of who He is! (Philippians 2:1-11)

If video killed the radio star, entitlement kills any shred of true, authentic generosity there is.  Choose wisely.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Intentional Generosity

The Christmas season seems to be filled with a quest for intentional generosity...and I think this can be a good thing.  Yes I've heard the frustrations regarding the pursuit of materialism (which I share), but the desire to be kind and generous, although it has its' flaws, I believe is at least somewhat filled with good intentions.

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

Popularity - A Casual Affair

Tonight is family craft night, so we decided to toss on some tunes while we were attempting to be artistic!!  I opened itunes and clicked on the 90s music icon to rock out to songs of yester year.  Soon our ears were flooded with the melodies of a band called Tonic and a song entitled Casual Affair.  One line from the chorus stuck out to me.

"It's a casual affair when everybody loves you."

My mind began to 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

Thoughts on a Friday

With 2009 coming to a close in a couple of weeks, I find it interesting how my heart and mind wander into reflection mode almost naturally.  In celebration of a new year upon us we usually look back over the past year to remember what has happened, and at times we are glad at what we find and in others we aren't so thrilled.  We rattle off some resolutions for the new year, and then it's off to the races yet again.

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...

Bonny has been teaching our daughter Saydie, who is only 2, the verse John 3:16.  I'm sure we've all heard it in one form or another, but for reference here it is again.

"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


Have you ever been so overwhelmed by a situation that you just froze up and couldn't do anything?  I've had many experiences like this in my life.  In fact, I used one such experience to pen a song.  Here are the lyrics.

In Silence

What can I do?
I’m staring at you and I’ve got nothing to say.
No rhyming this time.
I’m walking the line between nothing at all.
Inside I am screaming out loud; I’m burning up.
My heart it pounds, but I’m just standing here afraid to move again.
So much unsaid and too much regret to linger here.
I’m overwhelmed; caught in this web of fraility.
In silence I am bound to be still.
It’s deafening and hard to breathe.
Will I ever be the same?

This whole idea of paralysis is rocking my world lately.  We can become to overwhelmed to the point of neglect.  What I mean is that we can see a need, whether personal or otherwise, and be overwhelmed at the hugeness of the need that we can simply be frozen in time, neglecting to act.  

What I need to remember, and what I believe each of us needs to remember in each of these frozen moments is that God does not ask us to meet the entire need...He asks us to partner with  Him in meeting the need before us.  God takes what we have to offer, blesses it, and uses it to meet the need in a way that only He can.  If you don't believe, read through the gospels and see story after story about Jesus taking what people have to offer and using it to build God's kingdom on earth.  Continue your read further through the book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles and see the generosity of followers of Christ in action.

God defeats paralysis every time...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Enduring Kingdom

I'm working my way through the book of Daniel in my personal devotions and there are so many things that I am learning about Christ, faith and life for the first time even thought I've read through this portion of the bible before.  Daniel is one of those interesting reads.  Some people call Daniel the Revelation of the new testament as it is chalked full of imagery, prophecy and other forms of writing that can sometimes make it a difficult book to study.

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

Where You Lead Me...I Will Follow

I had a great conversation with a parent in our ministry today.  We spoke about an inquiry I had made regarding her potential involvement in youth ministry as a small group leader.  She had been praying about this subject for a few weeks and finally felt it was time to share with me what God was saying to her regarding youth ministry.  She mentioned that as much as she loves students and values what God is using us as a ministry (Centre Street Church Youth Ministries) to do with this generation, God is calling her to invest herself in another area of ministry.

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

Lessons from a Legend

On Friday morning Bonny's Grandpa Joe passed away.  I had only met the man a handful of times, but what I saw in him sticks with me even now as I'm typing up this blog.

Lesson #1 - Generosity...every time I met Grandpa Joe, I left his presence with something in my, 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 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

In like a Lion...about like a ??

There is the old saying that if winter comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.  As December sat down on us a couple of days ago, and we here in Calgary were greeted with snow and cold, this old saying came to mind.

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.