Sunday, January 31, 2010

Everything in Its' Right Place

Radiohead is one of my favorite bands.  After years of avoiding their melodic underpinnings, my friend Darren reintroduced me to the band, and ever since then I've been captivated by their musical creativity.  One of my favorite songs is Everything in Its' Right Place off their KID A album.  Not only am I drawn to this musicality of this tune, but the subject matter of this song is also particularly intriguing.  Bonny says that I'm a little OCD in some of my behaviors.  I like to do things in a certain way.  Perhaps this is why I'm drawn to this song.

In any case, I think the subject matter of this song sums up a deep longing that exists within each one of us...expectation.  Each of us have them, and each of us wrestle when things don't play out according to our though process, intent or design.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.

This morning I spoke with the mother of a student who shared with me about the brokenness in their family.  Because of some of the poor choices made by this student's parent, his world has been affected in a negative capacity...his expectations have been shattered.  It seems to happen when we hope that people are a certain way and then they turn out to be a different one; meaning that we hope to see integrity and honesty but when we come face to face with dishonesty our world view is negatively affected.

I think we underestimate the significance of this kind of occurrence.  Each of us has a deep longing to belong somewhere, to having meaning and to find purpose.  At times we look for these needs to be met in our surroundings through a variety of earthly relational connections, and it's in this practice and habit that the larger issue exists.  When we allow our identity to be COMPLETELY informed by the people around us instead of looking to Christ, when our expectations aren't met, our world comes crashing down around us.

Sounds easy doesn't it?'s not.  To view life in this new way involves us thinking completely counter-culturally to our society.  And the younger in age a person is, the more difficult this is to do.  Children look to their parents to provide them with their basic needs (emotional, physical, spiritual & intellectual).  When they don't find them through this relational connection, that is where chaos enters the picture.  Regardless of what we might think or believe about youth, they will always look to their parents first to meet these needs.  Rebellion occurs when youth see practices, habits and behaviors that contradict their parents' instruction (i.e. when their expectations are not met).

If we could focus on re-establishing the family relational connection, the stability in the lives of youth would increase and when brokenness happens the foundation of their identity may not be severely hindered like our current reality dictates.  God created the family for a purpose, and without everything in its' right place, our youth will continue to flounder in their search for identity formation, purpose, meaning and belonging.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Where Do You Find Your Answers?

On most Tuesday nights Bonny & I have the privilege of connecting up with a group of grade 8 & 9 students in from the northeast part of our city.  Together in one home, we explore questions about scripture, engage in spiritual conversations and spend time connecting with each other on a relational level.  This entire experience is what we call a Super Group.  Most nights I leave feeling juiced about what God is doing in this generation.  But tonight was a little different.  Tonight I found myself feeling convicted about a habit and a practice that seems basic, but is absolutely essential to the Christian faith.

We started our evening by presenting a hot topic theme.  Students were encouraged to write down what they wanted to study in scripture on pieces of paper and then add these topics into a hat for sorting purposes.  We divided ourselves up into 4 groups of 4-5 people each and then proceeded to pick a topic out of the hat to research together.  Each group had roughly 20 minutes to study their topic using scripture.  After this allotted amount of time, we gathered together as a larger group to talk about what we had seen and learned.  As groups began to share this thought crossed my mind: Where Do I Look for My Answers?  I admit that I'm a bit addicted to technology.  I blog, I check my various email accounts, read & reply to text messages, I tweet and I read a ton of stuff online (it's all research people!! :P).  I'm always looking for who wants to or needs to hear from me.  All the while, I sometimes neglect the only reliable source for information that exists in our world...the Bible.

When we are looking for answers to questions about life, where do we turn?  Do we look to our friends, our email inbox, our facebook page or our cell phone for answers?  Or do we turn to something else?  As Christians we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, but yet there are times where we neglect to use it as it was intended.  Oh sure, when we're in crisis mode we might turn to scripture to read through our favorite feel good verses, but what about all the other days that aren't off-keel?

Just like I need to eat 3+ times a day, use the washroom and take a countless amount of breaths, I also need to feast on the truth of scripture.  Tonight I learned this again in a new way.  One of our breakout groups researched food references in scripture only to bombard the rest of the group with the amount of information that can be gathered pertaining to food from the Bible.  One silly topic like food and before you know it you are on a tangent that engages your heart, your mind, your soul and your strength...oh wait, I've heard that before...hmm...oh yeah, those are the words of Christ found in the Bible, who woulda thought it would contain important things like that?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sparking My Interest

Last week Bonny & I had the privilege of sitting in a room full of grade 8 & 9 students and working through how each of us sees God.  One question that came up is how come God doesn't just completely reveal Himself to us right from the get go in a way that we can comprehend.  As I attempted to reach for an answer, I was drawn to thinking of my first interaction with those of the opposite sex in a romantic know, the part in Jr. High where you begin to notice girls in more than a friendly way...the sort of passing notes and asking them to check the yes or no response in regards to liking you question kind of way??

I can remember the first time I spoke to a girl about liking her, and I would say that I came on way too strong.  I was awkward and weird and mumbling, not to mention probably smelly cause I was still getting the hang of the whole personal hygiene thing.  But quickly I learned how my actions would and could influence a preferred response from the opposite gender rather than a complete and utter denial!!

The more I learn about God's love pursuit of us as human beings, the more I begin to understand that I know nothing about what true love is all about.  What I mean is this, if I take the time to look at creation around me and let it begin to captivate my attention, my interest as to its' origin is sparked.  If I take the time to allow myself to be consumed by the mystery and frustration that is God's Word (the Bible), I can find my thirst and quest for truth peaked.  All the while, God is using all the different elements around me (people, nature & truth) to spark my interest in discovering more about who He is.  When I allow myself to be caught up in this journey, the insignificant questions seem to fade away, and the ability to learn to rest and be restored seems to become more prevalent in my life.  The challenge is having more of these captivating moments and less of the distracting moments flood my life.

Sometimes it just means I need a new perspective on things; I need to view things from a different angle in order to see something I haven't seen before and to experience something that once seemed old and known as fresh, new and alive again.  What I need to do is remember that there will always be more to learn and experience and life is about the journey just as much as it is about the final destination.  Now that's something worth thinking about!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Every Little Bit Counts

In light of recent events in Haiti I have found myself asking the question of how I can be involved in global change for the better.  But what can one person really do, right?  One of my daughter's favorite movies is the Bee Movie (animated) starring Jerry Seinfeld.  I can't tell how how many hundreds of times I've seen this flick, but one part of the movie always stands out to me.  When rallying his fellow bees to act in order to save flowers, Barry Benson (Seinfeld) reminds his fellows bees that even though they are small, every bee plays a significant part in the process of life by helping to create honey and making sure flowers bloom and grow by spreading pollen around.

Now this may seem like a stretch, but there is some key truth here.  I know that I often find myself thinking what can I really do to help in a place like Haiti or Mali or Tanzania?  When I view my actions as one individual acting alone, then I may see that what I do doesn't make a difference.  But, when I view my actions and response in light of the response of the global community or a faith community, then perhaps I can begin to see that every little bit counts.

Take micro-financing for example.  On sites such as Kiva, you can join hundreds and thousands of other people in loaning money to entrepreneurs in the third world who are attempting to be the change they wish to see in their communities by creating busy and investing in their local economy.  This is just one of many examples of how a bunch of people working together can make a difference.

When you look at nature, ants exhibit this very principle as well.  Ants can create and sustain immense colonies and move incredible amounts of earth and soil in the process by working together to create something new and exciting for the entire colony.

So rest assured that every little bit does count.  Even when you don't think you are making a difference, when you choose to be a part of positive change in our world, you are choosing to be a difference maker...even though you might feel tiny in the process!

Monday, January 18, 2010

GodView - Our Distortions

The most important part of who we are is what we think when we think about God.

No matter what your view of God has been, is or will become, you are never beyond restoration.  Our thoughts of God need to continue to grow, mature and evolve as we learn and experience more of Him in our lives.

What’s your GodView?  How is it healthy and how is it unhealthy?  What needs to change or grow?
Let me ask you this…when people walk away from Jesus (cause they do) are they walking away from God or are they rejecting their view of him?

Here is what I mean by asking this question.  If our view of God is that He desires us to be good and then we make a mistake and are bad, and then we walk away from God as a result because we’re not good enough for Him…are we walking away from God or simply rejecting our view that says God’s primary goal for us is to be upright and moral?

Or, if our view of God suggests that His primary goal is for us to be happy, and then tragedy strikes and we are not happy and we walk away from God as a result, are we walking away from God or rejecting our view of Him that says God’s primary objective is for us to be happy?

Let’s clear up this distortion a little bit.  God’s primary goal for our lives and for our world is to be God.  So what does that mean?

Read  Matthew 11:1-6.  

God’s primary goal for our lives is to be God.  In this story, Jesus responds to the inquiry of some of the disciples of John the Baptist, his cousin.  He basically says this, “You need to see Me differently.  Where you are now doesn’t change who I am, but your view of who I am does need to change.”

These followers of John the Baptist came to Jesus with their expectations, and Jesus asked them to expand their view of God.  In learning to restore, reshape and re-align our view of God, we need to learn to follow a God that is bigger than our expectations.

Our view of God stems from our experience.  Sometimes this experience has been created through what we observe in the lives of others…for example, our view of church might be that it is completely boring and irrelevant because we’ve witnessed people who come to a building and sit in pews and then go home and do nothing with what they’ve learned.  We come to expect that church doesn’t matter, and our view of church is thusly informed.

But, when we can see church without expectations, when we can connect with the community of believers and respond to God’s leading and prompting and adopt the mindset of what I can do for God instead of what God or church can do for me, we are beginning to understand what it means to follow a God that is larger than our expectations.

Expectations aren’t a bad thing, but the issue with our expectations is that they are limited.  We cannot comprehend the fullness of God, and this is way our view of Him needs to be constantly changing…what I mean is that it needs to grow and become larger!!

When life seems the most out of control, we have the greatest need for an accurate view of God…one that is not limited by our expectations.  When we are faced with these situations, the focus of our prayers change…we become more desperate, and in our desperation we are more willing to surrender control to God…we are more willing to let God be God and to follow Him without our limiting expectations.

We can expect God to be God, because God doesn’t change, but our view of Him needs to.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Compassion Engaged

Each of us has the opportunity to engage our compassion.  The question is, how we will respond when an opportunity to engage our compassion occurs?

I can remember one of the first times that I was provided with a first hand opportunity to engage my level of compassion.  In 2002, I traveled to Brazil with a group of people, including my wife Bonny (even though we weren't married or even dating at the time) from a variety of churches in order to work with orphaned children who were rescued from the street.  During these 10 days my heart was forever shaped and bent in a new and profound way.  This experience was one of the catalyzing moments for our decision to adopt as a married couple.  As we began to search scripture as a married couple, we stumbled upon James 1:27 and this verse has forever rocked our world.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

With recent world events, the crisis in Haiti has provided us with one of these such moments.  In light of the chaos that is consuming this part of our world each of us needs to ask ourselves one simple question: "What can I do?"  Many different organizations and humanitarian relief projects are well under way, and every little ounce of support helps.  Last night I was made aware of an organization that is receiving donations that are being matched dollar for dollar by a grant from the Canadian government.  Visit Canadian Food for the Hungry International to find out more.

None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something...each of us can play a role...each of us can engage our level of compassion and respond to the situation in Haiti as God prompts us to do so.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Faithful in the Little Things

For those of you who know me, you know that I'm a detail kind of guy.  I'm someone who gets energized by tackling the details for a project.  I realize that not all people receive joy from working through this stuff, but handling the details is necessary work and it can often be fairly important as well.

I guess why I'm thinking about this right now is that these months are usually the "dog-days" of life and ministry.  The weather is weird, we're tired of snow, holidays are over and summer is way too far away!  During these moments of time in our lives and in the ebb and flow of nature I believe it's important for us to remain focused on the task at hand...whatever that may be.  For example, grade 12 students need to remain focused on finishing well in regards to their diploma exams; Pastors need to get ready for the next semester and wave of ministry in the new year; tax accountants are training for the marathon session that is tax season, and well, month end speaks for itself!

In all of these things, it's important to be faithful in the details.  Being faithful in the little things doesn't mean getting bogged down or frustrated with what needs to be done, but it means doing these things while keeping an eye on the big picture.  For example, it means intentionally studying in preparation for the grade 12 diploma, or intentionally planning out the ministry calendar for the rest of the year.

Without the little things, big things don't happen.  If you have a dream or desire for your life, I challenge you to work with Jesus by being faithful in the little things and let God take care of the big picture.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


It’s interesting how a new year brings with it the chance for a new beginning.  Have you ever made a New Year's resolution that you simply forgot to follow through on, or didn't think through entirely before you attempted to keep it?  These resolutions always seem to begin with good intentions.  As each new year begins, we want to start it off on the right foot, and most of the time these resolutions are our attempted "improvements" for our lives.  While each of these New Year's resolutions is an attempt to improve ourselves, the most important part of who we are is what we think when we think about God.

So let me ask you this, what are your thoughts on God?  If no was around to judge you for what you really thought…what would you think about God?

I’ll tell you something that I am learning lately…my view of God continues to evolve, shift and re-align as I learn more about Him and experience more of His love in my life.

When I first believed in God, my view of Him was somewhat unique.  I thought God was a caucassian grandpa type figure that sat on a throne and watched over his creation somewhat removed from it all.  There were other parts of my view of God that weren’t correct and that still shape the way I view Him today.  I was taught that God was mean…He made you do what you didn’t want to do.  You never wanted to say the word never cause I soon as you did that would mean God would ask you to do that very thing.

I remember on one occasion that I told my mom that I would never marry the girl who lived next door cause I despised her…my mom aptly replied, “don’t say never Jason cause you might just end up marrying her.”  Thankfully that never has held up thus far!!

There were other parts of my view of God that were incorrect and uneducated as well.  I feared prayer because when I got in trouble an authority figure in my life would tell me they would pray for me.  I began to view prayer as a weapon of submission, not to God but to the opinions and thoughts of others for my life.

I’m sure if each of us had the courage to be honest and real with what our thoughts about God really are we would share some similarities and some differences in our God-View.

If one of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, struggled with His view of God, we can expect to struggle at times in our lives as well.    Peter walked life together with Jesus.  Peter saw Jesus face to face and he still struggled with keeping an accurate God-View in his life.  Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but knowing it and allowing this knowledge to inform how he lived are two entirely different things.  Peter wrestled with his God-View.  Wrestling isn’t a bad thing…wrestling makes us stronger, it makes us want the truth more and it helps to shape us in the image of our Creator.

No matter what your view of God has been, is or will become, you are never beyond restoration.  Our thoughts of God need to continue to grow, mature and evolve as we learn and experience more of Him in our lives.

What’s your GodView?  How is it healthy and how is it unhealthy?  What needs to change?  Where do you need to grow?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Eternal Paradox

This morning as I was getting ready for hockey and eating some breakfast, I flipped on the TV and turned to Sportscentre on TSN.  I was half-listening to the commentary while watching a few hockey highlights when something the announcer said caught my ear.  He said something like, "getting into heaven is easier than getting into baseball heaven" in reference to Andre Dawson's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In case you don't know the process for induction into the hall of fame, let me give you the "Frizz" notes version.  Once a player retires, he has to wait roughly 5 years in order to begin being put on the ballot to be voted into the hall of fame.  Some players never make it into the hall due to this process.  Sports writers and other baseball people are invited to vote on these players.  Andre Dawson made the hall of fame in his 9th year of eligibility.  I can't remember entirely, but I believe that after 10-15 years on the ballot the player's name is pulled off of it and he is no longer eligible to gain entry into the hall of fame.

What I appreciated about the comment made on Sportscentre is that it is true.  Getting into heaven is the "easy" part of the Christian life...some call it buying fire insurance!!  The challenge of the Christian life is how to we live in light of eternity.  Knowing that our eternal resting place is secure in heaven when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and walk in relationship with Him, how is our life different as a result?  Some people (including myself) wrestle with this paradox for their entire lives.  Our wrestle is with adopting this new identity that Jesus has given us and to live life in light of this new identity which is rooted in Christ.

Some people say it is enough to just believe that you are going to heaven.  I think that your belief in heaven and your belief in Jesus will begin to shape the way you choose to live.  I believe that following Christ means learning to grow in your love for God and love for others.  In my marriage and my relationships with my children, I MUST be growing in my love for them.  My love must not only be proclaimed, but must also be demonstrated on a daily basis.  If it is not, am I truly in love with my family?  The same can be said of our relationship with Christ.  If we are living in light of eternity, we should be proclaiming and demonstrating our love for God and for others on a daily basis while learning to grow in both of these areas.

I'm thankful that I'm a work in progress and that perfection isn't demanded from me.  If it was, then there is no need for Jesus in our world.  But the truth is that our world desperately needs Christ, and I desperately need Christ in every moment of every day.  Live your life in light of eternity and grow in your love, don't settle for simply retaining fire insurance!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Meeting a Need

So what happens when you are trying to do the "right" thing and you offer to help someone out and they turn you down?  What do you do with that?  What if you offer a cup of water in the name of Jesus and it is rejected?  Does that mean you failed in your attempt to be Jesus and to bring Jesus into our world through love in action?

No, I don't believe so.  In our quest to mimic the behavior of Christ we need to be prepared to deal with rejection on a number of levels.  People may not understand why we are doing what we are doing, and they might tell us that much or even show us their disapproval.  The question we need to ask ourselves during these moments of rejection is simply this, "so now what?"  Will we quit demonstrating the gospel just because our efforts are in "vain", or so it seems at the time.

This is what I ask myself every day.  Our neighbor is away at RCMP training and has left behind his wife and two daughters while he works to achieve a better life for their family in the future.  His wife doesn't drive and has no way to go out and run errands or get groceries.  Bonny & I have offered to take her out when she needs, but she has yet to respond to our invitation.  Does this mean we've failed at being good neighbors?  No, I don't believe so.  We've simply responded to the need that we are aware of with what we have to offer.  If our overtures of grace are rejected, we can't do anything about it.  What we can do is control our attitude and our response to the needs that surround us.