Friday, September 29, 2006

The temple of God

The church is called the temple of God. In Ephesians 2:22 the apostle Paul states that we "are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." We are viewed as the temple of God because it is where the Spirit dwells not because we are so righteous and good. It is important to note that this is the work and grace of God.
However the other interesting thing in this text is that we are not finished. In the book Images of the New Testament Church Paul Minear states that we are not to imagine a finished temple but a temple that is in construction.
We (personally, the local congregation and the universal church) are places where God is working. Places where God is in midst of constructing a temple. Yes, we are the temple now because the Spirit dwells in us at the present time. But this is not a passive dwelling but rather it is active.
The picture that I have in my head is one of buying a house. A person can buy a brand new house move in and relax and live. Or a person can buy a fixer-up. A house where you move in and dwell not to just relax but to repair and improve. We are fixer-up temples. Places where God dwells fixing and repairing his home. Not just minor repairs (like changing a light bulb) but actually a radical and total renovation.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Preaching Re-Imagined

I just finished reading Preaching Re-Imagined by Doug Pagitt. Ok so I did not read the whole thing. I skimmed most of the chapters. But I believe I got the essence of the book. I actually found it a little repetitive.
Doug states that our preaching is just like making public speeches and we need to change that. Instead of giving speeches he believes we should be inviting people to interact and engage themselves in the sermon. In other words people should help prepare, deliver and discuss the sermon. None of this should be done by one person alone. Preaching should be a conversation where we are all changed.
I totally like his ideas. However the question becomes how do we do this? How do I begin to invite people to be a part of the conversation?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jesus Loves me

I was listening to a speaker last night (Richard Showalter). He was talking about how the love of God can propel us in our ministry. One of the stories that he told was about a research team that decided to try and figure out the characteristics of a successful Christian leader. Their plan was survey (or evaluate) different successful Christian leaders and figure out what characteristics they had. Then compare and eliminate all the ones that did not match. So the end result would be that they would have a list of characteristics that all the leaders had in common. So they did their study. They asked questions about prayer life, bible reading, public speaking, and so on. When they finished that all the leaders only shared one characteristic. They were all convinced that God loved them.
This sense of being loved and being loved by God effects our entire lives. It is this sense of being loved that allows us to truly move forward. It gives us the confidence to risk and even fail.
Now I have grown up in the church so of course I have heard that God loves me. But do I really, really know that? Do I feel it in my bones? Do I allow God's love to define and redefine me? Do I constantly seek love in other areas of my life? Do fail to risk because I am scared to fail because I feel that will effect how God loves me? Am I ready to receive God's love?

"Jesus loves me this I know..."

Monday, September 25, 2006


Ever since my family came home from holidays my kids and wife have been wanting a dog. It seems like everyone else has dogs. So my kids have been asking and asking to get a dog. My oldest daughter informed me the other day that she was not a cat person but a dog person.
I have been holding out. I feel like a city under siege. But I developed a plan. The first part of the plan was to get the kids to realize how much work a dog is (I have already convinced my wife somewhat). So one day we were sitting at the table for supper and I began to attacked with reasons we should have a dog. Well very confidently I began my attack plan. I asked "who is going to feed the dog?" The girls said they would. "Who is going to walk the dog?" Once again they would. "Who is going to wash the dog?" They would. Now it time for my killer question, "and who is going to clean up after the dog?" I sat back confident I now had them. My confidence only grew as all three girls sat silent. Finally one spoke up "Well Dad you have to do something." Ok so I lost round one. But I was not finished yet. The next part of the plan was to dog-sit our friends dog for the weekend. This way everyone could experience exactly how much work a dog. My problems began to develop in the fact that I picked the wrong dog. The dog we got was a wonderful dog. It never barked. It was very good with the kids. In fact by the end of the weekend I began to feel like having a dog would be a really good thing. I have a feeling that I am losing the battle. But as of yet we still do not have dog. But if my kids continue to attack I may very well fall.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


This Sunday I am preaching on Philippians 1:20-30. In this passage Paul talks about living for Jesus the King or dying and being with Jesus. Throughout the whole thing he talks about how he is not ashamed and will not be ashamed. He then calls the Philippians to live their lives like that.
It has been very interesting walking through this passage because my Grandma is dying. Right now she is in the hospital and I have been told that she will not live many more days (in fact I have heard that it may just be a matter of hours - but no one knows for sure). So I have been thinking about the life that my Grandma has lived and been thinking about how Paul tells us to live. My Grandma (and Grandpa) are excellent examples of the type of life that Paul is calling us to live. Through out their entire lives they have sought to have the message of Jesus proclaimed. They have traveled all over the world telling people about Jesus. They are amazing examples of faithfulness to our King Jesus. My Grandma has not always been the one to talk but her life and presence have shown so much about who God is. This of course does not mean that they are prefect. Paul was not prefect either (sometimes I sense in his writing his continued 'shame' at persecuting the church). But the story that captured my Grandma was the story of Jesus. She has lived her entire life inline with this story. When she departs it will be better by far for her - for she will get to be with Jesus. Her death will leave a great hole here. And the reason that it will is because she has lived such a good and godly life.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Simply Christian

I just finished reading Simply Christian by NT Wright. It is a very, very good book. Tom (that is NT Wright's name) writes about what it means to be a Christian in our world today. Apparently it is sort of like Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. If you are looking for a good book read this one. A couple of the highlights.
Tom states that there are a couple of ways that we view God and the world. First is that God and the world are totally joined together - that they are one. This is pantheism. So prayer in this setting becomes discovering one's true self. In fact all spirituality in this view can become very me focused (because if everything is god then I am god.)
Second view is that God and the world are totally separated and distant. This is deism. Prayer in this setting is like talking to a distant God who may or may not hear and who may or may not respond. Also within this view the goal is to escape this wicked and corrupt world.
Tom states that these two views are not the Christian view. So there is a third view. That God is separate but close to the world. In fact there are places where heaven and earth interlock and overlap. Within this view the goal becomes the salvation of the world (pantheism says nothing is wrong and deism just wants to escape, let the world burn). Prayer is one of those places where heaven and earth interlock and overlap.
Often Tom shows how as Christians we have bought into either pantheism or deism.
I am going to finish off this entry with a final quote from Tom
"Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new that is dawning. That,quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world. God's new world, which he has thrown open before us." (Simply Christian)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Knee surgery

On Tuesday I had knee surgery. It was just a minor surgery - they cleaned out some cartilage. But it has me off my feet for a couple days. So I have reading lots of books, playing video games and watching TV.
One of the books I have just finished reading was traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. It was a really good book. Anne tells it as it is. She has this courage to look into her life and see what she is like and then to write it down so that the rest of us can see it as well. It reminded me that spirituality is messy. I would like everything to nice and neat and simple but it isn't. We are really all messed up people - some of hide it better than others (of course that is just another way that we are messed up). Which means that our spirituality is messed up and is messy. What amazes me is that God still works inspite of all this. He seems willing to get messy with us and work with us where we are at. Of course the whole point is that he is not willing to leave us in our mess. But he also never gives up on us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Spiritual Gifts

I am getting totally sick and tired of hearing about spiritual gifts. Now I have to admit that at one point I was a devoted disciple of spiritual gifts and believed that every person had to know what their gift was and serve in that area. But I have been converted (de-converted) for better or for worse.
In case you do not know what spiritual gifts are let me explain. Spiritual gifts are gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to people to serve and extend the Kingdom of Jesus the Messiah. There are all kinds of gifts - I have seen many different lists with many different gifts. Now I do believe that spiritual gifts are biblical and that the Holy Spirit does give them but I am beginning to have a problem with how the church is using spiritual gifts.
I am not sure how long ago - but it was a while back - the church began to teach that everyone had to know what their spiritual gift was and then serve in that area. I personally gone through the process of discovering my gifts many times - and have in fact lead other people through this. But I have begun to see problems with this. It sounds good in theory but practical is a little more difficult.
First problem is figuring out what gift God has given me. The usual way is to take a survey. The problem with the survey is that it focuses on past experiences - not sure how else they would write a survey but this still causes problems. You see if I have never done something then how would I know if I have the gift or not. If I have not preached how would I know whether or not God has spoken through me. The other problem is that every survey has different gifts listed (and actually often define them differently). So if I am suppose to know my gift what happens if that survey does not have my gift listed? Another problem with finding my gift is that I believe God gives gifts for a period and then gives a person a different gift. So now I have to constantly say "I had this gift but I need to double check and see if I still do have it."
The second problem with the way that spiritual gifts are used is that instead of empowering people it seems to stop people from growing. It is amazing how many times I have heard the expression "that is not my gift." Instead of trying new things and being stretched we retreat to doing what is safe. Now my God is a god who likes to stretch me and push me into new things. But it seems that people are using spiritual gifts as an excuse for not growing.
This leads me to the third problem is that I see people using spiritual gifts as an excuse to be disobedient to God. They state it is not my gift when God has commanded them to do it any way. For example on Sunday my church was having a picnic and a stranger wandered into our area and looked around. He was obviously not a part of our group. But no one went up to him. No one showed him any hospitality. On his way out of our group my wife and I caught him and talked to him. Now I have to confess that I did not see him - my wife did. And if I did see him I am not so sure I would have gone up to him anyway. But the point is that no one did. I am sure we all have our excuses (and some of them are valid) but everyone had an excuse? I am sure some people would even use the excuse "it was not my gift. Hospitality is for someone else." Now no one said this in this case but I have actually heard people use their gift as an excuse for disobeying God.
So I am tired of spiritual gifts. My advice to people is learn to pray, read your bible and listen to God and then do what he says whether it is your gift or not.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Who owns the story of a people? When I first heard this question I thought it was a strange question. Of course I thought no one owns the story of a people. The story belongs to everyone and we must listen to everyone to come to the truth.
However my Dad, Darryl , is quoted in an article that states that this is an important question (you can read the article by going to coffee with Warren and then clicking on 2006 columns and then clicking on Who has the Right to Tell the Aboriginal Stories? - July 12). My Dad states that: "The story is who we are. The story is the people, the people are the story." We are defined by the stories that we tell and by the stories that we do not tell. The stories that are held together are what make a people a 'people' instead of a group of individuals who live near together. In fact stories can make a people a 'people' regardless of the distance between them. Since stories are what really define a people who has the right to tell their stories? My Dad points out a couple things in the article. First is that if the person telling the story is outside of the culture we need to be asking what might they be missing. Would people of that culture tell the story differently? Would the person telling the story be making distinctions that the culture does not (in other words how is their culture affecting the way that they tell another culture's story). Second, is we need to asking why is this person telling the story. For this will affect how they tell the story. Everyone has slant.
With all this said I ask the question again "who owns the story?" I said at the beginning that no one owns the story and all must be listened to get to the truth. However what truth are we talking about? The truth of why certain things happened? Different cultures will give different answers this question. Our culture which denies the "super-natural" looks only for natural explanations. Other cultures will look for "super-natural" reasons. Who has the truth? Also there are times when I can hardly explain rationally why I do something. Why would I think that I will be able to give a definitive answer on why something happened in history? (This does not mean that should not seek these answers but that we should realize our answers are shaky at best). Or perhaps the truth we seek is the truth of the people, who are these people. Then it seems that the people have first dibs on their story. The way they tell their story has to take precedent over how others tell their story. Though I do recognize that we do not define ourselves in isolation. Others also define us by the stories that they tell of us - so we need to also hear those stories (though often those stories will say more about the people telling the story then about the people the story is about).

So what stories are we listening to? Who is telling those stories? Why are they telling them?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beige God

One of our summer interns, Rachel, wrote this rant on "the Beige God". It made me want to grab a paint can and start painting.

We serve a beige God.

We prefer our God isn’t too exciting—not completely blank and white, but just the appropriate shade of off-white, with not too much brightness or richness in colour. He may have different shades of nice, warm, beige, but still only beige. I mean—look at our sanctuary!

How does that translate into our worship?

Well, we worship our concept of God. If we viewed God as distant, then our building might have plain white walls, and wouldn’t be that interesting or inviting. If we viewed God as diverse, like the people He’s created, then our building would be a hodge podge of different colours and cultures. If we viewed God as exciting and inviting, then our building might be warmly lit, with bright, vibrant accents, giving a focal point to things which will invite us to contemplate our God.

Beige, to me, means we worship a safe God. Beige won’t disturb anyone’s colour scheme too much—you can match it with almost anything—and the colour isn’t going to distract anyone. The different shades of beige might be different parts of God that we bring out in our worship, but it is nonetheless all beige.

Now, putting the actual sanctuary aside, the God we tend to worship is beige in character. He does not disturb our lives too much, and He does not invade our minds too often. He is fine with us just sitting still in the church service, looking like good people, even if our minds are focused on anything but Him. We don’t think God would be red—He wouldn’t get angry, would He? He’s pretty safe, and we don’t need to be in fear of Him, do we? God wouldn’t be blue and vast and powerful like an ocean—allowing disasters to create character in us?

We might hear, on Sunday morning, about a God who disturbs people and pulls them out of their comfort zones, but it is easier to hold on to our comfortable, undisturbing, beige God.

He wouldn’t ask us to do anything we wouldn’t enjoy, would He?

He wouldn’t want us to do anything that might take a lot of effort, would He?

He wouldn’t want us to quite spoiling ourselves by only doing what we want, would He?

He wouldn’t want us to actually forget about ourselves and love people without an agenda, would He?

Of course, He would. But do we actually listen? Are we willing to let go of our beige God?

God is shown through the Bible… and He does get angry…

When people don’t do the good they should do

When people do good, but only because they want something in return

When people see each other as projects instead of people

When people judge instead of seeing one another’s hearts

When people come to church, but don’t come to meet God

When people don’t care for each other, but only look after their own needs

God is also a God who gives gifts—and expects them to be used for Him.

So, when people have a passion for youth, they are to use it.

When people are good administrators, they should know they are needed—and then use their gift to help people who are not.

When people are gifted, we need to recognize it in each other, and help each other find those gifts.

But then—the most important part is that we need to use those gifts. That is part of being the diverse body of Christ. And if God is beige, then our gifts are boring, and not alive, because we only see certain gifts, and don’t recognize others as important.

God is also big and worthy of awe, but He is also close. And he does care for us, and love us, but because of that love, He does not let us be as we are. He asks us to leave ourselves behind. And the life He calls us to good, but is not safe. It is not beige.

The pastors this summer have done a very good job of encouraging us, and taking us out of our comfort zones… were you listening?

“At the centre of the conversion process is the destruction of our own image of God in order to allow God to be God for us: or God who not only is other than what we are, but is also other than what we want God to Be.”

~ Jacques Pasquier