Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

A prayer for the new year:
Lord God,
in whom I find life, health, and strength
through whose gifts I am clothed and fed,
through whose mercy I have been forgiven and cleansed,
be for me Guide, Strength, Savior, and Lord,
all the days of my life.
I offer my prayers through Christ. Amen.
(From Hymnal: A Worship Book)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End of the year

The end of the year is naturally a time of reflection. What happened? What was God up to? What blessings were poured out? What struggles were entered into?
Reflecting I have to say I am very blessed. There were so many opportunities to be a part of God's mission in this world.
However one of the most shocking discoveries that I made this year was how hard my heart is. I realized that I am so lacking in compassion and love. Too many times I have avoided people instead of loving them. And as I made this discovery I have been amazed to witness people around me having huge hearts, loving so much, showing so much compassion.
My prayer for the next year is that Jesus would capture my heart and imagination and fill me with so much love that it would flow out to the people around me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

A prayer for Christmas:
Almighty God, you made this holy night with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus' presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
(from the Lutheran Book of Worship)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ReJesus - Question 4

The fourth question Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch say we need to always be asking in their book ReJesus is:
In how many ways do we domesticate the radical Revolutionary in order to sustain our religion and religiosity?

62. Ok, Michael and Alan are not actually looking for a number. But I couldn’t resist.
Personally, I feel that this question is a little loaded. It implies that we most certainly do domesticate Christ in order to sustain our religion and religiosity. Do we? Alan and Michael make a strong case that we do. They say rituals (religion and religiosity?), which do have a vital purpose in sustaining faith, often become a way in which we avoid God.
“Although genuine faith is born out of direct encounters with God, it cannot survive and prosper without some form of stability and order. Viewed positively, rituals, creeds, and organizations can help people structure their relationship with God. In fact, we believe this is what they initially were designed for. But unless the worshipper is very wary, the glory of the God encounter will fade and the ritual, creeds, and rules intended to preserve the encounter will take its place.”

Encountering God is a little bit scary. It is beautiful and glorious and amazing. And he is full of love and grace and mercy. But he is still God – the creator of the world – and often the encounters with him end up changing me (which is scary). So often we want someone to meet with God on our behalf (Moses to go up the mountain and let us know what God said). And this is what we do with our religion and religiosity, we use it to keep Jesus away from us, to make sure he is tame and does not challenge us. Instead of going to God personally we do rituals. For example we go to church Sunday morning to hear what the preacher discovered in his encounter with God instead of meeting with God during the week ourselves. Instead of reading the bible we read what others have written about the bible. Now please understand me, I do believe that going to church and reading books is a good thing – but it should never replace our own encounter with God.

What rituals, creeds, organizations have you found help give structure to your relationship with God?
What rituals, creeds, organizations have lead you to keeping Jesus at a distance?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas thanksgiving

The Christmas season is a time where we naturally give thanks. We say thank you for the great meals that we enjoy. We thank people for the gifts that we get. We say thanks to God for sending his son. We have so many things to give thanks for.
I encourage to be very intentional this week about saying thanks to God and to people around you.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I have a fascination with surfing. The couple of times that I tried to surf I spent most of my time eating sand. It still is a lot of fun and I really wish I could surf.
Here is a video with a guy talking about how lucky he is to be alive after wiping out surfing - Greatest Wipe Out

Also check this video of surfing:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ReJesus - Question 3

As we continue to explore Alan and Michael's book ReJesus let's look at the third question they say Christians should always be asking:

How do we assess the continuity required between the life and example of Jesus and subsequent religion called Christianity?

Alan and Michael give three ways to assess the church: right thinking (orthodoxy), right acting (orthopraxy) and right feeling (orthopathy). We need to have all three not just one.

One the greatest strengths of this book is that it takes theology seriously. Alan and Michael do not water down theology. In fact one of their biggest arguments is that the Christian religion has believed in a Jesus that is not theologically correct. We have the right doctrines often enough. The problem is too often the churches seems to have really believed something other than what they say they believe. See the post that examined Question 2 to get an idea of this. They also state that we don’t take the bible seriously enough. What they mean is that too often we read the bible like we are in charge (the bible is an answer book to our questions). Instead the bible should be in charge (it should be allowed to ask us questions).

Right belief needs to be mixed with right feelings. Our hearts and passions are important in following Jesus. “We cannot be disinterested spectators when it comes to Jesus. In fact, in the encounters described in the New Testament, the desire of people to remain neutral observers is in a real sense the real sin.” “Essentially what we are trying to say here is that we have to engage our heart to truly understand Jesus, but also to become like him and to follow him over the long haul.”

And finally we need to have right action. Right beliefs and right feelings lead to right action. If there is no action then the beliefs and feelings are wrong. “In the Bible, the real test of what you know is how you live.”

So if we want to know if we are successful at following Jesus we need to examine our beliefs, passions and actions.

Does the church truly study the word of God? Doe the church allow God’s word to study us?

Is the church passionate about the things of God? There is a song that prays “break my heart with the things that break yours.”

Do Christians live like Jesus?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What is your favorite Christmas song?

The 4th Sunday of Advent is "music morning" in my church. There is no sermon just music. My favorite Christmas carol is "O come, O come Emmanuel":

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel!

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ben - the coffee guy

On Saturday one of my friends, Ben, died suddenly. I am going to miss him. I was first introduced to him as the coffee guy for Christian Growth Class. Every week Ben would come to class and make coffee and arrange snacks. He did this for years (I often wonder if he attended Christian Growth Class more times than I have). Ben also taught Sunday school for many years (where he would often bring snacks).
Over the past couple of years (ever since he retired) Ben was a part of the church coffee break (as staff at the church we have coffee every day at 10 and 3 and people in the community are invited to join us). He would come several times a week and would always make coffee and bring snacks - cookies, oranges, home baked goods.
I will miss talking with him and hearing him laugh and watching him and Bill give each other a hard time. I am going to even miss Ben's stubborn streak.
Ben was part of our community and this Christmas season we grieve his death.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ReJesus - Question 2

The second question that Alan and Michael, in their book ReJesus, say the church to ask is:
How is the Christian religion, if we could legitimately call it that, informed and shaped by the Jesus that we meet in the Gospels?

Michael and Alan argue that the Christian religion has been shaped too much by a Jesus that we have created rather than the Jesus the Gospels declare. They illustrate their point by directing our attention to popular portraits of Jesus.
They begin off with William Holman;s painting “The Light of the World” – which they call “the bearded-lady Jesus”. They describe it saying Jesus has “flowing blond locks swept back from the face, high cheekbones, groomed eyebrows, full lips, with heavenward gazing, gentle eyes – he’s beautiful.”… “He is wearing a silk ball gown (we’re not sure what else you’d call it).” And they sum up the shaping power of this image by stating “This is the inoffensive Messiah, clean and tidy, pleasing to the eye. This is no disturber of our souls. This image of Jesus reflects a spirituality that is anchored in an adoration of the wonderful Christ, the unattainable Jesus.”
Next painting is Pompeo Batoni “Sacred Heart” – this type of depiction of Jesus is called “the spooky Jesus”. This painting portrays Jesus “as an otherworldly being, swathed in swirling haloes and unearthly auras.” Jesus is divine but not really human. These kind of images focus solely on “the intangible, wise, ethereal, otherworldly, composed aspects of Jesus.”
On the flip side there is the image from BBC’s "Son of God" – they call this the “ordinary Galilean Jesus”. Michael and Alan use this image to emphasize the group that believe that Jesus is only human and not divine – “an ordinary itinerant storyteller and religious guru”.
The next images of Jesus examined are called the “revolutionary Jesus”. The authors point to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film “II Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel according to Saint Matthew)”. Here Jesus is seen someone who came to destroy and lead in a great revolution. Michael and Alan say that Jesus’ “work was to transform Israel, and beyond that the world, not by rejecting or abolishing Israel’s faith but by embodying it and calling Israel back to its true belief.”
So we have, the bearded lady Jesus, spooky Jesus, ordinary Galilean Jesus, and the revolutionary Jesus. They briefly mention a few more (and we can add some) like, German Jesus (a Jew with blue eyes?) or William Wallace Jesus. Alan and Michael say that these imagines of Jesus shape the Christian religion more than the Jesus in the Gospels.
Are they right?
I heard Michael speak the other day and he asked how well we knew the Jesus of the Gospels?
Have we moved beyond the Sunday School understandings of his stories and teachings (these are good for a 6 year old but aren’t we a little older and wiser)?
Do we know his teachings?
Do we quote him?
Is he our hero?
Do we strive to be like him?
Does the Jesus of the Gospels shape our church or just our safe distant images of him?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Advent Conspiracy - it is happening

I have been hearing about some really cool things happening. People are really starting to embrace the Advent Conspiracy. Instead of just talking about focusing Christmas on Jesus rather than just stuff people are conspiring to do things, conspiring to demonstrate who Jesus is to our world.
My church is responsible for providing some food for the Christmas Day dinner that happens in our community. Over the past few years someone told me that is was almost like pulling teeth, not quite that bad but close. This year we have almost everything we need and it is only December 9.
There have been pails and pails of cookies coming into the church for Inner City. It has been hard to resist tasting these cookies (we have - Dolores guards them very well).
Angle Tree has been going really well. There are more gifts that need to be bought but the response has been great.
I even hear children talking about how to raise $15,000 to drill a well, instead of talking about what they want for Christmas.
I am so blessed to be a part of this community.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

ReJesus - Question 1

ReJesus: A wild Messiah for a Missional Church, by Michale Frost and Alan Hirsch.

Alan and Michael begin their book by exploring how too many Christian groups have (proclaim) a Jesus that looks radically different from the one found in the gospel.
There are five questions that they suggest Christians should constantly be asking. Over the next couple of weeks I want to explore these questions.
  1. What ongoing role does Jesus the Messiah play in shaping the ethos and self-understanding of the movement that originated in him?
Obviously, Jesus should play the ultimate and pivotal role in shaping the ethos and self-understanding of movement that originated in him. This is Alan and Michael’s major claim through out the book, Jesus should be central to everything.
However, the authors point out that too often the church has allowed others to play the pivotal role in shaping the ethos. That could be the founding fathers of a certain denomination. So for us Mennonites does Menno Simmons or Michael Sattler shape who we are more than Jesus?
I have to confess that I am a strong Anabaptist (a board term for Mennonite). Within my church right now there is a conversation about the emerging church. I tell people I have no desire to be “emerging church” I want to be more “Anabaptist”. Should I rather say that I want us to be more like Jesus? This is not to say that we throw out the theology of the Anabaptists. I really resonate with Anabaptist theology. But our ultimate reference point is not the early Anabaptists, it is Jesus.

Monday, December 07, 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent

We are in the midst of our advent series called Advent Conspiracy. It has been amazing hearing people talk about things they do to make Christmas more about being Jesus then just about getting presents.
One of the challenges is to buy one less present this year - and give the money you save to help someone who needs it.

This coming Sunday we are going to explore how Christmas is about relationships. Jesus came to bring us into relationship with God and to free us to live in right relationship with others. I actually think our culture understands this focus a little. Many of the Christmas movies are about families being together. It gives us a nice and warm feeling thinking about families being together.
However Christmas is also a time when families often experience a lot of pain. Either because someone died or because the family is broken. How does/should Christmas speak to this reality?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Jesus has AIDS

My wife found this article last night - Jesus has AIDS. It is worth reading. Here are a couple that stood out to me:
When we stand in judgment, we’ll stand, Jesus tells us, accountable for how we recognized him in the trauma of those who don’t seem to bear the glory of Christ at all right now. We see Jesus now, by faith, in the sufferings of the crack baby, the meth addict, the AIDS orphan, the hospitalized prodigal who sees his ruin in the wires running from his veins.

And so, if we love Jesus, our churches should be more aware of the cries of the curse, including the curse of AIDS, than the culture around us.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

2nd Sunday of Advent

This coming Sunday is going to be focused on issues of justice. The kingdom of Jesus is a kingdom of justice and peace. I do not believe that Jesus came simply to get us into heaven. In fact I am completely convinced that he came so that we may become like him (be his disciples) - getting into heaven is byproduct of being forgiven and changed.
So in keeping with our theme of advent conspiracy let me ask a couple of questions:
1. What things did Jesus challenge or change in order to bring justice and peace to this world? As his disciples what things are we to challenge or change?
2. Does Christmas promote justice? Or are things about Christmas that promote injustice?

Monday, November 23, 2009

1st Sunday of Advent

It is hard to believe that Advent is almost here. Advent is the time that we wait with expectation for celebration of the birth of Christ (Christmas). However in our culture Christmas is no longer really about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Buying presents is more important than Jesus. And this is true of Christians (this is most likely not a surprise to anyone).
So this year the theme in my church is "Advent Conspiracy". It is a calling for people to take actions to make Christmas about celebrating Christ not simply about buying stuff.
On this first Sunday of Advent we are going to talk about how God gives of himself.

Check out the Advent Conspiracy site and let me know what you think.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Last night I met Wayne at Denny's. As we talked he let me know that he sleeps on streets. He told me that he wants a home. He wants to live in a place where he can go to bathroom and have shower and do laundry.
After praying for him I wandered back to my hotel and had a nice warm shower. Wayne wandered down the street and I assumed found a place to sleep outside.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Church Planting congress

This afternoon Wagdi Iskander shared his story. It was amazing. I don't even know how to summarize what he said. He talked about his experience of converting from Islam to Christianity. At one point he was slated to be executed for becoming a Christian.
However the one thing that pierced me was right at the end. Wagdi talked about the need to reach Muslims with the gospel of God. He mentioned the church in Canada by and large is not engaged or passionate about it. And earlier Wagdi said that he was talking to another pastor about this and that pastor said the church in Canada will not be engaged until their is martyr - until someone dies. Wagdi then looked at us and told us that he told his family he was willing to be that martyr. He is willing to die so that the church in Canada who become passionate about reaching his people.
And he meant it.
Now I hope I am willing to die for Jesus. But this is not what Wagdi said. He is willing to die for the church, he is willing to die so that we discover the passion of God.

Church Planting congress

Yesterday afternoon Stuart Murray and Juliet Kilpin shared about "What God is doing in my neighborhood? And how am I to discern that?"
One of the things that they said was "God's church does not have a mission. God's mission has a church." In other words don't think that we bring God into the neighborhood. He is already there we need to join him in what he is doing. This sounds a lot like Experiencing God.
How do we know what God is doing? They said we should look for shalom seekers. Shalom is God's peace - this includes things like freedom from violence but also includes things like justice and security.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Church Planting congress

Just finished day 2 of the church planting congress here in Calgary. My head is very full of information. It has been great - wish my whole church was here with us.
Allow me to share a couple of highlights from the morning sessions:

Glenn Smith
Said a lot of the same things as Mike Frost from the night before. One thing he did talk about was the need to take place seriously. He said that God always works in a certain place with a certain people. Glenn gave a few principles of how the church should work with neighborhood.
  1. We need to have a commitment to interpret the triune God to the neighborhood. We may be the only bible that they will ever read.
  2. We bear witness to Jesus and all his teaching in word and deed.
  3. Christian education for the whole church seriously
  4. We need to bring our hearts and heads together.
Mike Frost - So far this has been the best session I have been in
Mike asked how we know when someone belongs to our church? He then said that most likely feel that they belong to church if they attend the Sunday morning service. In Mike's church they define belonging by practices. They have five practices and to belong to the church you have to do them. They are
Bless 3 people every week
Eat with 3 people every week
Listen to the Holy Spirit at least once during the week
Learn about Jesus once every week
Sent - journal about how God has sent you this week.
What would it look like if our churches were defined around practices instead of Sunday morning services?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Church Planting congress

Church Planting Congress - session #1 - Mike Frost

Here are some highlights from the first session at Church Planting Congress.
  • The church does not define it's mission - we are defined by God's mission
  • God is always on a mission - he extends himself beyond himself
  • We are called to extend ourselves beyond ourselves
  • Our Goal is to alert people to the reign of God in Christ - we do this by announcing it and demonstrating it

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

As part of the peace church I have often struggled with Remembrance Day. It has often felt that by remembering the wars we were saying that war was ok, or even a good thing. But I don't believe that we need to oppose Remembrance Day in order to show that we oppose war. In fact I think we should remember. Allow me to share two reasons:
  1. Soldiers have given their lives. Whether or not we agree with the war that they fought in soldiers have given their lives for our country. They deserve our respect and honor. I can respect someone even if I disagree with them
  2. We remember that war is hell. Not only have our soldiers died, civilians have died, our enemies have died. War is a terrible thing that has claimed millions of lives. By remembering we can recommit ourselves to working for peace in this world. Too often avoiding Remembrance Day has not led to a greater push for peace but rather has just led me to just stick my head in the sand.
For these reasons today I am going to remember.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Matthew 4:12-17

A new song by David Crowder fits very well with this passage:

Light and Shadows

Life is full of light and shadow
O the joy and O the sorrow
O the sorrow

And yet will He bring
Dark to light
And yet will He bring
Day from night

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we're thrown and we're tossed
We remember the cost
We rest in Him
Shadow of the cross

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Matthew 4:1-11

In my last post I talked about what I discovered about myself when I thought about fasting. At the end of the post I gave one reason I thought fasting would be a good thing. As I read the rest of the story about Jesus' temptation I discovered a few interesting things - possibly a few reasons why we should fast.

The first temptation. Jesus is tempted to live need centered instead of God centered. Satan tempts Jesus to fulfill his needs outside of God. Jesus responds by stating that what we truly need is God.
This temptation is clearly linked to fasting. After all the temptation is about food. Why fast? Because it is a reminder that we need God more than we need anything else (including food). It can also remind us that we are not to seek to fulfill our needs outside of God. A while later in the gospel Jesus tells us not worry about our basic needs. We are to seek God's kingdom.

Second temptation. Jesus is tempted to live a me centered life instead of a God centered life. Here Jesus is taken to the highest point of the temple and is invited to throw himself down because God will protect him. There are several things going on. One, is the temptation to test God instead of trusting him. This is really about being me centered. We demand that God jump through our hoops. We expect him obey us instead of obeying him. And the funny thing about testing God is that we will always need one more proof. Another thing that is going is that if Jesus would have jumped and been safe and landed in the temple then people would have known that he was something special. So this was also a temptation to be prideful. And pride is being self centered.
I wonder if fasting can also help us here. Fasting is about denying ourselves. Denying ourselves the basic necessities of life. We do something that physically declares that we are not the center of the world - God is. After all fasting is not simply about giving up food it is always linked to prayer.

The third temptation. Here Jesus is tempted to be result centered not God centered. Satan tells Jesus that he will give him all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus has the opportunity to be the great king of the world right now - God's plan is for him to eventually become lord of all. However to get this quick result Jesus is invited to abandon God and God's way which leads to the cross.
Can fasting help us here? Well in my last post I mentioned that fasting seems to be impractical. But maybe that is something good. Can I obey God even when it seems impractical or do I always need to have a clear result?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Jesus fasts for forty days

Matthew 4:1-11

Fasting. In this text we see Jesus spending forty days fasting. Now I have to confess I have not personally spent a lot of my time fasting. My church has encouraged giving up something for Lent (the 40 days before Easter) and I have taken part of that. But fasting from food has not really been a part of spiritual life or journey. A few people in my congregation have said a couple things that have challenged me in this area.
So I began to ask why hasn't fasting been part of my life. The sense that I getting right now is that I think fasting is a waste of time. Why fast from food? God already hears my prayers, fasting isn't going improve that. Often fasting in the Old Testament was done to seek God's forgiveness. But because of Christ I am already forgiven.
One reason came to me why I should fast, fasting reminds me that I need God more than I need food. Do I really believe that?
There a some other reasons that I think fasting might actually be important. But I want to ask you: "Do you think fasting is something Christians should regularly do?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I realized I forgot to mention that I am on holidays this week. Will post again next week.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baptism of Jesus

I have been sick for the past couple of days - if you could pray for me that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Matthew 3:13-17

I have often wondered why Jesus gets baptized by John. He says it is "to fulfill all righteousness". But I haven't always been clear on what he means by that statement. John's baptism was a baptism of repentance and Jesus was sinless so he did not have to repent.
Was this some way of identifying with John and/or the people who were coming to John?

What do you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rethink your conference

The conference I am part of, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference (EMMC), is in the process of discussing our core values. If you are part of the conference I invite you to jump over to rethink your conference and join the conversation. But I would love to hear what any of you think - so feel free to post your thoughts here.
There are three core values purposed:

Radical Discipleship - Jesus Christ is the center of our faith
  1. We accept Jesus as both Savior and Lord and live in relationship with him
  2. Accepting Jesus as Savior means we trust him for forgiveness and eternal life
  3. Accepting Jesus as Lord means following him in daily life
  4. We interpret the Bible from a Christ-centered point of view
Authentic Community - Christ-centered Community is the center of our life.
  1. We move beyond individualism to enter the fellowship of Christ’s church.
  2. The experience and practice of forgiveness is the means toward community.
  3. We structure our churches to facilitate community.
  4. We read and interpret Scriptures in the context of community.
  5. Christian community models hope for the world.

Active Reconciliation - Reconciliation is the center of our work and witness.
  1. We call all persons everywhere to be reconciled to God.
  2. We invite all persons to experience the reconciliation of personal healing.
  3. We encourage all people to seek reconciliation in personal relationships.
  4. We work and pray for peace in all areas of conflict and injustice in the world.
  5. We commit ourselves to live in harmony with God’s creation.

Are these good core values? Should we drop some of them? Are we missing something?

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Religious

Matthew 3:1-12
Why does John call the religious people a "brood of vipers"? Why does he tell them to "bear fruit worthy of repentance"?
In Luke's gospel John's message of repentance is directed to everyone who comes to him. But Matthew notes that John specifically targeted the religious with this message. Why?
I mean it makes sense to tell "sinners" to repent. Prostitutes, tax-collectors (who in that society were really traitors to their country and God), gang members, pagans, atheists, liars, cheaters, adulterers and people like that need to change. But John directs his message to the religious.

Could it be that we, the religious, need to repent of:
  • Using religion as a cover up for our own sin. Instead of examining ourselves we simply see the wickedness of those who are not part of our religious group.
  • Using religion as a way to get power. We tell people that in order to be faithful to God they must submit to the religious organization. This can be blatant or very subtle, like using guilt to get volunteers to run programs.
  • Using religion to keep God at a distance. Instead of getting to know God we make spirituality about obeying a list of rules.
Could it be that being religious actually makes it more difficult to experience God's grace?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Intercultural symposium

This morning I attended a seminar called Intercultural Symposium. The intent of the seminar was to help congregations "to embrace the mission at our doorstep". Presenting were Sam Owusu, Andrew Lau and David Macfarlane (David was the speaker at the EMMC gathering in the summer).
I found Sam's presentation very interesting. He argued that in order to be faithful to the bible our churches need to be multi-cultural. Sam pointed to many different passages. It was fascinating to here him read the bible as an immigrant with a multi-cultural prespective. One passage that struck me was Revelation 7:9-10.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
"Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb."
Sam pointed out that worship in heaven is diverse. Once we are in heaven we don't simply become one culture rather it is a gathering of all cultures. And then he pointed out that we pray "your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." So, aren't we praying that our churches become multi-cultural?
I think he is right. If the church truly embraces the great commands - love God and love others - and the great commission - make disciples of all nations - then we will be multi-cultural.

However I still have some questions, like:
If we are suppose to be multi-cultural does this mean that we should no longer start churches that target a certain ethnic group?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jesus and John

Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist comes across as a fiery, wild, crazy man. He shows up in the dessert and preaches that people must repent. Then when the people who are religious show up he calls them a "brood of vipers". He tells them that they have to "bear fruit worthy of repentance".

How does this message line up with Jesus?
Compare Matthew's summary of John's message with his summary of Jesus' message: Matthew 3:2 and Matthew 4:17
Some other texts to ponder
Matthew 7:21-27
Matthew 12:33-37
Matthew 23:12-36

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

John the Baptist

John the Baptist comes as the forerunner of Jesus. Matthew 3:2 gives a summary of John's message:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
The kingdom of heaven refers to the rule and reign of God. John is saying that God is near. God is about to establish his rule and reign. John views himself as standing as standing on the edge of time. God is about to do something new - he is about to act in decisive way.
Once God acts then all the other kingdoms because meaningless. All the rulers, powers, authorities of this world are subdued before God.
The only way respond according to John is to repent. This is more than just a mental decision. Repentance affects the way that we live. No longer live as if the rulers of this world are in charge. We live believing, completely convinced, that God rules.

Who are the rulers in our world? How do we live under their power? What does it look like to live under the power of God?

Friday, October 02, 2009

What about the other babies?

I hate this story. The story that Matthew tells in chapter 2. The one about Herod "the great" killing all the boy children in and around Bethlehem in his attempt to kill Jesus. I read in some commentaries about how God's grace works in this situation by saving Jesus. Jesus' dad, Joseph, is warned to flee in a dream. But all I can think about is "what about the other babies?" Why did God not save them?
Now I have intellectual answers for all this. We can talk about free choice, about how free choice is necessary for there to be love. And that choices have consequences both for the good and bad.
Imagine being a parent. Or an older sibling. Soldiers show up and kill your baby. The anger, the rage, the pain. Intellectual answers would be somewhat empty to say the very least.
And the really tragic thing is that within our history this is not an isolated event. But it is something that is constantly repeated again and again. Those with power killing, abusing, those who are weak. Our world is totally messed up.

And I guess that is why we need a savior.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Matthew 2

This Sunday I am going to be preaching on Matthew 2. I would love to hear what God is saying to you when you read this story.
One thing that stood out to me is the way that people responded to Jesus - even as an infant. On the one hand we have Herod going all crazy and trying to kill Jesus. In fact Herod willingly kills all the baby boys in Bethlehem in his attempt. On the other hand we have the wise men who willingly travel thousands of miles (in a time without cars or planes). In fact it may have taken them two years to reach Bethlehem. They come to worship and give gifts to Jesus.
How do we respond? At times I find myself trying to kill Jesus in my life. I do this by ignoring him, pretending to be super holy, filling my life with all sorts of distracting things...
Then at times by the grace of God I find myself worshiping him. Caught up in some praise song, hearing him speak as I read his word, praying with friends....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A child of promise

Jesus is the ultimate promised child. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about him. The people were waiting and expecting the coming messiah, the one promised by God. Being the child of a promise got me thinking about the partiarchs - Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Issac was specifically a child of promise - God promised Abraham a son and in his old age he had Issac. However all three of the patriarchs had wives who were barren. It was only a special act of God that allowed them to have children.
Now God once again acts in a special way, there is an even more miraculous birth. We have moved from birth in old age to virgin birth. This is an indication that God is doing something new and amazing in Jesus.
As Christians we believe that Jesus was God's ultimate act of redemption. All of history is summed up in Jesus. Jesus is the center of everything.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's your name?

Names in the bible are often very significant. In our culture the most common custom is to name a child something that sounds nice, with little or no thought going into the meaning of the name. In the bible the meaning of the name is very important.
In reading Matthew 1:18-25 we see that the child Mary is going to have is given two names, Jesus and Emmanuel.
Jesus, which is a variation of Joshua, means "God will save".
Emmanuel means "God is with us".
These names give us a picture of the ministry that Jesus has. As the angel says he saves us from our sins. And he is the God who invaded earth, he is truly God with us.
I found interesting that Jesus is never again called Emmanuel. Though looking at his life we see that he fulfilled the calling of that name.

What does your name mean?
My name Benjamin means "son of my right hand".
Now some might not like the meaning of their name or their name may have no meaning at all. This is just fine. As I said our culture often names people for the sound of the word instead of its meaning - this is not wrong.
But I want to ask "do we have two names?" We have the one that is given to us by our parents. But can we allow God to also name us? Can we allow God to give us a name that defines us, a name that will shape the rest of our lives? Honestly I don't know. But I am going spend sometime this week asking God to name me, to define me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Matthew 1:18-25

This coming Sunday I will be preaching on Matthew 1:18-25. I encourage you to read this passage and let me know what God is saying to you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Uriah's wife

The fourth woman listed in Jesus' genealogy is Uriah's wife. Her name is Bathsheba. Her story is recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12.
What happens is: King David is hanging out on the roof of his palace. He sees Bathsheba - who is married to Uriah - bathing. Lusts after her. And ends up committing adultery with her. David eventually has Uriah killed (trying to cover up his other sins).

What reason could Matthew have for including Bathsheba in the genealogy? Well it is interesting to note that she is not named. Matthew seems to be highlighting the adultery and murder. Could it be a subtle way that Matthew declares that God has grace even on the sinful? That even though we do wicked and evil things God is still able to accomplish his purpose? Not that God would ever condone sin, but that God is so great that in spite of our wickedness he can still bring good?


Ruth is another woman who is listed in Jesus' genealogy. You can read her story in the book of Ruth.
The basic outline of the story is: Ruth, who is not Jewish, marries a Jewish man when he lives in Moab. This man dies. His mother Naomi decides to go back to Israel. Ruth goes with Naomi instead of staying in Moab and takes care of her. Eventually Ruth ends up marring Boaz and becomes the great grandmother of King David.

Why would Matthew list Ruth in the genealogy? It could be because she was so faithful. However could she have been included because she was not Jewish? In fact if you look at the list of women we know that at least three of the women were not Jewish (Tamar, Rahab and Ruth). And the fourth was Uriah's wife, we don't know if she was Jewish but we do know that Uriah was a Hittite (not Jewish). So could Matthew be hinting already that Jesus' message was going to be for more than just Jews?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Rahab is the next woman listed in Jesus' genealogy.
Read her story in Joshua 2, 6:15-25.
Lets summarize her story. The Jewish people had been rescued by God out of Egypt. They were now about to invade the promise land. Jericho was the first city that they were going to attack. Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho. The Jewish people sent two spies to check out the area. These men visited Rahab. The king of Jericho found out about the two spies and obviously wanted to arresst them. Rahab hid the spies. She then made a deal that they would spare her and her familie's life when they invaded. They spies agreed and Rahab's family were the only surviors from Jericho.

Why would Matthew include a prostitute in Jesus' genealogy? Could he already be giving a hint that Jesus would be welcoming the morally questionable, like prostitutes? Could Matthew be highlighting that what matters is how we respond today when we see God moving, not our past (regardless if that past is good or bad - read Ezekiel 33:10-16)?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


There are four woman that Matthew lists in the genealogy of Jesus (five if you count his mother Mary). It is very unusual for woman to be listed in a biblical genealogy. So why include women in the list if that is not custom? And why these women? Well let's explore each woman.

The first woman listed is Tamar. Read her story in Genesis 38.
To quickly summarize Tamar marries Judah's son Er. Er is bad so God puts him to death. Er's brother, Onan, is suppose to take Tamar as a wife and raise sons on behalf of Er (this is common custom at that time). Onan is also bad and God puts him to death. Judah thinks Tamar, who has no kids yet, is cursed and does not give her to his youngest son. So Tamar dresses up like a hooker and get Judah to sleep with her. He does not realize who she is. Tamar gets pregnant. When Judah finds out he is the father he says that Tamar was more righteous than he was.

What could Matthew be saying by including this woman in Jesus' genealogy? Could it be that God loves and cares for the oppressed? Tamar was oppressed in this story. Er and Onan were evil. Judah refused to do what he should have done as a father-in-law. Even though she used morally questionable means (to say the least) could Matthew be saying that God still loved her and blessed her?

Monday, September 14, 2009

In the genealogy of Jesus that Matthew lists at the beginning of his book there are three names that are very important. Jesus the Christ, Abraham and David.
Abraham and David are very important figures in Jewish history and theology because God made specific promises to them. Promises that the Jewish people were still waiting for God to fulfill. By listing Abraham and David with Jesus, and making these names the most important names in the genealogy, Matthew links Jesus directly with these promises.

Read the promises that God made to Abraham and David.
  • Genesis 12:2-3: the promise made to Abraham
  • 2 Samuel 7:16: the promise made to David
In what way is Jesus linked to these promises?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Matthew in History

In preparing for the sermon series on Matthew I have been reading a book called Matthew in History by Ulrich Luz. At one point he says:
to understand a New Testament text does not mean to understand the words of the text only but to understand the living Christ to whom it testifies and the life situation that was shaped by him, and to understand both as a gift, a question, and a challenge for our own lives.
Ulrich is saying that to understand the bible we need to move beyond simply understanding the words. The bible should lead us into an encounter with Jesus. An encounter with Jesus is gift. It will cause us to ask new questions. It will challenge our very lives.
Makes me wonder how many passages in bible I have truly understood?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

In a few weeks my church will be starting a new sermon series on the book of Matthew. Now one of the things that I believe in is interpreting scripture in community. So I would love to hear what God is saying to you as you read the book of Matthew.
Here are a couple of questions that apply specifically to the beginning of Matthew:
  1. What is the main purpose of the gospel of Matthew? What was Matthew trying to accomplish?
  2. On September 20 the sermon will be on the genealogies in chapter 1. Why did Matthew include these? What do you think is there purpose and significance?
Please don't be limited by these questions. If you come across anything interesting about the gospel of Matthew I would really love to hear about it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Death counseling 3

What could be some of the dangers in end of life counseling?

People's value may be reduced to simply a money value. How much does it cost to keep you alive? The elderly may be counseled to refuse treatment simply because it costs too much money. And we need to note that within our society we have money - after all we spend millions and millions on things like plastic surgery.
If end of life counseling is done poorly people may feel that they are simply a burden. Each person is precious and has something significant to offer.
Life is gift from God. And death is truly an enemy. When a loved one dies we suffer a great loss - even if the death is expected. End of life counseling may take death too lightly.

Life and death should never be treated as just a rational problem to be solved. Death and life are realities that we experience not solve. The questions that they bring are not questions we give absolute and final answers to, rather they are questions we live in.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Death counseling 2

Last time I asked if there are times when end of life counseling could be a good thing. Here are a couple of thoughts on why end of life counseling could be a helpful.
  1. Death is not the end. As a believer in Jesus, who was raised from the dead, I don't believe that death in the final chapter in my life. C.S. Lewis pointed out that death is not the end but is the beginning. The apostle Paul states "for living is Christ and dying is gain". This does not mean that we pursue death. It means we do not need to fear it. I have a feeling that some of attempts to prolong life at all costs has a lot more to do with fear than with a desire to live.
  2. Death is inevitable. Everyone who is alive now, will one day die (unless Jesus returns first). End of life counseling may help a person prepare for death. May help a person face death. Many spend most of their life pretending that they are not going to die that they have never prepared for death.
  3. End of life counseling may also be helpful for families. There are times when families artificially keep a loved alive because they cannot say good-bye.
  4. There are times when the person who is dying wants to talk about it. However their family and friends are not prepared to discuss death.
There are some concerns about end of life counseling that I will talk about next time. But the question I would to ask is have you thought about your death? Are you prepared to face it?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Death counseling

Not sure if you have heard about the health care reform that Barack Obama is suggesting in the US. I haven't been following very closely but one thing has caught my attention.
There is a lot of discussion about end of life issues. There is a concern that this new health care program would force elderly people to attend end of life counseling. Counseling that may recommend that the patient chose not to extend their life through medical intervention.

Could there be any value in such counseling? Or should life be extended at all costs.
Could there be some dangers with the type of counseling?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Love and Grace

Love and grace, the way God moves toward us.
At least according to Ephesians 1-2.

In Ephesians 2 Paul says "when we were dead through our trespasses" - which is a really nice way to say when we were in absolute stubborn rebellion to God, hating his guts and wishing that he would just bugger off and leave us alone - God "loved us" with a "great love".

And when we respond to this "great love" God responds with more love and grace. Paul lists some of the ways that God lavishes his love and grace on us: blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, chose us, adopted us as children, forgives our sins, gives us an inheritance, gives us the Holy Spirit, opens our eyes, empower our lives (with the same power that raised Christ from the dead), seated us with Christ in the heavenly realms, brought peace to our lives and communities.

Every move that I make God moves with love and grace. Father, please open my eyes to see your grace and love. Amen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


You never know what may cause tears. The sight of the Atlantic ocean can do it, or a piece of music, or a face you've never seen before. A pair of somebody's old shoes can do it. Almost any movie before the great sadness that came over the world after the Second World War, a horse cantering across a meadow, the high school basketball team running out onto the gym floor at the start of a game. You can never be sure. But of this you can be sure. Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.

They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are. More often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and to summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go to next.

- Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This past weekend my church hosted the EMMC international conference in our town. It was a lot of fun (and work). I really enjoyed meeting people, worshiping God, and attending great sessions. David MacFarlane was the speaker at the main sessions. On Friday night he gave talk on "eight signs of a missional church"
  1. Outward focused
  2. Movtivated by Hope
  3. Intentional
  4. Equipping
  5. Community for missions
  6. Innovative
  7. Transformation
  8. Exciting and fruitful
I found this talk exciting and challenging. As a church we are doing good in some areas. But we also have a lot of room to grow.
I want to do three things better:
Personally share the good news of Jesus with people
Be more intentional as a church in reaching out to our community
To plant churches

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Taking captivity captive

In Ephesians 4:8 is says
"When he [Jesus] ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive".
Jesus, our messiah, takes captivity captive. He said at one time that he came to set us free. If Jesus' mission was to set people free, as his followers we most make sure that we don't make people captive. If we are honest too often the church has bound and held people captive instead of bringing them to Jesus who sets them free.
The institution of the church has held many people captive. We feel this need to insure that our institution or program survives. The institution or program holds us as slaves. We become competitive with other churches and other programs within "our church". Instead of serving in love and freedom, we end working because of guilt and fear.
Guilt and fear are two weapons the church has often used to keep people under control - enslaved. Enslaved to our institutions or to our idea of morality.
But Jesus died to set us free. And the one Jesus has set free is free indeed.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Do you have a church?

Just finished reading the book Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World by Lee C. Camp. Good book. Here is one story that grabbed my attention (from pages 110-111).

Clarence Jones established a community that was based on the Sermon on the Mount. He believed that this community would be open to all regardless of skin color. In the latter half of the 1950s segregationists attacked the community. They threatened, bombed, vandalized, burnt crosses, beat people. Clarence sought legal representation from his brother Robert Jordan. Robert responded:

“Clarence, I can’t do that. You know my political aspirations. Why, if I represented you, I might lose my job, my house, everything I’ve got.”

“We might lose everything too, Bob.”

“It’s different for you.”

“Why is it different? I remember, it seems to me, that you and I joined the church on the same Sunday, as boys. I expect when we came forward the preacher asked me about the same question he did you. He asked me, ‘Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?’ And I said, ‘Yes.” What did you say?”

“I follow Jesus, Clarence, up to a point.”

“Could that point by any chance be – the cross?”

“That’s right. I follow him to the cross, but not on the cross. I’m not getting myself crucified.”

“Then I don’t believe you’re a disciple. You’re an admirer of Jesus, but not a disciple of his. I think you ought to go back to the church you belong to, and tell them you’re an admirer, not a disciple.”

“Well now, if everyone who felt like I do did that, we wouldn’t have a church, would we?”

“The question,” Clarence said, “is, ‘Do you have a church?’”

So I wonder "Do we have a church?" Are we disciples or admirers?

I'm back

It has almost been a year since I lasted posted a message. I have all sorts of excuses, most of them are not really that important. But I have decided to work at posting again. So here we go...