Friday, December 10, 2010

The Man Box



So does the church culture promote "the man box"? Or are we helping men step out of "the box"?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory


My whole family is involved in our community drama. If you are around you should come and check it out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Glorifying God

"If your church ceased to exist would your community care, or even notice?"

A couple of years ago a visiting speaker asked the church I am part of this question. We weren't sure how to answer. Would they? Do they care? We want to say of course they would. But are we certain that they would?
This question has continued to surface occasionally over the past couple of years. It has been a really good question that has helped us look beyond ourselves and into the community. Are we a blessing to the people around us?

Today a thought struck me. Isn't this question really self-centered? Doesn't imply that what matters is if the community notices us and cares about us? And how does this question fit into the teaching that Jesus gave us that we will be persecuted if we are his disciples? Is our primary mission about blessing others?

It seems to me that our primary mission is to bring God glory (and yes this does include blessing others just like Jesus did).
So, perhaps a different question we could ask is:
"If our church ceased to exist would God receive less glory in our community? Or would we just receive less glory?"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sunday's sermon

The text for this coming Sunday is: Matthew 9:2-8

In this text we see Jesus' authority to forgive our sins. One of the striking things is that Jesus offers forgiveness outside of the temple. The normal way for a Jewish person in the 1st century to obtain forgiveness was in the temple. This man however did not need to jump through any "hoops" to get forgiveness, Jesus simply declared him forgiven.

This made me ask a couple of questions:
  1. What "hoops" do I feel that I have to jump through in order to get forgiveness from God?
  2. What "hoops" do I expect others to jump through in order to forgive them?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Every Man's Battle


Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker

A book that deals with sexual sin head on is very refreshing. The authors pull no punches when talking about a man’s battle for sexual purity. They also pull no punches when talking about noting how men often fail to be pure sexually. And for them sexual purity means:

You are sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife.”

Stephen and Fred offer very practical advice to men on how move to sexual purity. They state it all begins off with deciding to fight for it – and it may be a big battle. Once you have engaged they talk about training your eyes and mind. And end off with encouraging men to cherish their wives.

It is fairly well written and is easy to read. So guys get the book and read it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sunday's sermon

The text I will be preaching on this Sunday:

Things to consider:
Why does Jesus tell his disciples that they have little faith? After all in their panic they turn and call out to him.

The two questions in this passage I have found very provoking:
"Why are you afraid?"
"What kind of man [Jesus] is this?"

Monday, September 20, 2010

The crucified God

Been reading the book The Crucified God by Jurgen Multmann. My intent was to blog about this book as I read it. However I am going to have to put that plan on hold. The reason is that I took this book out of the library. And this created a problem for me. The book is absolutely fabulous. Now that isn't the problem. The problem is that it is a large book and deserves a careful read. Which I can't do because I have to return the book. Also I am getting in the habit of marking up good books. So this book now goes on my list of books I need to buy and read.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Baptism

This Sunday my church is having a baptism service. There are three people who are going to get up and testify to what God has done in their lives and publicly commit to following Jesus. I am very excited.
The service starts at 10:45am and everyone is welcome to attend.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

LifeLight Festival

Last weekend my family and I went to the LifeLight music festival. We camped with a couple friends.

Positive things:
  • Camping with friends
  • David Crowder Band was great
  • Need to Breathe and Group 1 Crew also rocked
  • I did enjoy Family Force Five's acoustic set - though they sure did not seem like they wanted to be there
  • It was amazing seeing people make/renew commitments to follow Jesus
  • The speakers emphasized surrendering our total life to Jesus - what a great focus
  • Famous Dave's pork sandwich
Things I didn't enjoy so much:
  • Screaming bands - which we could hear very well at our campsite, and which went on till about 2am. Though I did find it humorous trying to fall asleep to band screaming "Die, die, die, die..." Glad my kids had fallen asleep by then.
  • Sometimes it felt a bit like a Christian pep rally
  • The concert wasn't really free - we were guilted into giving money
Over all it was a good experience. The best part was hanging out with friends. Will see if we go next year.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Fair Trade Coffee?

Now I am not really coffee drinker (have the occasional cup here at church during coffee break). At home we rarely have coffee unless we have guests over (we either drink tea or 'mate'). With that being said as a family we have decided to (for the most part) buy fair trade coffee (usually from MCC).
However I just recently came across this "should-we-buy-fair-trade-coffee" post at the blog Jesus Creed. It states that buying fair trade coffee may not be the best.

Reading it makes me want to throw up my hands in disgust and give up trying. But that is not a good solution. I am reminded though that life is complicated and simple solutions aren't always the answer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Crucified God


I have started to read the book The Crucified God by Jurgen Multmann. And I thought I would share some thoughts on the book here.
Chapter 1: "The identity and relevance of faith"
Multmann begins off by stating that theology and the church has a crisis of relevance and identity. If the church strives to become more relevant they are faced with the crisis of identity. For example if we work with and for the poor how is our work "Christian" as compared to some other non-Christian group? On the other hand if a church works at stating their identity they run into a crisis of relevance. If a church identifies itself based on dogmas, rights and morals they are really stating how they are different from the world, and therefore how are they relevant?
These two crises are seen working in the debate about social gospel or evangelism.
“In many Christian churches, similar polarizations have come into being between those who see the essence of the church in evangelization and the salvation of souls, and those who see it in social action for the salvation and liberation of real life.” (page 22)
Multmann says that we need to be involved in both:
“Personal, inner change without a change in circumstance and structures is an idealist illusion, as though man were only a soul and not a body as well. But change in external circumstances without inner renewal is materialist illusion, as though man were only a product of his social circumstances and nothing else.” (page 23)

At the end of the chapter Multmann suggests the way out of these crises is to recognize how we are different and still creatively love those who are different.
“But for the crucified Christ, the principle of fellowship is fellowship with those who are different, and solidarity with those who have become alien and have been made different. Its power is not friendship, the love for what is similar and beautiful (philia), but creative love for what is different, alien and ugly (agape). (page 28)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burma


In June as a family we travelled to Burma (also called Myanmar). There seems to be little awareness of this country in Canada (I knew next to nothing about this country before we decided to travel there).
Here are some quick facts:
  • It is in South-East Asia, bordering Thailand, India and China.
  • For the past 61 years it has been at civil war.
  • The government is a military dictatorship.
  • The primary religion is Buddhism.
  • There have been several movements that have attempted to bring freedom into the country (all of which have been harshly put down by the government)

I sat with my family eating breakfast, the same breakfast we had for the past nine days, in a small dining room in our 8 bedroom hotel. There is no air-conditioning outside of the rooms so there are fans hanging on the walls giving a bit of a breeze. We haven’t checked the temperature since we arrived in Burma, internet at the cafĂ© across the street is too slow to waste on things like that. It is hot and humid, most likely somewhere in the high 30s, and knowing the exact temperature would not really help cool off anything.
We here a gong sound indicating that the monks are soon going to be passing by collecting their daily offerings. Apparently whatever food they collect is the food they eat for the day.
We have to encourage the kids to eat, as usual. They only seem to want to eat at the western restaurant that we found near our hotel (which we ate at for six days in a row).
Later on in the day we would travel 2 hours in an old mini-van to a home for orphans. Once there we would play with the kids, Cindy would do some painting, we would just hang out. Sometimes if feels like we aren’t accomplishing anything. We aren’t building anything or preaching, we are just being with the people and playing with the kids. But perhaps this is enough. To just be with them, to be shaped by them and to love them. The kids at these homes are amazing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back from Sabbatical

Well I am back from my sabbatical. It was an amazing three months. Time went by very fast. Now I am trying to get back into the routine of life. Over the next while I share some stories about my time away.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sabbatical

Today is the last day that I am in my office before I head on a three month sabbatical. Looking back I realize I have not been very faithful about blogging the past few weeks. It has been interesting getting things ready to be gone for three months.

So what will we be doing as a family?
To start I will be taking some courses at CMU (Canadian Mennonite University). The two courses I plan to take are one on leadership and one on Jesus. Should be lots of fun studying. While taking the one on Jesus I get to car-pool with a former colleague - looking forward to that.
In June my family and I will be heading to Asia. Here we will be visiting a couple of different countries. Our plan is not totally finalized yet. But we do know that we will be visiting some homes for orphans. Cindy plans to do some art classes with the kids.
The final part of the sabbatical will be spent in BC. Here we are planning on doing some reflection on our experiences, spend time with family, among other things.

I am not sure how much I am going to be blogging during this time (probably none when we are overseas). But will try and write somethings.

Monday, April 19, 2010

City boy in the country

I have lived in a small town for 7 years now. And I love it. However occasionally I still find myself acting like a city boy.
The other day, for example, my wife had gone for a run down a trail near our house. After about an hour I drove out to see how she was doing (she was doing great and did not need a ride). At the trail head I found a dog leash just lying there. It was in great condition so I picked it up and brought it home.
That evening my wife saw the leash and asked where this came from. So I told her. She looked at me completely horrified. I wondered what was wrong.
Apparently someone had been walking their dog down the trail. And they had dropped their leash off at the trail head. People in small towns do this kind of thing. Leave stuff on the side of a trail and pick it up on their way home.
So now as a pastor I had stolen someone's leash. What to do?
Cindy had meet this person on the trail but did not remember their name. So she asked some people if they new a blond lady who had a black dog. And yes, without too much difficulty we found the owner of the leash and returned it. Though I do have to admit that I felt really silly.

Sunday's sermon

The passage for this Sunday's service is: Matthew 7:7-12

Other passages:
Luke 11:9-13
Mark 11:22-25
John 14:12-14

Some questions:
Why right after talking about prayer does Jesus then talk about doing good to the people around us?
Do we really believe that God gives good gifts to his children?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Baptism

This weekend is a really special time for my church. On Sunday night we having a baptism service. I am very excited. Over the past couple of months I have had the privilege of walking with the people who are getting baptized. It has been totally awesome.
Hearing how God has worked and called people to him is amazing. And then seeing people stand up and publicly say that they have decide to live their life for God inspires me. Through their stories I am reminded how God works in my life.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What happened to last week?

Wow did last week fly by. I had the opportunity to be involved in so many great things that I did not even get a chance to blog.
Two of the biggest highlights for me were:
"Quiz Night". Every year my daughter's school hosts a quiz night for a fundraiser. These events are a lot of fun. You come in teams of eight and play trivia against teams through out the evening. There is also great food. Some teams dress up. This year there were 31 teams - this event has really become a community event not just a fundraiser.
"SEEDS of Hope". We had John Chalkias come out to our church and share about SEEDS of Hope - an organization that runs homes for AIDS orphans. It was awesome.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Holy Week - Friday

Reading: Matthew 27:45-56

Today is Good Friday. The day that we remember the death of our messiah Jesus the Christ.
This morning I will go to church. Together as a community we will sing, pray, celebrate communion as a way to tell the story of Jesus's death.
A few days ago I was involved in a story time at the church. It was lots of fun. I ended up telling a couple of silly stories (some of the others told more serious stories - good to have both). But as I got ready I wanted to tell a story about Easter. The problem was that I could not find a good kids book on it. Oh there were lots on Christmas. There were just lots of good children's books. But there was this major hole - very few were on Easter. Easter the most important time for us who follow Jesus.
In fact we looked at one children's bible. It talked about creation, the flood, David and Goliath, Daniel and the lions den, Christmas, some of Jesus healing, and then nothing. No mention of Jesus dying.
My wife asked can we really even call that a bible. After all it missing the key story.

So today don't forget the story of Easter - the real one.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Holy Week - Thursday

Reading: Matthew 27:27-44

Why did Jesus die? This is one of the most pivotal questions in history. I believe that something amazingly mysterious happened. Jesus took on the sin of the world, he became sin, so that we might experience salvation and enter into a real loving relationship with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
But as I read the text today I wondered did he have to experience the mocking and the slander? I mean everyone slanders him - the soldiers, the priests, the by-standers, those killed with him. Why did he have to go through all of that? Couldn't God organized his death in a way that would allow him to die in peace?
I don't have nearly all the answers to these questions. But I did have a thought.
What if the cross did more than just purchase us salvation? What if through the cross God was exposing the wickedness and depravity of humans?
After all I am fully convinced that God can do more than one thing at a time.
The cross truly does expose the wickedness of humans. Jesus has been beaten, mocked, spit upon, is now dying and people still mock him. It seemed that it was not enough to kill Jesus there was a desire to publicly humiliate him. Even the ones dying with him joined in the mocking.
The cross shows us that humans have a great potential for evil - we don't want to just kill our enemies we want to humiliate them.
Save me Lord Jesus from the evil in my heart.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week - Wednesday


Reading: Matthew 26:36-46

I love to watch Star Trek. One favorite characters is Spock. Spock is half Vulcan and half human. Now Vulcan's never display any emotions. One of the sub-plots in Star Trek is Spock learning to deal with his human emotions. Spock often works at suppressing his emotions so that he is totally calm and logical.
This is how I have often pictured Jesus. Always calm and logical.
For this reason I have often struggled with this passage in Matthew. Here we see Jesus being deeply distressed and even agitated. Look at how he prays. Jesus knows that it is the Father's will that he die in Jerusalem. After all that is one of the reasons he came to earth. But he prays from his emotions that God find a different way. This is not being calm. I am not sure it is even logical to ask God to do something different when you know what his will is.
Jesus prays with his emotions. He does not suppress them. Perhaps Jesus is fully human (and not half Vulcan). Of course Jesus does remain submitted to God.

When we pray do we pray with our emotions? Or do we sometimes just suppress them and pray what we think God wants to hear?
Let us pray from our hearts, well remains fully submitted to our loving Father.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week - Tuesday

Reading: Matthew 26:17-29

Today is passover. For the past number of years my family and I have celebrated the passover. We walk through a Messianic Seder. It is amazing. Every year I learn more about my faith and more about my messiah.

As I read the story of Jesus' last passover with his disciples I noticed how he gives thanks. It is his last night on earth. One of his disciples is about betray him. Another going to deny even knowing him. The rest are going to abandon him. He is going to be tortured and killed. And yet he gives thanks. How different I am.
What things do you have to be thankful for on this passover?

Here is a list of some of things that I am thankful for:
  • Salvation
  • Family
  • Friends
  • A safe place to live
  • A nice place to live
  • my health
  • Freedom to worship
  • Access to the bible
  • nice clothes
  • Great food (and lots of it)
  • my wife
  • my kids
  • a real relationship with God

Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Week - Monday

Reading: Matthew 20:20-28

As I prepare for Easter I have been reminded that my goals are often not in line with my messiah's goals. In the Matthew passage Jesus is heading to Jerusalem to die for the world. And here just before he enters the city James and John (two of this followers) are seeking positions of power and influence.
How many times in my life have I headed down a path that appears like it is for God's glory but it is really all about me? It is a way for me to have power and influence, to look good.
How many times have I avoided the way of a servant?
How many times have I been content with comfort instead of following Jesus (which may lead me to suffer)?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Orientation to prison


Prison ministry is something that my church has become passionate about.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a orientation meeting at the prison for the volunteers.
There were three things that they emphasized.
  1. Nothing in and nothing out - which means exactly that.
  2. Talk to the leaders if you have questions/concerns.
  3. Being there makes a difference.
The guys doing the orientation had both spent time in prison and they really stressed the last point. Just showing up makes a difference in the inmates lives.
A few ways it makes a difference:
  1. The prisoners experience love. They discover that someone actually cares for them. Many of the people in prison have come from terrible homes and/or have been cut off from family once they got in. And society in general does not demonstrate a lot of love toward them. But we come in and care about them.
  2. We bring hope. The reason we volunteer is because we believe they can change. God works miracles, he transforms people's lives.
  3. Our relationship with each other models a different world. So many people in prison have come from a broken background. The we relate with the other volunteers (and with them) shows them that there is actually a different way to live.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Prodigal God


The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller

Should I just tell you to go out, buy the book and read it? That’s what I want to tell you. But that feels a little cheap. A review of a book should give you more than just a recommendation to buy it. And to be honest most of people wouldn’t buy it just because I said buy it.
However to give a full blown review, like the ones that are written for school, would rob you of the joy of discovering this book for yourself.
So what should I do? Well let me say some of the basics.
This book is for those who seek after God. It is for both those who are not Christians and for those who have been Christians for most of their life. Personally I fall into the later group and found this little book spoke powerfully to me.
The Prodigal God is an exploration of Jesus’ parable that is often called “the prodigal son”. Timothy claims that he has “seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when I explained the true meaning of it, than by any other text.”
Timothy’s book is really about the gospel (which is what the parable is about). However Timothy points out we have often only read part of the parable and therefore have only heard part of it’s message of good news.
This book draws us to God’s wonderful grace. A grace that Timothy says we have to keep drilling into heads again and again. It is something we have return to, be inspired by, and be filled with every single day.
So now that I have given a little review go find the book and read it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does God break us? - part 2


This is a continuation of the post “Does God break us?”

Instead of viewing tragedy as the direct work of God on our lives I believe that all tragedy is the result of sin. Sin is anything that is opposed to God, which is why I say that tragedy is not the direct work of God. (Is there a difference between tragedy and change? Yes. In the future I would like to discuss this difference. For now I am viewing tragedy as the bad things that happen to us.)

There are three basic convictions that I hold to: God is good, God loves me, and God is great.
Anything good in my life is a gift from God (it is grace) – James 1:17. I do not have so many good things in my life because I am so good, or worked so hard or am so smart. I am blessed because God is good.
The creator of the universe loves me. In fact he loves me so much that willingly died in order to be in relationship with me. Instead of beating me over the head to crush me into submission Jesus lovingly invites me to be with him.
And the God who is loves me and is good to me is not powerless and weak. He is the creator and sustainer of everything. And there is nothing that rivals him.
If this is true why do Christians suffer?
Because humans and some angels have chosen to reject God and live for themselves. The result is that we live a broken planet. We could explore the idea of a broken planet, however I would like to get more personal.
Why do I suffer? Because I reject God and live for myself. Now I am a follower of Jesus. But it is amazing how many times every day I end up living for myself instead of God (Praise the Lord that he is so gracious and loving that he keeps holding me close to him, forgiving me). And when I live for myself I make a mess of my life.
Instead of tragedy being something that God brings on me, tragedy is something that I bring on myself. I know this is not the answer for all evil, but it does explain a lot of my suffering.
Tragedy is often the result of God removing his hand blessing from me allowing me to experience the consequences of my actions/thoughts/words. It is not God beating me over the head.
Does God use tragedy to change me? Absolutely. He is that amazing. He can take something evil and still work good. But that does not mean that he was the author of evil.

Picturing God in this way I am more prone to thankfulness and prayer. I want to be close to him.

Women tempting men

Found a fascinating blog post written by Carolyn James about men and women called The devil's Gateway. Thought I would throw it up here to see what you thought about it.

". . . you are the devil's gateway. . . you are she who persuaded him, whom the devil did not dare attack. . . . Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex, lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on too."
—Tertullian

The view of woman as "temptress" has early roots and is alive and well today both in the wider culture (see links below) and sadly also in Christian circles.

I was a speaker at a gathering of pastors who were interested in doing a better job of utilizing women's gifts. The first question asked during the open forum afterwards stunned me, "If we work with women, won't we be tempted?"

What followed was not a candid discussion about the heart and where is the real problem when there is a moral failure (as in as what goes on behind closed doors when a man is alone with his computer), but a laundry list of precautions to safeguard oneself from moral hazards when working or dealing with women.

Women find this kind of thinking offensive, and rightly so. This low view of women conflicts with the Bible's high redemptive view of us. What strikes me as I think about this, however, is that this negative view of women also reflects badly on men as testosterone driven, morally weak, and unable to control themselves. This is not to say that our sex-saturated culture doesn't create serious problems for everyone. But it is one thing to think wisely about modesty and conduct and quite another to view women as seductresses.

So here are my questions:

First, are men also outraged by the temptress view of women—because of what it implies about them? And second, is it possible to hold a low view of women without degrading men?

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Funeral


Today I was privileged to be part of a funeral. One of the things I find fascinating about funerals is some of the practices that we do. We have traditions I am sure most people are not even aware of. Even if they have been to lots of funerals they may not be aware of some of the communities traditions.
Today I learned about a tradition we do when we bury people. Now I have known that we bury people with their feet facing east. This is because the bible tells us that Jesus will come in the east. And when he comes those who have died in Christ will be resurrected. Having our feet facing east means that we will be raised facing him.
The tradition I learned about today is that the husband is always buried to the north of his wife. This is so that man will shelter his wife from the cruel north wind.
Interesting traditions.

Preaching on the Lord's Prayer

This Sunday I am going to be preaching on the Lord's Prayer:
Matthew 6:7-15

Other passages to read:
Luke 11:1-13

Things to consider:
This prayer is very well known. I grew up saying it every day in school. How deeply does this prayer shape the way that we pray?

Should we pray these very words? Or is that just vain repetition?

A while ago I posted an adaptation of the Lord's prayer

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Does God break us?


When we experience pain and suffering in our life is that God working to get our attention? Is it God's way of removing things to insure that we become more dependent on him?
Sometimes we say things like "I am so dense God has to hit me over the head with a two-by-four to get my attention." What we are saying is that the tragedy we are in right now is God's intentional act to get our attention. I grew up believing this.
But is this right? I am not so sure.
Today I want to explore some of the difficulties that I see with this view. In a couple of days I want to explore a different way to view tragedies.

In this belief God is the author of tragedy, loss, suffering and pain. And I am the worker of good.
Think about it. This view believes that God intentionally brings tragedy to help me see him. The tragedy is the work of God.
Now the fact that God had to "hit me with a 2-by-4" indicates that I was not paying attention to him. And the fact that the tragedy is God's action means that my life was going quite well without him. I wasn't experience pain/loss/suffering. Without God I was doing very good - thank you very much. And along comes God and messes it all up. As a good Christian I am suppose to be thankful to God for this.

What seems to happen then is that I seek God in my tragedies. I need his help to get out of them (he should be able to help since he brought it on me). But that is it. My faith dries up when the tragedy is over. I don't need God any more. Oh I may try and pay attention to him in order to avoid getting hit again. But I don't need him. And my relationship with him becomes weaker and weaker as I improve my life.

Giving, fasting and praying

Text for Sunday's sermon: Matthew 6:1-18

Other passages: Hosea 6:4-6; Jeremiah 14:11-12; Matthew 3:1-12

Questions to consider:
In Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells his followers to let the world see their good deeds. But now he is telling them to do them in secret and not let anyone see them. Why? This is in the same sermon.

In the previous part Jesus has been inviting people to learn a new way to relate to others. How does this section on giving, prayer and fasting flow from that?

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday

I have to confess that I have felt a little blah all week. But here are a couple of fun things I came across this week.

Freemind - mind mapping software. Finding useful in preparing sermons.

'Proverbs 31 husband' justifies beer habit - Lark News is satire, so consider yourself warned.

Tomorrow is a bike race here is town - AWBF (ABES Winter Bike Festival)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

God centered living

How does one live a radically God centered life?
Over past number of weeks I have been preaching through the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). And has it ever been challenging me.
I have become convinced that Jesus is not giving us a bunch of rules we now must obey. Rather he is inviting us to live a new way, to relate to others in a new way. Jesus is not calling us to change a few things in our behavior. It is about becoming a totally different person.
I am a very selfish person. I discern everything from my perspective. The unconscious questions that affect what I do are: does this give me pleasure (then do it) or does this cause me pain (then avoid it). Even my moral behavior is filtered through these questions. I often behave morally because of deferred pleasure (which means I will get more pleasure later) not because I am not thinking about myself.
And Jesus invited me to move from having myself at the center of my life to having God and others at the center. So how do I do that?
It begins with confessing and praying (like Peter commented last week). After all this is a work of the Spirit not of me trying harder.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Resisting an evil doer?

Text for Sunday's sermon: Matthew 5:38-48

Other texts:
Romans 12:14-21
Exodus 15:1-18

Questions to consider:
What does Jesus mean when he says "Do not resist an evil doer?" Does this mean we don't call the police when we are wronged? Does this mean we should not stand up for the defenseless? How does this fit with the rest of the bible?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Go Canada!


I have an addiction. My whole family has an addiction.

For two weeks now we have been addicted to the Olympics. The TV is on almost all the time. We eat in front of it. Spend our evenings in front of it. Rearrange our lives around it.
And we love it.

My family, in a true Canadian spirit, have focused a lot on hockey.

It was great to see our girls win gold yesterday. They are truly amazing athletes.

We are also really rooting for our boys to do the same. It was exciting to see them dominate the Russia game. We are really looking forward to the rematch against the US this Sunday (we are totally assuming that they will win tonight and on Sunday).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pride


Been reading the book Becoming a True Spiritual Community by Larry Crabb. At one point in the book he says that there is an wickedness that dwells in each one of us. In one of the stories he shares about himself he highlights the issue of pride. And I realized that his story was mine.

Pride infects everything that I do. I wanted to write almost everything, but wasn't convinced that would be true.
When I preach pride lurks right there. I desire for people to think that I am smart and a good preacher.
It is there when I lead bible studies. I want people see me as wise and deeply connected to God.
It is there when I resist temptation. "Aren't I so good or holy!"
It is here as I write this post. I want people to see that I am humble and growing closer to God.
Pride infects everything that I do.

Now pride isn't the only thing I feel. I do truly want to give God glory in what I do. I really want to help people because I love them and God.
But pride hovers there in every good (and bad) thing that I do.

Crabb points out that I need to realize that this is evil. Too often I have been content with my pride. Actually many times I have seen no problem at all with my pride. I need the Holy Spirit to show me how wickedly rebellious my pride is.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prayer

Prayer changes me.

Many times in my life I have asked "Why bother praying?" If God already knows what I need why bother asking him for anything? And if God loves me then I certainly don't need to beg him to give me good gifts.
Now we can say that prayer in some mysterious way moves the heart of God or releases God to move in the world. This mystery is tied to our freedom. Now if this is case (which I believe that it is) then why should we pray for something more than once? Why not ask God for something once and then move on?

Prayer is more about relationship with God then about convincing God to do something. I know this. I have taught this. But this morning I was struck deeply with the truth that prayer changes me.

Prayer isn't about me convincing a reluctant God to move. It is about me encountering God. As I encounter God I learn what his desires are for the people I pray for. It is about me falling in love with these people. Prayer creates a revolution in my heart where I become open to God and to people around me.
I have to pray so often for the same people and things because I am in such desperate need of God.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lust and divorce

Continuing in our series on Matthew this Sunday we will be exploring Matthew 5:27-32.

Some related texts:
1 Corinthians 7
Malachi 2:13-16

Some questions to think about:
In our sex driven culture is there any good news in what Jesus says here? Or is this a message of condemnation and judgment?
What do you hear God saying to you as you read the words of Jesus?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Preparing a place

I love God's people. Right now our community is preparing a place for a Palestine family who became refugee as a result of the war in Iraq. We get the honor of having them become a part of our local community. And when the people of God around here found out I got a phone call from a family offering a whole bunch of furniture. There have been many others offering to help in some way.

This family is going to need some more things. Right now we have a home for them to live in that is fully furnished for a couple of months. But after that they are going to need a lot of different stuff to help them settle.
One of the biggest needs that they will have is community. Pray that we will welcome them into our community and that they will experience love.
And most importantly that they will experience the love of God through Jesus Christ. Pray that a miracle will happen and that they will come to trust Jesus.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jim Cantelon - missional church


Here are some more thoughts on what Jim Cantelon shared at the pastor's retreat that I attended last week.

In one of Jim's sessions he talked about being a missional church. He used Acts 2 - the story of the early church - to give us a frame for what missional church should look like. Two things stood out to me.

First, is that we need to be open to the supernatural, the transcendent. The church is not simply a country club that does some nice service things. We are the people of the living God, who have been filled with the Spirit of God. In the early church this lead to people speaking in languages they did not know (the gift of tongues).

Second, the church needs to be rooted in the bible and proclaiming the truth of the bible. We are not simply to be a group that engages in experiences. We are the people of the God of truth and he has spoken to us. And we are called to be his ambassadors to the whole world preaching truth.

These two things, the supernatural and the preaching of the word, need to be held together if we are going to be a missional church.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday


Today is Ash Wednesday. For those of you who don't know a whole lot of about the church calender Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent. Lent is the 40 days before Easter and has often been used in the church as a time to prepare for Easter. Easter being the greatest holiday and celebration of the church.
Through out Lent people often either give up something or take on something to prepare for Easter. They give up things like coffee, chocolate, sugar, red meat, TV, internet, music...
The point is not to just do without these things. But it is a reminder that we desperately need God more than we need any of these things. We need the death and resurrection of Jesus to shape us more than we need TV or music or books to shape us.
People sometimes choose not to give up something but to take on something. Like, extra prayer time or reading more of the bible or memorizing scripture or working through some devotional...
Once again the point is not to just add something to our lives. It is to intentionally do something that helps focus our attention on God, to be shaped by Jesus.

This year I have choose to take on something. MB Biblical Seminary has put out a devotional for Lent. I am going to make this a part of my life for the next 40 days.
What are you going to do that will help prepare you for Easter?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Righteousness

This Sunday's sermon text: Matthew 5:17-26

Some other passages to read:
Exodus 20:1-17
1 John 3:11-17

Some questions to ponder:
In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus tells his followers that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. What does this text have to do with being salt and light?
What does Jesus mean that unless our righteousness is greater than the religious leaders that we never enter into God's kingdom (verse 20)? How does that fit with the central belief that we are saved by grace not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9)?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Thoughts

Wow. It has been a great week.
Next week I hope to blog a little bit more about the pastor retreat that I was on. Being on the planning committee did not give me a lot of spare time.

The other fun thing that I did this week is watch Olympic hockey. Belearus took on Swizterland in a pre-Olympic game. My daughters' school did a field trip to the game. My wife said that it was really amusing seeing a bunch of father's there. At every other retreat there is mainly moms because the dads are working. However for hockey somehow work can be negoiated.
It was a good a game. Though by the third period my girls were a little bored.
Well I am off to keep watching the opening ceremonies (so far they are a bit dull).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jim Cantelon - how things have changed

Last night when Jim Cantelon spoke he began off by talking about how the world has changed. He argued that everything has changed. He states that people are now more:
  1. Relationally loyal than denominationally loyal. We are committed to things because of the relationships that we develop not because of of the denomination.
  2. Humble than we are proud. Jim said in the past there was a great pride in many ministries but that is becoming less.
  3. Action orientated. People no longer just want to sit and absorb they want to engage.
  4. Focused on authenticity instead of simply productivity.
  5. Focused on having fun not just doing things.
  6. Committed to a sustainable spirituality. Jim mentioned that in the past people's spiritual life was a roller coaster - need to get converted every other week.

Jim Cantelon - Here am I send me

Last night Jim Cantelon spoke on Isaiah 6. Jim told us that in order to lead a missional church we have to be on a mission ourselves. Actually he stated that we have to be on the mission that God has called us to. And this mission is not to hundreds and thousands (at least not at first) but to one.
This made me think that possibly instead of asking what God is calling us to do? We should prehaps ask who God is calling us to?

Pastor Retreat #1

I am at a retreat for all the pastors and leaders in my conference. Cindy and I have been part of the planning team (which has been really cool). We have gotten to work with some really awesome people.
I am excited to see what God has in store for us as this retreat happens. Jim Cantelon, author of When God Stood Up, is with us to share.
I should also confess that I am a little nervous. I am in charge of a few things and I really hope they work out. People have given up money and time to be here, I am really pray that they do not feel that it is a waste of time.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Friday thoughts

Heading into Winnipeg tonight for "Mission Fest". This is a yearly tradition for my family. Cindy and I started attending "Mission Fest" when we were teenagers. You can see what is happening - possibly even attend - at www.mfest.mb.ca/

On a totally different note here is a video of a totally amazing bassist, Victor Wooten.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

February Challenge

I am a very blessed man. I am married to the most wonderful woman in the world. My most awesome wife is a constant source of blessing, encouragement and love. We are crazy in love with each other.
A few things have challenged me to be more intentional in letting her know that I love her.
Yesterday I visited an elderly couple. They informed me that they had been married for over 60 years. At one point I was looking at some photos and the elderly man pointed to a picture of his wife and said, "that's my sweetheart." I want that, to be married 60 years and still be madly in love with the same woman. Now I have been married enough years to know that love like this does not just happen it takes some work.
Also, it happens to be February. And as we all know Valentines day is coming up. The one special day we are to show love in a special way.
Last year, my wife offered a challenge to the wives to be very intentional about showing love to their husbands through out the whole month of February.
These three things have prompted me to offer a challenge to the guys, specifically the married men. Every day this month think of a way you can show your wife that you love her and value her. You could do things like: wash the dishes, clean the house, write her a love note, buy her chocolate, watch the kids so she can go out... whatever. Just be intentional in showing your sweetheart that you love her, daily.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Sunday's sermon theme is: Fasting

Some passages to read:
Matthew 4:1-11
Matthew 5:16-18
Isaiah 58
Joel 2:12-13
Acts 13:1-3

Questions to ponder:
Why fast? Is it to earn "points" with God? Or are there other reasons?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday thoughts

Wow, this week has flown by. I can hardly believe that is Friday already. Here are a couple of things that captured my interest this past week:

Haiti
Henry Champ makes some excellent comments about helping Haiti (one of the reasons I love MCC) - The issue isn't money, it's staying power
Someone dropped off a couple of really powerful songs written about Haiti (done to the tune of some familiar hymns) - In Haiti there is Anguish

Here is a video of a bike race that would be so much fun to be a part of:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Question everything?

I have grown believing that all questions are allowed. Every and any question is legitimate. Nothing is out of bounds. We can question everything and anything. In fact I was encouraged to engage in this kind of activity.
This is not how everyone grows up though. In fact many people are actively discouraged from asking questions. Questions are viewed as dangerous. One of the verses that is pointed to is Genesis 3:1.
In this verse the serpent comes to Eve and asks her a question. A question that leads Eve (and Adam) to rebel against God. Proof that questions are dangerous. So, we should avoid asking and questioning things. Right?
Well I am not convinced. In fact if you keep reading the story God enters the picture and asks questions. In fact God keeps asking more and more questions. Through out the bible God does not seem to be upset at all with people asking questions. So, since God does not get angry at people for asking questions, and even asks questions, all questions are allowed. Right?
Well... As I was pondering Genesis 3:1 I wondered if the serpent's question was really a legitimate question. The question seems to be designed to lead Eve astray. Instead of being a question that seeks truth.
So perhaps not every question is legitimate. Perhaps it really depends on our motive. Why are we asking this question? Do we want the truth? Do we want to justify some behavior? Our motives may shape the answer we get.
Keep asking questions? I believe we should. But we need to screen our questions to make sure that we are asking honest questions not illegitimate ones.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Light of the World


Sunday's sermon text is: Matthew 5:13-16
Related texts: Philippians 2:14-15; John 1:1-18

Questions to consider:
What does it mean for the people of God to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?
How has the church in the past failed to be salt and light in the world?
What does it practically look like for your church to be salt and light in your neighborhood?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Random stuff

Here are a couple of random things that caught my interest this past week:

Greg Boyd says "I told Mennonites to 'God to Hell" and they liked it."

I am working on hosting some World Cafes for a pastor retreat in February.

Tour Down Under is happening right now.

Hip Hop Monks in Japan - sounds a lot like some of the conversations happening in the church.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

MCC responding to Haiti disaster


MCC Requesting Relief Kits, Comforters, Sheets as Generous Manitobans Respond

WINNIPEG, Man. – In addition to donations of money, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is asking the public for help in collecting 20,000 relief kits, 10,000 heavy comforters and 10,000 sheets to be sent to Haitian earthquake survivors.

To date, Manitobans have already donated approximately $800,000 to MCC’s Haiti Earthquake response.

Relief kits include personal hygiene supplies, laundry soap, towels and bandages. People who donate kits are asked to provide complete kits with only the specific items on the list of relief kit supplies that can be found at mcc.org/kits.

The relief kits can be packed in a box or bag and delivered to any of the drop-off locations in Manitoba by Feb. 28. MCC will then repackage the kits in new, 20-litre buckets. Drop-off locations can be found here: http://mcc.org/kits/dropofflocations

Heavy comforters and sheets also are being accepted at any drop-off location until Feb. 28.

MCC asks that the comforters be new and filled with quilt batting or a blanket for extra warmth. Twin-size comforters are preferred, but double/full-size comforters are accepted. Specific requirements are online at mcc.org/kits.

Flat sheets, which also will be used as mosquito netting, can be double-, queen- or king- size. Sheets, with at least a 300-thread count, should be new, cotton and light-colored, which is not as attractive to mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, MCC is airlifting 31,750 kg of canned meat and 1,000 water filters into Haiti as soon as possible. Another shipment of at least the same amount of meat, probably more, will be sent by sea. MCC is also purchasing thousands of tents and tarps.

MCC is planning a multimillion dollar response over a number of years, focusing on emergency assistance, rebuilding homes and livelihoods

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Men's ministry #2

Last week I posted something on men's ministry. Today I am going to approach men's ministry for a slightly different perspective.


Now, perhaps I am the only one but I have become uncomfortable with some the rhetoric that happens within men’s ministry. I believe that for the most part men’s ministry is on to something. We are different than woman, we do desire adventure, we are often more hands on…
However I am often very disappointed when it comes to application. We are encouraged to become men like the men our society wishes to create.
There seems to be two warring concepts that seek define men in our world. One is that men should be like women. The other is that men should be warriors like William Wallace (from the movie Brave Heart). Men should be hunters, protectors and strong.
Too often it feels like men’s ministry in the church has completely embraced the second concept. They declare that they are being counter cultural. But how counter cultural are you when your role models come from blockbuster movies like Brave Heart and Gladiator.
And because men’s ministry has embraced the society’s picture of men their applications are too often weak - at best. I have been at a retreat where we were challenged to ride a zip line to prove we were real men. Seriously, this is what it means being the man God created me to be?
I don’t think the bible calls men to be females. But I also don’t believe the bible calls for us to walk around saying, “I’m a man hear me roar.” We are called to a radical life of following Jesus (not William Wallace). We are called to surrender everything, give up everything and follow Yahweh.
Men’s ministry has some good theology and good points but so often it is lacking in real life application.

The Beatitudes - part 2


Text for this Sunday's sermon is Matthew 5:1-12
Some related texts: Psalm 73, James 3:17-18, Deuteronomy 4:29-32

Some questions to think about as read:
What is God saying to you?
What would it look like to live this way?
Are there people you know who live out the beatitudes?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fun stuff to do in winter


We are in the middle of January. And even though it feels like spring today we are in the middle of winter. Here are some of the fun things that I am doing this winter:

Playing in snow. We got 5 dump truck loads of snow dumped on our front yard. We are making a maze, and tunnels, and sled runs.

Watching TV. My friend loaned me a couple of seasons of Corner Gas. Also am watching Lost and Biggest Loser.

Biking. Ok, I have to admit I haven't done a lot of biking this winter. Still riding to work every day and have a trainer set up at home. But it is still lots of fun and hope to do more.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help for Haiti


MCC is receiving donations to help the people in Haiti. Please pray.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Beautiudes


This Sunday's sermon text is Matthew 5:1-12.
Related texts: Deuteronomy 28, Psalm 37, Isaiah 61, Luke 6:20-26.

Questions to consider:
As you read the text(s) what is God saying to you?
What does it mean to be blessed?
Create a list of people you believe are blessed by God. Are there differences between your list and the list that Jesus makes?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Men's ministry #1


I have been thinking a bit about men's ministry the past few days and thought I would throw up some of my thoughts in the next few blogs for your wisdom and input.

Within the church today a call is rising that men need to become the men that God created them to be.
There is a feeling that the church of today is shaped and created for women and not for men. In fact there is an assumption that our churches in a certain sense, and most definitely our society, teaches that to be male is inferior to being female. In society you can look at the school system that is more suited for girls than for boys. Or at TV commercials and shows which portray men as children who need a woman to look after them. In church you see this in this idea being promoted by the belief that you are “truly spiritual” when you are part of a small group that shares your feelings with others. Or in some of the songs that we sing (the “Jesus is my boy friend” songs).
Many having been reacting to this bias and have been calling for men to become the men that God calls them to be. In bible school I remember my teachers telling us that men were most neglected group of people within the church. Then there was the Promise Keeper movement, followed by John Eldredge's book Wild at Heart. Men’s ministries began to flourish.
Though many still feel that men are very neglected and that church is primarily focused on women.
What do you think? Are men neglected in the church? Does the church teach that men need to be more like women?
Or is the church over focused on men?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Preaching exchange

I really enjoyed worshiping with the community in Halbstadt yesterday. The people were very friendly and welcoming. I told my wife when I got home that I was tempted to move there.
I hope Garry felt blessed being a part of our community for a Sunday.
Anyone want to share somethings you learned from Garry?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Photo contest and prayer


Every year my wife does the best photos of the year (and you get to vote for your favorite). So swing over to her sight to see a few of glimpses of our life.

Here are a couple links to my favorite online prayer sites:
Sacred Space
Prayer labyrinth

Have a blessed weekend.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Who do we worship?


As I mentioned earlier this Sunday I am part of a preaching exchange. And even though excited about this opportunity I have to admit that I struggle in preaching in churches that are not my home church. I just feel very disconnected (which I am). I don't know what they have been learning, I don't what the people have been going through. Please pray for me.

This Sunday I felt lead to preach on what unites us as churches - which is God. We all worship God. So I am going to explore a couple of the different characteristics of God. The question I will explore is "who do we worship?"
And as I explore different aspects of God I will also share how too often in my life have been tempted to worship a god that is less then that God of the bible.
How would you describe the God of the bible? Are you tempted to worship a god that is less than that?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

ReJesus - Question 5


Alan and Micheal's fifth question (Question 1, Question 2, Question 3, Question 4) they believe the church needs to be asking is:
And perhaps most important of all, how can a rediscovery of Jesus renew our discipleship, the Christian community, and the ongoing mission of the church?
The “rediscovery of Jesus” is our renewal. Jesus is what discipleship, Christian community and mission is all about.
Many times I have prayed for revival. At Bible School we would gather and pray earnestly for God to send his spirit and bring revival to the church. Revival will only happen as we encounter Jesus. We need to desire him, and seek him, and pursue him. We need to love him with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength. We need to be obsessed with him. He is to be our hero. The one we want to be like, the one we strive to be like. Jesus is the beginning and the end of our spirituality.
Pursuing Jesus like this is discipleship (not simply keeping a list of rules).
As we become like Jesus we will begin to love like Jesus, which is the basis of community (not simply a Sunday morning gathering where we aren't known or know others).
And our mission is to invite others encounter the love of God, enter into pursuing Jesus and loving others (not simply about getting them to attend our church).

Over the past number of weeks I have explored the five questions raised in ReJesus. I have looked at them in a general sense and not applied them to specific situations. But I believe the true benefit of these questions comes from exploring them in light of specific situations. So I encourage you to do that.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Preaching exchange


This Sunday I get the privilege of being part of a preaching exchange in my community. Every year on the second Sunday of January several of the churches in this area do a preaching exchange. It is one of the small ways that we affirm that we are all part of the same community (the global church). As leaders within the global church we are working hard at blessing and building up other churches. We strive to work together (even if we have some differences in theology).
So this Sunday I have the honor of participating in the service at Halbstadt and my congregation gets blessed by having their pastor share with us.
Please be praying for Garry as he will sharing. And pray for me that I will have the words from God that will bless and build up that congregation.