Saturday, August 30, 2008

And God is Faithful!

It's been one of those weeks that has reminded moment by moment that our God is faithful. In fact, the reality of God's faithfulness is something that has been cemented upon my heart over the past three years of my life in ways I never even considered until I found myself walking through varying life events. I'm slowly coming to learn that relying upon the faithfulness of God is a moment by moment choice. Self must die daily in order for Christ to have 1st place. Learning to rely upon the faithfulness of God in every circumstance of life is helping me to do this.

My goal with this post is to simply point you towards some Scriptures that have encouraged and continue to encourage and strengthen my faith and hope in a faithful God. Enjoy and be encouraged today!

He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He. (Dt. 32:4)

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made. (Ps. 145:13)

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them - the LORD, who remains faithful forever. (Ps. 146:5-6)

God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Cor. 1:9)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thess. 3:3)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:23)

Monday, August 25, 2008

What are you thinking?

I've recently been preparing a talk on Daniel 1 through our church's series on Temptation and our need to "Just Say No". The verse I continue to come back to is Daniel 1:8 where he chooses to do it God's way at a great risk to his future and life. It is there in that verse we learn that Daniel had "resolved not to defile himself" (purposed in his heart - KJV). This verse tells me that Daniel had already won the fight in his mind/heart long before he was confronted with this specific temptation.

This simple phrase is a reminder to me that the battle against temptation is won in our minds. If we are all honest, there is a battle raging daily within our minds as we face a multitude of temptations. My response (your response) is going to greatly hinge on what I'm (we are) filling our minds with. We need to be asking "Is my mind/heart in a place of submission to God and am I thinking about the things of God so as to give myself a better chance at standing up strong against temptation?" I am coming to truly learn (more than just head knowledge) that temptations will draw out of me a response that is greatly dependent upon what is already floating around in my head/heart. Luke 6:45 is true in the sense that whatever is going on inside will eventually make its way out, especially in moment's of decision when tempted.

With this in mind, I'm determined yet again to live out Philippians 4:8. I am determined to think upon the things God wants me to think upon so that when faced with temptation, I will respond in a Christ like fashion. I want my Christ like response to honestly reflect what's already happening in my mind/heart because of what I've chosen to fill it with. I think we need to regularly ask ourselves "What I am regularly filling my mind with?" The answer to that question will give you a pretty good hint at how you will fight/overcome temptation.

So think upon these things:

Whatever is True

Whatever is Noble

Whatever is Right

Whatever is Pure

Whatever is Lovely

Whatever is Admirable

Anything that is Excellent or Praiseworthy

Friday, August 22, 2008

Proud Daddy and Spiritual Reminders

Last night I had one of those very proud moments as a daddy. After a very long week and three evenings in a row away from my family, I got home from a meeting to a very excited daughter. That evening, she with a number of other children from the Grace Children's ministry had finished their worship team rehearsal for Sunday. As I came through the door, she couldn't wait to put the kids worship DVD into the player and go to the song "Forever".

Now this isn't the first time she has sung for me, so I wasn't sure what all the excitement was about until I came to understand that she had created her own actions to the song and that she had been given the privilege of teaching and leading all the other kids on Sunday. I say all that not to boast but rather to share what went through my heart at the moment.

1) It was one of those "WOW, thank you Lord for a daughter that loves to worship you and express her love for you through music and motions."

2) It gave me pause to pray quickly right then and there that God would continue to guard her heart and cause her to spend a lifetime growing in her love for Jesus and His Word.

3) It allowed me to breath a temporary sigh of relief with a small smile that was saying "I guess we're doing OK as parents even though we're far from perfect." It's nice to get those little reminders from the Lord once in a while.

4) It refocused me to make sure that Susan and I keep the focus on praying for and raising our children in the ways of the Lord. I'm still a number of years off from launching them off onto their own and I need to take advantage of every God moment to impress the love of Christ and truth of Scripture upon their hearts.

Finally, it gave me a brief look at how my heavenly Father must feel when we as His children worship Him in simple abandon. It must refresh His heart and bring a smile to His face just like my daughter did to this proud daddy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guard the Deposit (The next generation)

I've been challenged recently to think about all that has been entrusted to my care by God. From relationships to responsibilities God has give me (actually all of us) the call to be a good steward of everything he entrusts to us.

I could not help but think about Paul's words to Tim in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 where he encourages him to "guard what has been entrusted to your care." As I reflected upon this, I came to the realization that one of the greatest things entrusted to each and every generation is the next generation. One of my favorite thoughts that motivates me daily is the truth that the body of Christ is always one generation away from extinction. So here is my question; "why is the church (why am I) so passive when it comes to dying ministries?"

Think about it, if we are called to guard what has been entrusted to our care (including the next generation) then why aren't we more passionate about making sure the church is effective? Why do we celebrate mediocrity in our churches, fellowships and denominations? Why am I at times content with spiritual mediocrity in my own life?

As with any deposit, we hope it grows and becomes valuable. Lately, that's my prayer for the next generation. I'm praying that God will use me (as a husband, father and pastor), Grace Ministries and other ministries to pursue excellence and refuse to celebrate mediocrity. God has entrusted us with something huge and I want to be found faithful in it so that those who come behind me will make a huge impact upon the work and ministry of Christ here on this earth.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lost Golf Balls and Luke 15

Last night I had a blast golfing with a pastor buddy of mine from Canada. We decided to take advantage of the Iron Valley twilight rate which made us the last two golfers on the course for the evening. It was there I learned two important lessons.

The first thing I learned relates to golf carts. Did you know that when a golf course is designed out of an old quarry there are many steep hills you must drive your cart down? Did you know that some golf courses actually warn you about steep hills, sharp corners and invite you to take them slow? Did you know you can actually hit the brakes so hard on a golf cart that you come to a squealing stop leaving rubber on the cart path? These are questions I got answers to last night as I drove. (Note: This is also the golf buddy that I almost flipped a golf cart with when we took a very steep hill a little to sharp a few years back. He had to jump out, stand on the side and balance us out as I came down the hill. We have a lot of laughs together.)

The second thing I learned related to lost golf balls. I don't think I have ever lost so many (or found so many) balls in one round. I am hitting my driver off the tee so poorly I heard the wooded animals yelling fore as the ball released from the tee blocks. Seriously, by the middle of the first nine holes, I was getting frustrated with my constant walks into the high grass, prickly bushes and wooded areas. Because nobody was behind us, I didn't feel the pressure to move quickly and I worked and looked hard for my golf balls.
As this pattern continued for most of the evening, I could not help but think about Luke 15 and the individuals who were so committed to finding that which was lost. Jesus used this illustration to give us a vivid picture of how hard He chases us and desires to find those who are spiritual lost. With this in mind, I was challenged with the truth that there are times in my life where I'm more passionate about finding golf balls then I am seeking out and sharing the truth of God's redemptive plan to lost people. It was a good reminder for me to work just as hard in this endeavor as I did last night looking for balls.
I'm thinking I have a new story for Luke 15 - The parable of the lost golf ball.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

15 Years and counting...

Today I celebrate 15 years of marriage and I can honestly say that I am still madly, deeply and passionately in love with my wonderful wife Susan. She is truly a wonderful gift from God to me. I couldn't imagine doing this thing called "life" (ministry, kids, crazy dog, bills, grocery shopping etc...) without her.

As I reflect upon our 15 years together, here are a few things I think God has taught me/us along the way which has kept our marriage resilient and strong.

1) Susan is truly my best friend and we're committed to a lifetime of cultivating that friendship.

2) We've always kept God at the center of our home and lives which has given us the solid foundation needed to build our lives together upon. I'm thankful for a wife who has faithfully stood by my side through difficult ministry seasons because of a commitment to see God's will for our lives worked out in and through us.

3) We've learned to make communicating with one another a priority. One of our favorite things to do is sit on our deck at night, sip coffee and just talk. Sometimes hours can pass in what seems like seconds as we share life together.

4) I've worked hard to keep the romance alive. We've never had money to take big fancy anniversary trips, but I've worked hard to remain creative to keep the flame burning bright. She truly grows more beautiful to me on a daily basis and I learned early from my father to never let a day go by without reminding my wife how much I love her!!!

5) We've made our relationship a priority. As important as the kids and the ministries we lead are, they do not trump the priority of our marriage. We will only be effective as parents and in ministry if our marriage is strong and resting in the Lord.

6) I cannot think of a time where we let the sun go down with us still being angry at each other. As with any relationship, there is conflict at times, but we have committed to never let a day end without resolving the conflict. It's just not worth it!

There are a million other things I have learned along the way, but the one thing I want everyone to know today is this: I love Susan Auld with every fibre of my being and I would marry her all over again (even in Altoona - inside joke). You are the love of my life and I look forward to many, many, many, many, many more years with you! Marriage is truly wonderful and gets better as the years go by!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Gift and a Good Memory

Over the past number of years, my parents have been helping my grandmother make some fairly large transitions as she continues to age. The most recent transition occurred last December at Christmas when we moved her from her own apartment into a facility that would provide her with care while at the same time allowing her to retain her independence. With that move, came the large job of working through 90+ years of memories and stuff.

Recently, I was visiting my family in Niagara Falls and had the opportunity to look through some of my grandparents old Bibles. As I was doing this, I noticed one very small, well worn, old Bible sitting there with some of the pages falling out. Towards the front of this Bible was my grandmother's handwriting that outlined a message she had heard on August 16, 1998. This is a very important date in my life as it was the Sunday I was inducted as the pastor into a tiny church plant in Kincardine, ON. This church carries many wonderful memories as we led them through a building campaign into their first facility (pictured above) and we saw God grow the church both spiritually and numerically. It was very much the place where I got my feet wet as a Sr. Pastor with very loving and gracious people.

But more importantly, the hand written message in my grandmother's Bible from 2 Timothy is very much a message God has written permanently upon my heart. The challenge to me as a pastor was and still is:

1) Guard the Gospel

2) Transfer the Truth

3) Preach the Word
I'm very grateful for a grandmother who believes this truth with all her heart and has faithfully given herself to the task of praying for her grandson to fulfill the challenge laid forth on that Sunday in August of 98.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I spent this past week memorizing 1 Corinthians 10:13 as part of an exercise with the larger Grace Church family. It is a powerful verse that I have found myself quoting quite regularly over the past seven days when faced with temptation. But I must confess that the first line of that verse has got me thinking.

The verse begins by stating that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man." As I pondered this for a while, here are two thoughts that came to mind;

1) I believe our enemy seeks to deceive me into thinking that I am the only person on the planet earth who faces the temptations I face. When I begin to feel this way, I quickly become very defeated as I buy into the lie that I must be a horrible Christ follower if I'm experiencing these types of temptations (even though I may resist them). I (along with all of us) need to realize that we all face common temptations. Nothing is original to me. Mankind has been facing the temptations I face for a long time. Therefore, I need to stand firm in Christ and His Word as God has equipped all of us and provided all of us with a way to resist and stand firm in the common temptations of life.

2) If I understand this passage correctly, then all of us face very similar temptations on a daily basis. If this is true, then I just have one question to ask; "Why don't we speak with one another more openly and honestly about the common temptations we fight and face regularly?" Has the church in North America become so full of gossip, legalism and cynicism that we would rather "fake it" than honestly share life together in even the temptations of life. If we all have this in common, then why do we go around pretending it doesn't exist. I believe this too is yet another tool of the evil one to have us fighting temptation on our own rather than willingly let brother's and sister's in Christ hold us accountable. As I reflected on this, I'm thankful for the accountability in my life and look to continue building it into my life as I want to finish well for Jesus.

Thank goodness for a sympathetic high priest who has been tempted as we are, yet is without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Jesus was willing to say (Warning: Auld paraphrase to follow), "I have this in common with you guys, let me help you win the fight choice by choice."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Opening Ceremonies and Heaven

I just caught a few minutes of the opening ceremonies last night and always enjoy the part when all the nations have gathered. As always, the place goes nuts with excitement when the flame is lit. All barriers and policies seem to go out the window as people from all over the world cheer together with the Olympic spirit.

I could not help but think that this is somewhat a picture of what heaven is going to be like. There will be peoples from all nations and all the things that keep Christ followers apart will no longer matter (i.e. music style, language, dress etc...). There with all our flags waving, we will together erupt in joy and jubilation when we come face to face with the One True Light Jesus Christ.

I wonder if there will be fireworks in heaven like we've never seen before?

Go Canada!

Growing as a Leader - Day Two!

Day number two at the Leadership Summit was yet another homerun! These past two days challenged my socks off and have given me much to think about and process in the weeks to come as both a Christ follower and leader within a local church. Here is how each day 2 speaker impacted me.

Craig Groeschel: How Leaders Can Get IT and Keep IT
Friday morning started off with a bang. Craig spoke on how we can all tell when a ministry just has "IT" going on. From the moment you step onto a church campus, an individual can tell if God's up to something amongst those people because of real life transformation. He stated that from his observations, there are four qualities present when a church has "IT" going on. The four qualities are:
1) The leaders/church is very focused. They know where they are going and what God has called them to.
2) They see opportunities where others see obstacles.
3) They are willing to fail.
4) Churches that have "IT" have leaders who have "IT"

This is one of those talks I will reflect on for a while as I long to spend a lifetime with other Christ followers who have "IT".

Chuck Colson: Defending the Faith
I have always enjoyed Chuck Colson and his writings. He is a deep and passionate Christ follower who always stimulates my thinking through his writings and talks. He raised a powerful question that gave me pause and will continue to give me pause for quite some time. He asked if we in the western church are in captivity to our culture like Israel found herself in captivity to foreign nations in OT times. When PEW researching shows that 57% of those who call themselves "evangelical Christians" believe that there is more than one way to God than just Christ, it sure makes one think we have entered some sort of spiritual captivity that we need to be set free from. As always, Chuck gave me much to think about in our cause to stand firm and defend the faith.

Catherine Rohr: Risk Taking, Barrier Breaking, Bold Leadership
All I can say about this interview is WOW!!! Catherine is the founder of PEP (Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program) that goes into the Texas prison system to equip inmates to productively enter society with a Christian value base. Her passion, tenacity and sold out commitment to yield her life to Christ's call on her was incredible. To hear the real life testimonies of ex-cons was very moving as this young lady is making a tangible difference for Christ in a place where many of us write people off. This session was the surprise of the conference for me. It was good!

Brad Anderson: An Uncompromising Focus on People
Brad is the CEO of Best Buy. His interview was very interesting as he seemed very uncomfortable with the interview and seemed to hold his cards very close to his chest. But, the one thing that did shine through was his commitment to lead the 150,000 people in his organization by genuinely caring for them and empowering them to serve. He appears to be a true servant leader in a very secular business environment.

Bill Hybels: Relentless
The conference finished off with a wonderful challenge by Bill based upon the life of Mother Teresa. The heart of this challenge was to be a people who look to God and say "I give you carte blanche (blank sheet) surrender of my life" and then to relentlessly pursue that which He calls us to. One of my favorite comments from the talk was to take a risk and pray "God help me to love you like you've never been loved before". Wow!!! Wouldn't that change our worship on a Sunday morning.

All in all - Fantastic 2 day conference that has equipped, motivated and challenged me to live life hard for Christ with a relentless pursuit for Him so as to reflect His glory and His kingdom to a lost and dying world. GOOD STUFF!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Growing as a Leader

I had the privilege once again of attending the Leadership Summit hosted by Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. I'm most appreciative of the opportunity to attend and grow as a leader. Day one is over and here are some succinct statements/thoughts on how I was impacted by each speaker.
Bill Hybels: The High Drama of Decision Making
"Do you reflect enough upon the processes/axioms you use to make decisions?" Bill gave me pause to think about how prepared I am to make wise decisions daily. Am I mentally prepared at all times to make God honoring decisions because I have taken the time to continue adding to my vault of knowledge and experience? Worth thinking about!
Gary Haugen: Just Courage: Charging the Darkness
Gary spoke passionately about our God of justice and our need to stand against the injustices present within this world. The statement that most stuck with me is that we must "lead in the things that matter to God." Good thought that I can easily derail from.
Bill George: Finding Your True North
Bill made a comment that caused me to reflect hard upon how we must lead people in the 21st Century. I believe he is right in stating that "people want to have meaning and significance in what they do" which means I must convince people that giving themselves to the work of Christ and the local church is worth it.
Wendy Kopp: Stand Up and Lead
Wendy was interviewed by Bill Hybels and I enjoyed it immensely. The one thing that stood out regarding Wendy was her absolute passion for her Teach for America organization. Her passion to eradicate educational inequality was inspiring. It once again gave me reason to pause and reflect upon my passion for Christ and the local church. Does my passion for Christ cause me to take risks and give my all for Him. It should!
John Burke and Efrem Smith: Leading in New Cultural Realities
These two men both spoke well on how they each seek to lead in a post modern, post Christian, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, global, emergent and technological savvy culture. Many good thoughts presented worth thinking about as the church is called upon to engage this culture.
All in all, it was a great first day and I look forward to hearing tomorrow's speakers. I am most excited about hearing what Chuck Colson has to say regarding our need to defend the faith.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why the title "En Route"?

The term "En Route" has a French origin and simple means "on the way". It is a term I became familiar with as I got to know an Air Canada (major airline in Canada) pilot fairly well. The more I got to know this guy, the more I learned and researched this airline. En Route is what they named their credit card and magazine as they wanted people to spend their money (especially on airline tickets) when they were "on their way" to some destination listed in their magazine.

As I thought about this, I could not help but return to the Biblical reality that on the day I placed my faith and trust in Christ to save me from my sins, I began a road, a journey, a course towards my ultimate destination. I'm in essence, "en route" to meet Jesus. I'm not sure how long this journey here on earth will last and I'm not sure what obstacles and detours I'll face along the way, but I do now that each and every day brings me one step closer to my final destination (an eternity with Jesus).

My desire is to track this journey and my growth through this blog. I'm in process and running my race and I am determined to keep making my way by God's grace and with His help to finish well as I cross the line. The Bible clearly tells me that we are all in a race and that it will require perseverance, endurance and a firm fixation upon Jesus to stay the course and remain en route towards my final objective (Meeting my Savior face to face and hearing the words "Well Done"!)

The reality is that we are all en route. I trust that my thoughts in the blogs to come will encourage and challenge you as you continue on the way towards the finish line. Let me encourage you to not live your life en route towards the passing destinations of life, but rather give yourselves completely to staying en route towards Christ's finish line where He stands to meet and greet His children.

I'm taking some time this week to reflect upon some verses that always encourage and motivate me en route to my final destination. I trust they will do the same for you.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)