Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gift of An Experience

I have spent some time today reflecting upon an experience my family and I began on this date last year. Twelve months ago today, we were packed and ready to board a plane with 8 other individuals from our church in order to fly over to Europe and serve missionary families. (Pictured above are some of the missionary kids we served and my family in Barcelona Spain)
In my reflections, I have been giving thanks for the opportunity we had last year to take a step of faith out of our comfort zone as a family in order to give my children the "gift of an experience." I love that they still enthusiastically talk about it a year later which they never seem to do with the physical gifts they find wrapped and placed under a tree.

As I contemplate all the preparations we have made for our children this year for Christmas, I am wondering how many of them will really carry long term significance compared to the "gift of an experience" they received last year. I know we will have some fun, build some good memories and enjoy life together but I can't help but wonder how I can work a little harder at providing my entire family with "faith stretching experiences" that carry more of an eternal significance than most of what the kids will receive this Christmas. I can only speculate, but I have no doubt that much of what is received this year will lose its significance in a matter of weeks, months or years at best.
As we move into 2011, I am hopeful that many Christ followers will sincerely look to our God and genuinely ask Him to open up "faith stretching experiences" for our families. I hope for this in order to see God build into our lives those lessons and opportunities that grow and shape us for the cause of Christ.
So for today... I am grateful as I reflect upon last year's experience for my children and I am trusting it will carry some lessons that will have eternal significance as they grow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

God's Timing...

As Christmas quickly approaches, I've been thinking about God's timing in respects to the incarnation of God the Son. God's people lived through 400 years of silence waiting to hear from God and then at just the right time, God responded with Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:4-5

Hebrews 1:1-2

John 1:1-18

Sometimes we all get frustrated with God's timing and yet the incarnation reminds us that God responds at just the right time in human history for the purpose of accomplishing what He needs to accomplish within our lives and to bring Himself glory. In this instance God's perfect timing lead us to the truth that "GOD IS WITH US"!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Noah, An Ark and the walk of faith...

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the walk of faith. For those who know me, I am quite organized and do like to have my ducks neatly ordered as life seems to go much better when I do. Yet, I am currently looking down the barrel at a number of ministry and life situations that are requiring me to "daily" walk by faith with absolute trust in a Sovereign God.

In order to bolster my confidence (a.k.a. b/c of a lack of faith) I have been revisiting the stories of old in God's word whereby men and women of God venture out in complete obedience to God even when all the ducks aren't neatly ordered.

The one I have landed on today is Noah and the Ark and it has spoken quite powerfully to me. Forgive me, but I am about to read into the story a bit as I am picturing it right now...

God said to Noah... make yourself an ark. (Genesis 6:13-14) As these words were uttered by God to Noah, I wonder what was going on around Noah. I am guessing the sun was probably shining, the population was carrying on with their normal day to day responsibilities and Noah was wondering if he should take this leap of faith. Noah had been around for a few hundred years by this point and most likely had his own routine, business ventures and life to live. Should he stop it all and obey God? What would the neighbors think? Where would the wood come from? Who would help build it? Where would the animals all come from? Would his wife tolerate such behavior? How would it impact his kids and family reputation etc...

These are the real questions of life we all face and thoughts we all process when we sense God is calling us to walk through some very uncertain times by faith. He tends to give us the answers one day at a time and asks us to be OK with that. My prayer is that I will respond just like Noah did.

Here is the punch line that caused my heart to rejoice today and gave me the confidence to keep at it for the Lord... "Noah did everything just as God commanded him." (Genesis 6:22) One day at a time. One act of obedience at a time. One step of faith at a time. This is what pleases the heart of God and takes the pressure off of me being my own god and having all my ducks in a row.

By the way... I would have had all of the ducks ordered neatly and alphabetically on the ark.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Truly Surrendered Life

"Many give up everything to go into full time ministry except themselves. The unsurrendered self is the last thing we give up." (Rick Warren)
I've been thinking quite a bit lately about what a life lived like the Jesus presented in the Gospel Matthew would look like. As I read this quote, I could not help but think of Christ's words in passages like Matthew 20:28 where He states "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." It leads nicely right into the passion week account where we find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane crying out to the Father in agony as He states the following two confessions; "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39) and "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matthew 26:42)
As I've thought about this, I am amazed at how often pastor's are willing to publicly remind people how much they have given up to follow Jesus and serve as an undershepherd. It is as if we've settled for second best and are quick to point out how much we've surrendered for Jesus' sake. But, it would appear to me that what we remind people of,with great drama I must state, is all related to external and temporal items such as salaries, evenings at home, bigger houses and cars etc...
Rick Warren may just be on to something with his quote above as it is far easier to surrender all the worldly things that people see rather than our very hearts which King Jesus is most interested in. If Christ is truly our example, then He not only surrendered the creature comforts of planet earth but also His very heart to the Father and His will for His life. Something worth chewing on for sure...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Church on Mission

This past week, I've spent quite a bit of time in the Gospel of Matthew. What a rich and powerful portion of Scripture as it looks deeply into the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I've landed in Matthew because I am trying to better understand the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in light of the larger context of Matthew's writing. In doing so, I believe I am beginning to formalize in greater depth my understanding of Christ's commission to His disciples in light of the King/Kingdom context of Matthew.

So here is my summary as of Thursday afternoon for my message on Sunday as it relates to the church being on mission...

"The Kingdom of Heaven/God is here with one King and His name is Jesus. The King has called and sacrificially provided a way for people to enter His kingdom. Together, these people have the responsibility to be growing in Kingdom character and conduct so as to fulfill the mission of establishing outposts of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth until the King comes again."

I am thinking a great study for any church would be to take some time in the Gospel of Matthew to really flesh this out in order to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to follow and live for the King and His Kingdom in our current cultural context.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chewing on...

Currently chewing on the following two things...

The first is related to the persecuted church. To be honest, I am not fond of thinking too much about this topic as it breaks my heart, makes me feel guilty and I feel powerless to do anything about it. Horrible excuse as a Christ follower, but just being honest. I just finished speaking with Eric who is the Spiritual Life Director at Lititz Christian and my conversation has forced me once again to bring this subject to the forefront of my mind. He has been taking time with his students to pray for and grow in their awareness of the multitudes of Christ followers being persecuted around the world for their faith in Christ. We are spoiled rotten here in America. We got it so good that we lose focus as to what is really important in God's kingdom.

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." (Hebrews 13:3)

Secondly, there is a Francis Chan quote that is messing me up. He simply states "Our concern (as Christ followers) is more about going to heaven than loving the King."

"If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Genius of the AND Conference

Well I've been up for nearly 36 hours with a few little cat naps throughout and enjoying my time away at the AND conference at Granger Community Church. It wasn't too long into the conference that we knew our time at this conference would stretch our thinking as we dialogue and think through whether or not the Attractional and Missional models of church can co-exisit together as a catalyst for a movement.

The first speaker challenged my thinking deeply and confirmed a number of things I've been feeling in my heart for many years now. His name is Alan Hirsch and he spoke on "Living in the Land of AND." There is much to be said about his talk, but here are three concepts that caught my attention and are rattling around in my head right now.

The first concpet that got me thinking challenged me to think about how the attractional model of church reaches people for Christ but pulls them from their circles/cultures and places them into the new circle/culture of the attractional church. Thus, to pull people from their sphere's of influence and plant them within the new context of the church where they can come and enjoy a show and other people just like them, they have now been extracted from the very place where God wants them on mission to be the salt and light. I acknowledge this is a very sweeping statement that is worth much more dialogue, but statistics show that most people stop reaching people for Christ after being saved (in the church) for 2+ years.

Another point made was that people will possess a somewhat positive view of some form of God, Jesus and spirituality but reject the church outright. The church must take this reality seriously and work together to think about how to reverse this trend of the outright rejection of the institutionalized church.

One final question that really has me troubled... "Is a church a church if the church isn't doing what the church is supposed to do?" Hmmmm... Let that one keep you up a night for a while!

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Environment or New Me?

As I continue to slowly work my way through James MacDonald's new book "When Life is Hard" I came across a quote that I needed to share as it is one that has me reflecting upon life with a past, present and futuristic look.

He simply writes within the context of remaining under our trials the following statement;

May the Lord help each of us better understand this truth as the grass is usually not quite as green on the other side. Trials lived under the care and provision of God will continue the transformational process in us that comes with a life in Christ.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Surrendered Servant = Leadership?!?!

Last night at our elder meeting, Pastor Doug took some time to lead our elders in prayer and study. He spent some time talking about the concept of servant leadership. He made many great points, but there were two concepts that came together that ministered to my heart last evening.

The first one dealt with "surrender" being the key to servant leadership. At first I kind of brushed this comment off as "ya... no brainer". But, as he began to unpack this concept he started talking about how worry and stress can at times consume us as leaders which is an example of our own arrogance because we reach these levels of worry and stress when we leave God out of it all. This is anything but a surrendered life. The need to literally surrender every area of my life on a constant basis will lead to true Christ like servant leadership. I imagine I will spend a lifetime of growing in these lessons.

The second concept dealt with us only being able to "give leadership as we allow God to lead us." Again, my initial reaction was "ya... no brainer" and yet the above example proves how prone I (and all of us as humans) am to give God portions of our life to reign and lead while clinging on to others. For example, is God really leading my life as a whole if I am clinging on to pockets of worry and stress? The resounding answer is of course NO because of a lack of surrender.

At the end of the day, I will only be able to lead people for Christ and in Christ if I am willing as a leader to moment by moment surrender all that I am at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to lead me. This is also why accountability in the life of a leader is important. Nothing in our flesh wants to surrender to the One who willingly surrendered His life on our behalf. Words like surrender and servant aren't used often with the word leadership in our culture and yet that is the life we are called to live as Christ followers who give leadership in the church, our homes, our marriages etc...

I guess becoming a surrendered servant first may just be the quality someone aspiring for leadership in God's kingdom should possess. Other leadership skills can be taught, but this issue of the heart must first be caught.

Friday, October 22, 2010

How Great Are You Lord and Other Friday Musings...

It is Friday noon and it has been a very busy week and it's time to decompress a bit and post some Friday musings...

First, I found a great CD I hadn't listened to for quite some time. It's Robin Mark's "Revival in Belfast" CD and it's now in my itunes library. Here is a song I've listened to over and over all week long:

How great are You Lord
How great is Your mercy
How great are the things
That You have done for me
How great are You Lord
Your loving kindness
Is filling my heart as I sing
How great are You Lord
How great is Your love
It reaches to the heavens
How great is the heart
That sought and rescued me

Secondly, enjoyed a great Team Huddle on Monday as we talked about and shared on the concept of "remaining under" our trials.

Thirdly, been a good week of multiple meetings with the elders and others to keep discussing the future of Grace Church. It is Christ's church, so I believe with all my heart that the future cannot help but be bright.

Fourth, excited to be doing a wedding this weekend. Always a fun time to connect with a bride, groom and families on one of the most exciting days of their lives.

Fifth, I enjoyed meeting for the first time, Christian and Bonnie Beuggert. Their family partners with Grace Church to take the good news of Jesus to Bangkok, Thailand. Looking forward to hearing a bit from them on Sunday morning.

Finally, glad to know Christ as my Savior and all the blessings that come from being found in HIM. Have enjoyed some good times of discussion in the pastoral letters with my fellow pastors as we grow in our Lord together through times of accountability and prayer.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hupomeno - Remain Under

I have recently started a new book entitled "When Life is Hard" by one of my favorite authors, James MacDonald. This past week I got hung up in Chapter two where he referenced James 1:2-4.

In that particular passage, there is a great word that is used two times. It is the Greek word "hupomeno" which literally means "to remain under".

There is little doubt that each of us will face difficulties in life which tests our faith. Our human tendency is to look for coping mechanisms when faced with trials for the weightiness and burden that comes with them can sometimes be overwhelming. The author did a survey of some people in their church and they found that there were four primary human responses to trials. They were; I want to complain! I want to lash out! I want to bail! I want to fold under the pressure!

As I reflected upon these four statements, I realize that I have responded to trials throughout my life with each of those at different times. In fact, there is one that jumps off the page as my natural reaction to trials which is "I want to bail".

While we can all sympathize with one another and our natural human responses, God's desire for us is to "hupomeno" (remain under) the trial so as to grow in our staying power which in turn all us the time needed to grow in real Christ like transformation.

So... whatever your current trial, let me encourage you from God's Word to "remain under" your trial for this testing of your faith we bring about godly transformation if you and I will let it!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Good, Great and Chief Shepherd

"The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23)

I give thanks again today for the truth that Christ Jesus is my...

GOOD SHEPHERD (John 10:1-18)

GREAT SHEPHERD (Hebrews 13:20-21)

CHIEF SHEPHERD (1 Peter 5:1-4)

I do not need to walk around in the "wilderness of want" because of who I am in Christ Jesus and this is true for His church as well.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Weighty Entrustment (Part Four)

Something happened this week that I literally HATE! I know it is a very strong word and not to be used, but I HATE GETTING SICK!!! It has been nearly eight months since I've dealt with sickness and I don't like it.

BUT... I think it may be good for me. It is good for me because it is an incredible reminder that I am a frail human being who desperately needs a vibrant relationship with the living God. Far too often I seek to accomplish far too much in my own strength and wisdom. As a somewhat young man (not quite 40 yet) and fairly healthy, I still feel somewhat independent of God at times. And then... I get sick and am reminded how much I need to take care of myself and find the rest needed both physically and spiritually.

I write of my being sick because far too often I believe I along with all who are carrying the weighty entrustment of the glorious gospel must learn to stop trying to carry it on their own. We are frail and will grow weary and will never be able to cross the finish line well for Christ if we try to do it in our own strength for our strength will fail. Our need to utterly depend daily on the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us is essential. Even though I am in Christ, I still battle the flesh (sin) and it desperately wants to try and carry the weighty entrustment for the purpose of destroying the very testimony of Christ in and through me. Thus my need to continue submitting my life and being filled with His Spirit moment by moment becomes an essential part of sucessfully carrying this weighty entrustment.

I don't like being sick, but it does slow me down enough to remind me of my absolute need to walk in the Spirit in order to bear forth the fruit that is produced in a life submitted fully to the person and work of Christ.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Weighty Entrustment (Part 3)

For the past two weeks I've been contemplating on the weighty entrustment (the glorious gospel) God has given us. This week I'd like to talk about the concept of remaining faithful to this entrustment.

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a pastor who has been engaged in pastoral ministry for some time. He has and continues to see the good, bad and ugly of it all as the reality of serving our Lord in a fallen world is real. We talked for a bit about how one survives a lifetime of pastoral ministry (carrying this weighty entrustment) in a broken world that will creep into the church.

The concept of remaining "faithful" came up over and over again. Far too often we have preconceived ideas on what carrying the weighty entrustment for God will look like. I know I've been there. Yet, God may be calling each of us to carry it into places and circumstances we thought we would never experience and He is asking; "Will you remain faithful with it?"

As I pondered it all, it seems like an impossible task until I realize afresh and anew that the reason we can remain faithful is because our Glorious God is first and foremost faithful to us.

Yes the weighty entrustment is indeed weighty at times and the carrying of it will test our resolve and faithfulness, but praise be to God whose faithfulness towards us is a promised constant we can live securely in. Will you rest (will I) rest securely in a faithful God day by day?

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Weighty Entrustment (Part 2)

Last week I posted a brief blog that dealt with the weighty entrustment that has been given to us who claim to be a disciple of Christ. We have been entrusted with the glorious gospel and all that entails.

One of the reasons this is such a weighty entrustment is due to the fact that there is coming a day when each of us will need to give account before our righteous Judge how we did here on earth for Him. It was a reminder that being faithful with the glorious gospel is more than just telling people about Jesus once in a while (evangelism). As one who has been transformed by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and had His righteousness imputed to me, my life (all areas) should reflect back to this world the person and work of my glorious Savior. Anything less is a cheap counterfeit that disgraces and devalues my incredible Savior.

There is not a one of us who perfectly follows Jesus, but may our lives reflect Him back into this darkened world more and more. We must always remember there is coming a day when we will need to give account for what we did with the glorious gospel that has been entrusted to us.

"For we must all appear before the judgement seat (bema seat) of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4 spoken to elders who faithfully reflect Jesus back to their flocks)

More thoughts next week...

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Weighty Entrustment

To be "entrusted" with something is to have another person commit something to you with the confidence that you will manage it appropriately.

So many people strive towards having greater responsibility often out of selfish motives. There is this false assumption that an increase in responsibility brings greater power, prestige and even people who are willing to follow. Unfortunately, many fail to see that the responsibility of being entrusted with something will bring a certain weightiness (which isn't bad) as one comes to a full understanding of the consequences of failing to faithfully carry and fulfill the entrustment.

This past week I was with a group of pastor's that began to discuss a point found often within the pastoral letters of Scripture. We were reminded yet again that God has entrusted us as shepherds and Christ followers with the glorious gospel that is found solely in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

"... the glorious gospel of the blessed God which He entrusted to me." (1 Timothy 1:11)

"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care." (1 Timothy 6:20)

"Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you, guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:14)

This is a weighty (defined as "of much importance and/or consequence") concept and I will look to share more of my thoughts on it in my next few blog posts.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Leadership Summit and Other Thoughts...

It is Friday night and I'm just sitting down to decompress after a very busy week which ended with two days of the Leadership Summit. I always enjoy the Summit, but need the rest of the year to process and hopefully implement into my life and leadership some of the principles learned. So here is what's going through my mind at the moment...

I really enjoyed hanging out with the Children and Student Ministry department team on Wednesday night at our home as we welcomed Heidi to the team. They keep me young!

I enjoyed working with our Financial Oversight Team this week as we manage the financially tight times within the ministry. We continue to strike a good balance between fiscal responsibility and a sustained passion for our ministry.

Found a new coffee flavor I love. Carmel Toffee Coffee at the LCBC cafe.

Enjoyed Jim Collins talk on how to recognize an organization in decline and principles to bring it back. One of the comments he made related to a concept that calls leaders to live with both faith and a real awareness of the facts. One without the other can be damaging to an organization.

Also enjoyed a good talk on what motivates people. It wasn't a spiritual talk, but gave some good principles on how human beings are intrinsically motivated to achieve.

Appreciated the encouragement of fellow Christ followers at various times throughout this week. Couldn't dream of doing life in isolation. Thankful for the Body of Christ.

I was fascinated with the GORE story and how their company functions with a lattice style of leadership.

Heard one of the interviewed leaders swear multiple times. That was a first at a leadership summit.

My final thought... was challenged immensely by the pastor from Ada Bible Church on the Land in Between from Numbers 11 that we are all called to walk in. It's not a bad thing!!!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Hope and Activity in Christ Jesus alone!

This past week, the five pastor's of Grace Church started meeting on Tuesday mornings for a time of studying and hopefully applying the Bible to our lives. After a recent conversation with some mentor's in Canada, they reminded me of my need to walk in faithfulness and godliness. As I spent a bit of time looking over these words in the New Testament, the concept of godliness is addressed prominently in the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus). Thus, as ironic as it may seen, the pastoral team will be spending some time in the pastoral epistles for the next few months together.

As I started reading 1 Timothy 1:1, I couldn't get past the following phrase "and of Christ Jesus our hope..." This little phrase really struck a chord as a number of months ago I came to the real conclusion that I had hit a point in my life where many pastor's end up whereby I was beginning to place my hope in religious productivity (what I was doing for Jesus) rather than in a growing love relationship with Jesus.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we (Christ followers and the church) begin to place our "hope" in good persons, activities, policies and even accomplishments rather than in Jesus alone. For some reason, we find it easier to mark spirituality by what we do (I believe the Pharisees were guilty of this) rather than by who we are in Christ which will then produce a spiritual outflow of godly fruit.

"But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-8

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A $40 Funeral

Last week our church family received news that the pastor of a church/school we support in the Central African Republic suddenly died. This in and of itself caused me to pause, pray and think about the impact this man's death will have upon his family, church and orphans.

But God wasn't done rocking my world with this news. Shortly after news of his death, I received an email asking if Grace Church would be willing to cover the funeral costs for this very poor family. Without hesitation it was a resounding yes and then it hit me... The cost for this man's funeral was a mere $40. That's all it would take for this North American church with an almost $5 million budget to bless a family and a church half way around the world.

Now I am not suggesting we all take a vow of poverty and try to live on the streets for $40 but I will suggest that it is time once again for each of us here in North America to contemplate how God can use each of us to be a blessing towards someone else. It is the least we can do in God's kingdom for King Jesus and in the name of King Jesus.

One of the practical ways I am determined to keep this in the forefront of my mind (because I lose sight of this stuff) is to give pause on a monthly basis as I write the support check for our sponsored child. Far too often I just simply write the check and feel good about helping a needy child out. But I am ready to at least monthly ask God to reveal to me (and my family) what it is He is calling us to do in order to be a blessing to someone else. It may not be $40 but rather 40 minutes of my time. Whatever it is, may God help each of us to regularly put aside our selfish desires, live on mission for Him by practically fulfilling His call to Love Him and others.

If every Christ follower would commit to something as simple as $40 per month to bless someone in need, imagine the impact we could have for Christ. It was a good $40 lesson...

Friday, July 16, 2010

He is jealous for me...

Over the past few weeks I've found myself returning to a song in my itunes library over and over again. It is "How He Loves" sung by the David Crowder Band from the Passion: Awakening recording.

He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am the tree bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me. And oh, how He loves us oh, Oh how He loves us, How He loves us all."

So often, the word jealous carries a negative connotation, but how wonderful to know that the Sovereign God of the universe is intimately jealous for me. His love runs so deep that He is willing to do anything to be in relationship with me. In my humanness, I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the depth of His love towards me.

As I was reading Scripture related to this, I came across Hosea 11:8a where I read "How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over Israel?" Within the context of this passage, God is dealing with the rebellious nation that so deserves to be cut loose. Yet He is jealous for the nation of Israel and wants them to walk into and remain in a loving relationship with Him.

I then proceeded to do a little exercise. I replaced the word "Ephraim" with "Tim" so it just simply read "How can I give you up Tim?" That little exercise moved me greatly and helped me understand a little bit more this week that there is a jealous God pursuing me and He refuses to give up doing so.

The next time you begin to wonder whether or not the God of the universe even wants to be in relationship with you, just simply remind yourself that God is jealous for you and repeat the words of Hosea 11:8a and add your name to it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Been Thinking about... Building Community Life

This past week, I received my quarterly PBU (Philadelphia Biblical University) publication. I have fond memories of my time there and give thanks for the impact that experience had upon my life over my four years there.

In this most recent issue, they took time to speak into how they have sought to build authentic community life amongst all the participants of the institution (students and staff alike). Although it is an institution of higher learning, the need for authentic Biblical community was also important especially as their on campus students grew. With that context set, here are just a few of the items I've been thinking about as it relates to church ministry...

How can we continue to develop and implement something along the lines of a Community Life Covenant? There is little doubt that the Bible states very clearly that we as Christ followers have certain Biblical obligations towards one another. So how do we make sure we have a discipleship process that moves people towards the commitments the Bible asks for? Membership must be more than just people receiving benefits. It must include people fulfilling Biblical obligations to one another and the Lord not out of compulsion but out of a genuine desire to fulfill God's call within His word to practice/live out the one another's of Scripture.

At PBU when they were putting together their calendar of events, they challenged the students to "BE A PART OF IT." I like that! Like it or not, those who are genuine followers of Christ belong to the Body of Christ. We are a part of it whether we like it or not, so we should be committed to doing our part as a part of the larger whole.

Here was a great quote that I think translates into the church. "Design community life that takes what is being taught and provide opportunities to live it out." It's one of the things I love about our Pastor of Connections here at Grace. He takes that call seriously and is seeking to equip small groups to live it out in genuine Biblical community. But it also speaks again to a leaderships need to equip/disciple Christ followers towards this ultimate goal which means great intentionality must be given to what is being taught.

That's what I've been thinking about...

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Poor Trade... Integrity for Image

I heard a speaker this week use the following phrase... "Men are trading integrity for image..." I believe this statement is very true as the pressure to portray a certain image often leaves integrity taking the back seat as success in certain man made arenas (wealth, career, status, title etc...) is deemed as the pathway to significance.

In my opinion, the Bible speaks clearly to the type of "image" we should portray. What the world really needs to see in us is Jesus which will only come if we are serious about walking in integrity and growing in our Christ like character. I believe this is very counter cultural and is a challenge to Christ followers, but we must strive towards such a goal.

I believe the need to strive towards this goal is firmly rooted in the truth that "image" is only skin deep with no deeply planted roots solidly grounded in the person and work of Jesus. Image is like a balloon. We can fill it for a while and it looks good when puffed up, but at some point it pops and there is nothing left.

I am convinced that Christ followers must return to being a people who walk in Biblical integrity for this is what will bring about true significance in life... a significance that is firmly rooted in Jesus bringing Him the glory.

To hit home this point, I was with a group of guys this week and the following verses were shared from Psalm 78:70-72; "He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them."

Friday, June 11, 2010

200th Post/Groaning/Vacation/World Cup/Team

Life... it is never dull, always interesting and growing me every step of the way... Here are a few things going through my head on a Friday morning.

200th Blog Post... Can't say I've been counting, but noticed today that this is number 200. It has been a good exercise for me to write out my thoughts and trust they have encouraged in the faith any who have come across my musings.

Groaning... Had one of those weeks that I didn't see coming. Held on tight to the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 where he states "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." Praise God that I am still in process and that many of the temporal challenges we all face as humans on this earth are working towards a greater purpose in our lives as we live and rest in a Sovereign God.

Vacation... Looking forward to two weeks away with my family. I am committed to intentionally pouring into my family on this trip as they represent a portion of my life that God has called me as a husband and father to faithfully love and lead. The pursuit of true Biblical rest is necessary and will be sought over the next few weeks. I've also been starting to do some reading on how we as Christ followers tend to neglect the concept of the "sabbath" which can lead to incredible shortcomings. Look forward to gaining more insight on this.

World Cup... Can't wait to watch some games with the kids while sipping Tim Hortons Coffee.

Team... I serve with a great group of people who strive to encourage, challenge and pray for one another. Thanks to those who have poured into my life lately. It is appreciated!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Been Thinking About...

For the past two weeks I've been thinking about the following two statements that I heard preached by Pastor John Garner of Redeemer Bible Church in Niagara Falls. I've also shared them with the staff of Grace Church in order to make sure we work hard at staying on guard and working towards course correction when needed as a spiritual drift can happen so quickly within our lives and the life of a church.

"You have forsaken your first love (Jesus). This is a tolerated drift from the heart of Christ and from a disposition and behavior of love... for one another and the spiritually lost. They are pumping out religious product with a waning affection, love and loyalty for Jesus and a compassionate love for people.

"Remember how it was... before your heart started to harden and shrivel, before your work for Jesus eclipsed your relationship with Him and others. Take the warning seriously... [if not] there will be a loss of spiritual vitality and power from your midst. A sense of God's activity and grace will evaporate."

This was the warning/exhortation to the church of Ephesus and to all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ in 2010. It is so easy to justify your life in respects to your "doing" for Christ rather than your "being" in Christ.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spiritual Entropy

"We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." (Hebrews 2:1)

I've wrapped up my slow and intentional read of "Leading on Empty" and have been struck with my need to continue developing a very intentional life rather than reactionary. Part of seeking to lead an intentional life means one must be willing to consistently monitor and assess which requires margin. The need for this is clearly stated in the book where the author writes "Entropy, or the gradual decline back into a mediocre lifestyle defined by habit and reaction, is natural."

Even though I have been following Christ for 30+ years now, there is little doubt that I am still needing to grow. A reactionary life (defined in my last blog post) leads one to the pathway of mediocrity at rates that sometimes leave me feeling overwhelmed. How true the words from Hebrews that remind us of our need to give time and attention to an intentional life so as to avoid the spiritual drift into mediocrity that we are all susceptible to.

At the young/middle age of 38, I am beginning to realize that all the energy and good intentions I had for Christ in my 20's doesn't come as easy anymore. There is so much vying for my attention in life that I have a tendency to drift into a state of spiritual entropy whereby I am putting out mediocre "religious product" (heard a sermon last Sunday on this) at best. In fact, I would wager a guess that many other pastors/ministry teams/churches/boards struggle with this as well.

Spiritual entropy describes the North American church and reminds me of many of the warnings given to the 7 churches in Revelation. If we are to ever overcome this in our churches, then I need to make sure I am doing my part to live an intentional life so as to make a difference to the glory and honor of Jesus in whatever part of His vineyard He chooses to use me throughout the rest of my days here on earth!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Life of Reaction?

I was doing some reading and thinking on yet another concept drawn from the book "Leading on Empty" that I've been slowly wading my way through. In the later part of this book, the author challenges one to think about the life course they are choosing to walk.

One of the courses depicted was "A Life of Reaction". Here is how this life course is described; "With this paradigm - a life of reaction - we plod forward until something forces us to change direction... A life of reaction is a life lived in the twilight realms between conservatism and activism, hope and dejection, passive indifference and compulsive hyperactivity. It is a disorienting, sometimes dangerous way to live, but the majority of people have chosen this lifestyle, most of them by default."

Needless to say, this statement got me thinking hard. The ultimate challenge of the books is for us as Christ followers to pursue a life of intentionality firmly rooted and grounded in Christ, His Word and His priorities for our lives. It's worth chewing on and I will be doing it for a while as I want to do all I can do to finish well the course of life God has set me on.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Parting Words...

One of my favorite books of the Bible if not my favorite is 2 Timothy. I have always appreciated the heartfelt words of the apostle Paul to his beloved son in the faith, Pastor Tim (Timothy), as Paul's life is coming to an end. But this week, I have also spent some time in 2 Peter as the church family gets ready to embark into a study of this letter. This letter also contains parting words as the apostle Peter recognizes his death is imminent (2 Peter 1:13-15).

As I thought about these two letters from the Bible, I could not help but ask myself what my parting words would be if I had a chance to write them out shortly before my death. To be honest, I am not sure I have a solid answer yet, so I am going to keep wrestling with it. But it does cause one to pause and ask yet again what type of legacy am I leaving with my family, my co-workers, my church family. Very sobering thoughts to say the least.

I also got thinking about the fact that not everyone gets the opportunity to take the time to reflect upon what parting words they would leave in writing for others. With that in mind, here are a few other thoughts that have challenged my heart this past week...

First, does my life regularly reflect an intimate knowledge of Jesus as seen in my day to day words and deeds? If so, I can confidently go at any point and know that my daily life represented a legacy that consistently pointed people towards my Savior.

Secondly, I can't let any amount of time go by with hurtful words/actions hanging over any relationship. How sad to think that my parting words/actions to someone else I love would be anything but God honoring.

There are a whole lot of other thoughts floating around in my head right now, but the parting words of the apostle Peter sure got me thinking quite a bit this week.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Let the Obedience Training Begin for My Dog and I

Yesterday I did something I swore I would never do... I took my dog to obedience training. All in all he is a good dog and we enjoy him as a family, but lately he has been testing the waters by trying to be at the very top of the family pyramid as boss. So off the five of us headed for not group lessons, but private. All in all it went very well and we've already figured out a few things that are helping already, but I couldn't help but take away a few spiritual lessons from the day.

First, I can be a lot like my dog with God. Even though I know He is to be master and Lord of my life, I often find myself through my words and deeds trying to climb the hill of independence and be the boss of my life. When I take these steps, I am in essence telling God that He can take the back seat as I set up self as the primary ruler of my heart.

Secondly, disobedience leaves me feeling unsettled. My dog is at his craziest when he is trying to rule the roost. It leaves him feeling unsettled, nervous and more out of control than when he is submitting to his master. This is true for me as well. Even though trying to be the boss of my own life sounds like a great idea with incredible freedom, life gets most out of control when I forget who the master of my heart really is.

Finally, I am most at peace and content when walking in obedience to my God. Our dog is a joy to be around when we have the pecking order right and he is living in obedience to his master. This is true in the Christ followers life as well. Even though we live in a culture that states personal independence trumps all authority in our lives, the greatest peace, contentment and joy comes when we live in submission and obedience to God and His Word.

I guess both my dog and I need to prepare ourselves for a lifetime of obedience training. It just goes better for all involved when we both obey our different masters.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Advice to a Pastor Starting His Ministry Journey...

I am currently reading the book entitled "Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion" by Wayne Cordeiro. It is a wonderful read on his journey back from pastoral ministry burnout.

I am not that far into the book as I am seeking to read a bit and then process it for a season. Early on in the book, I came across a section where I thought this to myself; "I sure wish someone had talked to me about this early on in my pastoral ministry." So with that thought in mind, here are a few quotes from the book which represents some great advice to all who are starting in pastoral ministry along with great advice to those of us who have been doing it for a while.

"I always felt guilty when I took a break." (This is something we got to get over quick!)

"Zeal and good intentions can fuel us in the beginning, but they won't last in the long haul."

"To finish strong, you must learn to rejuvenate your spirit early in your ministry."

"I was fixing everybody's problems except my own, and I needed time to replenish my spirit."

"Identifying something (poor emotional state) is not the same as getting it addressed and resolved."

"Wisdom and understanding are not built in a day; however they are built daily."

"Your future will oftentimes be held in trust within the simplicity of a daily walk with God."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Does Radical Disobedience + Radical Obedience = I'm OK?

I heard a quote this week from one of Perry Noble's sermons that I wrote down immediately because I believe it summarizes well many Christ followers approach to sin. He stated this;

"Radical disobedience in one area is not canceled out by radical obedience in another area."
I agree with that statement because I find myself tempted to justify my sin by reminding both myself and God of all the obedient things I am engaged in. I am amazed at how quickly we as Christ followers rationalize the sin we willingly succumb to by trying to make up for it in another area of discipleship.
The bottom line is really this. There are areas within all of our lives that we have submitted to the authority of Christ and other areas that reflect a spirit of rebellion against a holy God. I think most of us would admit that it is easier to justify our sin by trying to show God that we are radically obedient in certain areas because we are unwilling to fight the hard fight of submitting the rebellious attitudes and actions we deep down enjoy pursuing and holding on to.
So, living like the devil throughout the week and in private isn't canceled out by attending church, serving in church or giving to the church. They are all good things, but don't replace our need to submit every area of our life to the authority of Christ and the Bible.
Pursuing radical obedience by submitting every area of our life to Christ Jesus must be our goal in Christ Jesus!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Legacy of Faith

This past week I moved into my new office. With each move comes the work of moving books, files and other stuff. But this move turned out to be quite special as I placed books on my shelf.

About half the books I possess have been passed on to me from my grandfather who was a pastor/evangelist. The two most cherished items I have in my collection are two Bibles that belonged to him.

The one is my grandfather's Bible that he used to preach from and thus has many of his handwritten notes in it. That alone is very special. After his death, my grandmother passed it on to me and wrote this in the front;

"Presented to Tim, my dearly loved grandson. Grandpa's greatest delight would be to know that you are reading and studying the Book. Just as Elijah pass on his mantle to Elisha, I know grandpa would pass the mantle on to you Tim and want you to carry on where he left off. In Grandpa's first Bible he wrote these words: This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book." - Love Grandma (Christmas 1989)

The other one is a Bible he used at various points, but grandma had written down the notes from my induction service into my first Senior pastoral ministry. How cool to have the Bible that grandma had on that very proud day for her. In the very front it reads the following three points from my induction service;

Induction Service - Tim - August 16, 1998

1. Guard the Gospel
2. Transfer the Truth
3. Preach the Word

2 Timothy - Dr. Launstein (the gentleman who preached the service)

I share all this as my heart was overflowing with gratitude this past week for the legacy of faith that has been passed down to me. Lord help me pass it on to the next generation!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Some Leadership Musings...

Over the past week, I've taken the time to reflect upon some recent leadership articles and conversations I've had. Here is a brief summary of three of those leadership musings I been thinking through recently...

Organizational Team Stages:

The Forming Stage: This is the stage where the team starts to be pulled together.

The Informing Stage: This is the stage where goals, vision and purpose are shared.

The Storming Stage: This is the stage where systems compete, opinions are expressed and clear communication and clarification must take place. It is the place where objective input must be expressed and where everyone has the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment.

The Norming Stage: This is the stage where a sense of normalcy is achieved for a season and the goals and vision are accomplished within a system that is viewed as the "norm".

Managing Subordinates: (I'm still chewing on parts of this one...)

One will successfully manage subordinates when time is given to the following (as noted in a book by Dee Hock entitled "One From Many" which deals with the topic of chaordic organizations.

50% of our time must be given to managing self!
25% of our time must be given to managing those who have authority over us.
25% of our time must be given to managing our peers.
Little or no time actual given to the hands on management of our subordinates.

New Staff Positions to Emerge this Decade in Larger Churches
  • The Network Administrator
  • The Multicultural Children's Director
  • The Chief of Staff
  • The Operations Pastor
  • The Creative Arts Director
  • The Boomer Director (aka - Sr.'s Pastor... but don't dare call a boomer a Senior!)
  • The Spiritual Growth Pastor

All in all... a lot of different thoughts processing through my head right now as I seek to keep growing in my leadership role and abilities.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Farming out Evangelism?

I was reading and then listening to an interesting post today by Steven Furtick on evangelism when he used a line that really stuck with me. He spoke of how when he first started as a pastor he was looking to "farm out the salvation part (invitation to receive Christ)" to those who had proven track records doing it.

As I thought about that, I could not help but reflect upon how many Christ followers share that they in essence have come to the same conclusion. We are willing to try and live our lives in a Christ like manner. We may even be courageous enough to put a yard sign in our front yards inviting people to church. But how many of us have reduced inviting people to receive Christ to the realm of "that's the preacher's job".

This weekend, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sin has been conquered and death has been defeated. Christ is the resurrection and the life! Let us all be willing to go, tell others about Jesus but let us not stop there. Let us boldly extend the invitation to receive Him by faith as Savior of their lives.

Let's stop farming out any part of evangelism. Let us go, tell and invite others to receive Jesus and let us do so without fear or shame. Eternal destinies are at stake!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The One Another's of the Bible

I am sitting at my desk looking at a list of "One Another's" from the New Testament that Pastor Steve includes in our Understanding Grace materials that we utilize with those looking to become members at Grace Church. The reason I have this list is because I'm looking to do my brief talk on Sunday AM from Hebrews 10:24 where we are exhorted to "spur one another on" toward love and good deeds. It is one of the reasons we want to see people in Connect (small) groups here at Grace. I'd encourage all to read through the list with a prayerful spirit this week and let it speak to your heart like it has mine in how we are called as Christ followers to engage with one another.

Love One Another (Jn 13:34; Rom 13:8; 1 Th 3:12; 1 Pet 4:8; 1 Jn 4:11)
Accept one another. (Rom 15:7)
Admonish one another. (Rom 15:14; Col 3:16)
Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Rom 14:19)
Carry each other's burdens. (Gal 6:2)
Have equal concern for each other. (1 Cor 12:25)
Confess your sins to each other. (Jas 5:16)
Be devoted to one another. (Rom 12:10)
Encourage each other. (1 Th 4:18; Heb 3:13; 10:25)
Forgive one another. (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13)
Greet one another. (Rom 16:16; 2 Cor 13:12)
Don't grumble against each other. (Jas 5:9)
Live in harmony with one another. (Rom 12:16)
Honor one another. (Rom 12:10)
Offer hospitality to one another. (1 Pet 4:9)
Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. (1 Pet 5:5)
Be kind and compassionate to one another. (Eph 4:32; 1 Th 5:15)
Do not lie to each other. (Col 3:9)
Stop passing judgment on one another. (Rom 14:13)
Be patient, bearing with one another. (Eph 4:2; Col 3:12-13)
Live in peace with each other. (1 Th 5:13)
Pray for each other. (Jas 5:16)
Regard one another as more important than yourselves. (Phil 2:3)
Serve one another in love. (Gal 5:13)
Do not slander one another. (Jas 4:11)
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Eph 5:19; Col 3:17)
Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb 10:24)
Submit to one another. (Eph 5:21) another. (Col 3:16)

Friday, March 19, 2010

I am (We are) Bondservants

This past week, I've been gearing up for my talk on serving here at Grace Church. In my preparations, I've been reminded once again as to why I and all followers of Christ must be sold out to serving. It's not an option for one who claims to follow Jesus.

In Philippians 2:5-7 we are told the Jesus took on the form of a bondservant. The Greek word (doulos) carries the following ideas for us as we too our bondservants of Christ;

First, it speaks of one who is in a permanent relationship of servitude to another. When I trusted Jesus Christ to rescue me from my sins, I entered into a permanent relationship with Him as His servant (literally slave).

Secondly, it speaks of being fully consumed with accomplishing the will of a master. As one who has been rescued from sin by Christ, I have willingly surrendered my life and my will to Him. This means I am here on this earth to accomplish His good purposes in and through me.

Thirdly, it is also a word that was used to describe the "under-rower" on a slave ship. This isn't necessarily a glamorous picture or one that many churches use to recruit volunteers, but, it is how the Christ follower is described within God's word. It's not that God is some tyrannical master beating us into service, but it does picture how we as Christ followers must give ourselves to the hard work of the Gospel in order to see it advance throughout the world as we willingly submit our lives to a gracious and merciful master.

Finally, it is important to note that this is not something new for the church. The early followers of Christ also saw themselves as "bondservants" to their Savior and lived their lives accordingly. (See Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, James 1:1, 2 Peter1:1)

We have not been called to serve just so we can feel good about ourselves even though helping others brings tremendous blessing. We have been called to serve first and foremost because we have been called to follow the example of Christ and His Word. When we do, HE can accomplish HIS will and purpose in our lives as we acknowledge our identity as HIS bondservants. As a follower of Christ, serving is not an option, it's my position and calling.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Added to their Number...

This past week I've spent some time in the book of Acts and have been amazed yet again at the early church movement as the good news of Jesus was proclaimed. The power and rate at which the early church grew is staggering and worth celebrating. In the same vein, I also had the privilege of spending some time with one of the Executive Directors of a church that just passed the 10,000 number for average weekend attendance throughout their various sites. With these two experiences in mind, here are a few observations;

First, the book of Acts does not make any apologies for talking about growing in their numbers. (Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:7, 11:21, 14:1) As one reads the following passages of Scripture, there is great excitement about the proclamation of the good news of Jesus, even amidst persecution. There is also great joy at the growth that comes when people believe and move from the darkness into the light.

Secondly, I was amazed at some of the stories my friend told me about the resistance they have faced both internally and externally as they have grown. Now I understand that there are different philosophies of ministry out there, but surely all Christ followers both internally and externally can celebrate with those that faithfully proclaim the gospel and currently sees the mighty hand of God at work. They are getting ready to baptize 80 new believers soon and that's worth throwing a party for!

Thirdly, I am still convinced there is a balance to be found. I believe with all my heart that a marketing genius could grow a "church" in America whether the good news of Jesus was preached or not. There are many ways to entice and seduce people into half truths that keep them coming even though truth may not be taught. But, I am equally disappointed with ministries that have a multitude of excuses for not wanting to grow and see numbers increase through people coming to know Christ. There's got to be a balance that sees the passion and faithful teaching of God's Word seen in the early church as God's people rely upon Him to "add to their numbers" regularly.

It's been an interesting week of reading in the book of Acts and it was a encouraging lunch meeting with my friend to hear of a modern "added to their number that day" story. Jesus is still building His church and I count myself privileged like all Christ followers to be a part of it day in and day out.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Panera Bread, Buckets and other Random Thoughts

Here on Friday afternoon are some of the random thoughts flowing through my head as I reflect upon my week...

Been thinking and talking with others about making sure they keep their buckets full (their spiritual, emotional, physical and relational buckets) as empty buckets lead to poor decisions and at times unfortunate consequences.

Met with God at Panera Bread (No I'm not referring to my meeting with Pastor Steve there this week). Couple weeks ago I was feeling rather weary and tired, so I took my Bible, got a cup of coffee and an Asiago cheese bagel and read through the Psalms at Panera. Very refreshing and so thankful that God shows up wherever we land when we seek Him out.

Still gloating inside over Team Canada's gold in hockey at the Olympics since I've tried to not gloat verbally. That's kind of Pharisaical, but I guess there is a bit of Pharisee in all of us.

Have been enjoying immensely my meeting times with the pastors, ministry leaders and managers of Grace Church. The 10 of us have been having some wonderful conversations on Budgets, Communications and the creation of a Culture of Serving here at Grace.

Can't wait for Vision month and then Easter and the Face your Fears series at Grace. I believe we are going to see God do some incredible things that just blow us away.

Looking forward to surprising my wife with her birthday gift next Tuesday. Hope she likes it!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Precious!

I've been spending some time throughout the past few months in the book of Proverbs. Recently, I was challenged to think about what is really "precious" to me. In the Lord of the Ring trilogy, we were introduced to a character that was seduced by a ring to the point of insanity which ultimately took him down a path to his destruction. He called it "my precious." As I've thought through this, I must constantly be evaluating my own life to make sure that I choose to make decisions and pursue disciplines and pathways that reflect the very things God deems as precious.

One such item that we are to consider precious is "Godly, Biblical Wisdom" The pursuit of this type of wisdom will lead us down the path of obedience which ultimately leads to life rather than death and destruction. Take some time this week to reflect upon the following words from Proverbs;

"Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you can desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 3:13-15)

"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10-11)

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Thought Provoking Letter from a Child

Like many people, our family partners with Compassion International to support a young child. We have done this for years and it is the very least we can do as we have so much compared to others within this world. Like we do every year, we send away a bit extra to Compassion so our child can enjoy a Christmas gift. To be honest with you, it has never really impacted me much before as it seems so simple to send away that little bit of extra money that would have been spent on a McDonald's run or a Little Nicki's cheesesteak and pizza. But then I got the letter and it has messed me up since...

Here is what it simply read; "Auld Family, I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Thank you so much for the Christmas gift which you sent me. I received 21650 shillings and used it to buy a shirt, a pair of shorts and shoes. May God bless you."

Since reading that letter, I can't shake the following verse from my head "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48b)

I am currently processing what it means to be generous. I feel like we do OK and are living in obedience to what God requires per His Word, but it may be time to step out in faith a bit more. As one who lives in North America with a roof over my head, food on my table, clothes on my back and the list goes on... what does God require of me. What does God require of you? What does God require of His church?

One day I'll have to stand before God and give account for how I lived my life including how I managed what He has entrusted to me financially. I sure don't want to stand before Him and have Him ask why I felt I had to have or even deserved that nice car or extra square footage in my home while children died of hunger without a stitch of clothing on their back. So I'm thankful our little guy was able to get a new shirt, shorts and shoes but I'm thinking the gift of his letter back to us was worth just as much if not more if it stirs me to become more generous towards the things that touch the very heart of God!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Proud Citizen of 2 Places...

I recently returned from a quick trip to my "home and native land" of Canada and had the thrill of watching the opening ceremonies from the 2010 Winter Olympics on home soil. I was incredibly proud as a Canadian and loved the enthusiasm of all fellow citizens as Canadian Olympic clothing could be seen everywhere (soon to be sported here at Grace Church). One of the highlights for me was watching and listening to the young lady (Nikki Yanofsky) sing both the national anthem at the beginning and the "I Believe" song towards the end. In case anyone is interested, I've included the following link that shows the torch relay entitled "Journey to Vancouver" that is underscored by the above mentioned song which is loved by us Canadians.

But... as excited and proud as I am to be a Canadian citizen watching the Olympic games unfold in my home country, I am even more excited about being a citizen of heaven whereby I look forward to an eternity with my Savior. Listen to the words of Paul "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body." (Philippians 3:20-21) Come Lord Jesus Come!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowing on the Righteous and Unrighteous and Lessons Learned...

Like most within Lancaster County, I've been doing a whole lot of shoveling as the snow continues to fall and fall and fall and fall.... well you get the point. While shoveling I got thinking about our grand and glorious God.

First, I got thinking about Matthew 5:45 that states "He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Now I recognize that it doesn't say snow but I am sure the sentiment is the same as we are talking about another form of water. Isn't it interesting that the pleasure the sun brings and the pain the snow brings (from shoveling) isn't a respecter of persons. It is something that a Sovereign God bestows upon all of his creation whether we claim to be a follower of His or even acknowledge His existence.

Secondly, one's response to all of this snow (or weather in general) will speak volumes on someones thoughts towards God.

For those who deny the existence of a greater power, the snow is just bad luck somehow related to some geological phenomenon.

For those who believe in some higher power, they may see all the snow as some form of punishment or just plain old bad luck.

But for me... I came to a fresh realization of just how dependent I am upon a Sovereign and Awesome God. My God is SO big that He can make it snow when He wants, on who He wants and with as much as He wants. From living through a snow storm to living through daily life, I must continue to bring myself back to the place of absolute trust and dependency upon God. There are so many things outside of my control (weather included) and until I come to that place of absolute trust in Him, life will be faced with fear and worry.

So today... I sit back and give thanks for the gift of my family (yes even the dog) stuck together in our house playing the Wii. I sit and give thanks for a God who has given me a warm house while the snow blows. I give thanks to a God who has given me the physical strength and health to move inch after inch and foot after foot of snow from my driveway. I give thanks to my God who has provided me with plenty of food to sustain the family.

Just one complaint though... It has nothing to do with God but rather poor planning on my part. I am having to survive this snow storm without my Tim Horton's coffee. But still I will trustin Him... what about you???

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Leading or Managing & Other Leadership Musings...

One of the blogs I enjoy following is LeadingSmart which is written by Tim Stevens. In his most recent post, he discusses briefly a book he has worked through with and Executive Pastor Coaching Network entitled "Just Ask Leadership". He shares a few quotes that captured his attention which in turn have captured mine. Here were the two that jumped off of the page at me and my initial reaction to each of them.

First, I must be asking myself "Am I Leading or Managing?" It is noted that one of the ways in which one can answer this question is by reflecting on your weekly schedule. If I am handling issues that are months or even years out I am leading. If I spend the majority of my day handling immediate problems or issues, I am most likely managing. My immediate reaction to this is threefold. First, I have come to learn that there are seasons of ministry that require much more hands on managing until the season runs its course. Secondly, I need to evaluate what I've been called to as defined by my role in any given organizational setting. Am I called to manage or lead. Thirdly, based upon my answer to this question, I need to evaluate my daily schedule and "to do" lists to make sure I have found the balance and focus needed to successfully accomplish what God has called me to within any given organizational structure.

The second quote that caught my eye was "The person best equipped to solve a problem is the one who lives with it every day." This in part ties into the previous point. Leaders will let managers/co-workers solve the day to day problems and make decisions. If I am called to lead, I will help develop a culture that empowers those who manage and are engaged in the day to day stuff to make their own decisions with confidence as they are truly the ones who are best equipped to be the problem solvers in their areas of expertise.

I recognize that the church is not just an organization to be lead and managed. We are the living Body of Christ, but these principles are well worth pondering.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Brief Trip Down Memory Lane...

Today my wife and I headed into downtown Philadelphia with another couple to enjoy some cheesesteaks and do some filming for church. It was freezing cold, but it has been years since we've traveled into downtown Philadelphia apart from taking in some sort of sporting event. As we drove around, we couldn't help but take a trip down memory lane from our Philadelphia Biblical University days when we would often head into the city.

So here are a few of the random memory lane thoughts that went through my mind...

We laughed about the "fresh, warm" pretzels sold on the street corners of the city and the news story back in the early 90's that made me swear to never eat a soft pretzel again.

We celebrated what a powerful impact our days at PBU had upon our lives which has shaped the very couple we are today for the Lord.

We gave thanks for parents & grandparents who faithfully sacrificed incredible amounts of resources to see us successfully graduate with degrees in Bible so as to serve the Lord well.

We thought all about our fun dates to the city that saw us taking in ball games, the aquarium in NJ, dinner cruises, ice skating and standing on the steps of the old spectrum at 1:00 AM. (That's a whole other story...)

We laughed hard about the guys at US 1 Pizza that made the best pizza after they had enjoyed a few beers. It's true... the more beers these guys drank, the better the pizza.

All in all it was a fantastic day of looking back and celebrating God's goodness in our lives. We may not have the fanciest cars, biggest home or much money in the bank. BUT... how blessed to be serving Him together as a couple. How blessed to have been raised in families that have sought to pass on the legacy of faith. How blessed to be in a wonderful marriage. How blessed to have our health and two wonderful children. How blessed to be children of the living God. I pray my kids will one day be able to sit and reflect upon their lives with laughter, joy and a sense of God's incredible work in their lives.