Sunday, June 9, 2013

To the Point...All You Need (to do) is Love

Gregory Boyd speaks about the Gay Marriage Amendment in the U.S. and how the Christians thinker should respond. Give this a thought or two.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Letting Go and Letting God

But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name," Acts 9:15-16.
This is the commissioning made by our Lord concerning Apostle Paul (or Saul) after his conversion on the road to Damascus. It is quite the burden that is placed on Paul at the start of his Christian walk with our Lord. He was to be shown 'how much he must suffer' for the sake of Christ. Reading on about the story of Paul in the New Testament, we see just how true this was for him as he disregarded everything of life for the joy of knowing God in Christ Jesus:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things, I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of the resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11
And Paul suffered for Christ. He experienced insults, false accusation, imprisonment, floggings, stonings, hunger, destitution. Paul became absolutely nothing in the eyes of the world. This was his commissioning by the Lord of Love and Grace? You bet!

Why? To glorify God.

This was Paul's calling...but it in reality is each Christians individual calling also. If we read the New Testament, this theme runs thick in the ink marks of our bibles. And if we're honest with ourselves, we have to admit, we don't like this about our faith. I think confidently 80% (minimum) of the people in our North American church pews wouldn't actually suffer for the sake of Christ and so aren't true to their calling and aren't faithful to the one they call Lord.

Why? Because we want to vindicate ourselves.

But self-vindication is in essence a form of idolatry, pride. When we focus on self-vindication, we in actuality adhere to the belief that we're better than God himself. God suffered insurmountable things during his time as a man on earth. Reading the passion narratives of the Gospels indicates this. Why should we think that we wouldn't suffer too? In fact Christ tells us that we will suffer, throughout the Gospels.

1 Peter 4:12-14 states,
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
If we know Christ intimately and once we start growing in Him, we know that this life is not really about us. We know that all things point to God. He is the one to be gloried, not us.

We need to get used to that. I need to get used to that. I am learning to let go of the rights I hold to vindicate myself. Christ will grant me glory as He sees fit, but only in order to reflect His glory in the first place.

So, insult me. Accuse me. Beat me up or imprison me. Why should I run from these things? Why should I fear letting people know where I stand with God? Why protect my pride, the very thing that separates me from the glory of God?

I will humble myself and pursue the truth of glory, God my King!

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Truth about Nakedness

Genesis 3:7, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves,"  (New International Version).

There's something about a naked body that is sacred. There's something about a naked body that is secret. I think society knows this, which is why our society really prefers to cover it up. Regardless of what it may look like.

Our culture is now being understood as being "pornified" by some -- that is, sexuality or sexual exposures are being centralized in media and popular culture. Casual sex, scantily-clad fashion, lewd speech and physical nakedness is becoming more and more normalized. We're becoming desensitized to these things and porn companies and Hollywood producers are profiting from our adoption of them as "normal".

Nakedness is a big deal, and the world is becoming more accustomed to it. But the nakedness presented in today's popular culture isn't true nakedness because it's presented with an angle of "perfection". Naked images depict men and women without blemishes, unwanted marks or scars. Everything is symmetrical. Women are most often "tens," with picture-perfect bodies. Men are hunks with rippling abs and everything perfectly proportioned.

The pursuit of lust and sexual exposure once was understood as perverse, but is now often considered as virtuous. Sex is now casual, a means of achieving perfection for the one we are ready to commit ourselves to for the rest of our lives. Why would we want to present an amateur sexual performance to a future lover when we can engage in sex to gain experience and not be received with disappointment? The idea of  naked "perfection" has evolved into the idea of sexual "perfection".

But the concept of naked "perfection" is a falsehood with its many digital touch-ups and edits. Glossy images and pin-ups don't present true nakedness, but computer generated images.  In the so-called 'exposure' in these images, there remains enough unexposed to leave people with the idea that nothing is sacred, and nothing is secret either. Ironically, the true exposure of nakedness is covered up.

But what does true exposure of our nakedness bring? Shame to ourselves. Why? Because to be truly naked is to expose all of our imperfections -- our blemishes, our flaws, our scars. This is true of physical nakedness,  indeed, but also of emotional, and spiritual nakedness. Whole nakedness (that is physical, emotional and spiritual nakedness) is truly the exposure of our imperfections, the exposure of our humanity.

This morning, my wife, Jordan, and I read a devotional from a couple's devotional published by Promise Keepers, entitled "Marriage Celebration." This morning we read from Genesis 3 and the concept of exposing our humanity in marriage.

You see, our whole nakedness is reserved for marriage commitment, the commitment of a husband and wife to not only expose their physical bodies to each other, with all of their blemishes and imperfections, but it's the commitment to expose our character flaws, our emotional scars, our sinfulness to each other. How many of us, before we enter marriage, consider these things? Why is it that our society is so ready to accept the exposure of physical nakedness, even outside of the marriage bed, without regard to the whole exposure of our humanity? True nakedness is IMPERFECT, rather than perfect. In marriage, a husband and wife commit to be fully naked before each other, not covering up imperfections. By this I am not saying we justify our imperfections, but we allow the unveiling of our fallen-ness, our setbacks and our failings, as well as our physical blemishes.

If we aren't willing to be wholly naked before a future mate, we ought not to consider physical nakedness before him or her either.

Vulnerability attached to whole nakedness is sacred and must be intimately kept between two persons, a husband and wife. There must always be room for God to bring understanding, forgiveness and healing to the imperfections of our naked lives.

Genesis 3:7 tells us that Adam and Eve discovered that they were naked only after they sinned. Why was this so? They felt no shame before this. There was no imperfection before this. The shame they felt wasn't merely because of their physical exposure, but because of their character exposure -- their sinful character. That's why they covered themselves up, to leave their imperfections unexposed as to hide them from God.

This is why we often cover up our sins, like digital editors cover up the blemishes of naked images. Imperfections aren't ideal, but they are real. We prefer the ideal, so we cover up the real.

But even though we are really blemished, and try to cover this fact in various ways, God in His goodness knows that we cannot be made right with Him on our own.

Genesis 3: 21 says, "The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them."

God took the initiative from the beginning to cover our sins. This is how He forgave the man and the woman in the garden. But it took the death of an animal, spilled blood, in order to cover their nakedness. And later, Jesus spilled His blood, which is able to cover all our nakedness, our imperfections, our sins. But we need to expose our imperfections to God so that He has our permission to cover them by the blood of Christ. In marriage, we are privileged to expose our nakedness with our spouses and with their help allow Christ to cover us with His redeeming blood.

This is the truth about nakedness.

Friday, February 8, 2013

God's Post-it Notes

Yesterday, during a prolonged prayer session and as I prayed for one of my Jr. Youth kids, an image came to me of God's post-it note collection, splattered across a big wall.

I could imagine each of God's post-it notes representing every person God has ever created. Just like the picture shown, there's an array of colors of post-its, and each note has something different written on it.

This is the same with each individual person God created. Each is unique in his or her own way. God has created each one differently, as we can imagine a note keeper to write different messages on each individual post-it. A note keeper plasters the post-its across a wall to display each one, as a reminder of what each individual post-it contains.

Now obviously, observing the picture above, plastering enough post-its across a limited space means that some post-it notes will be covered by others, blocking them from view. Sometimes, we see public bulletin boards with all sorts of classifieds plastered across them. Quite often bulletin boards are left exposed to anybody, so when one wants to post an advertisement and when there's limited space, sometimes other people's posts are covered by the newer ones. Sometimes this is done because the person posting the ad believes his or her ad is the most important and wants to ensure that it is being noticed above all the rest.

I can imagine that we often perceive our world similarly to a wall of post-it notes. The newest and perhaps the most "interesting" notes are given full view, while older, "less interesting" notes are being covered up by those in front.

But God doesn't operate like the world does. First of all, His displaying wall has unlimited dimensions. It doesn't run out of space. Secondly, each post-it note on God's wall--each person on God's green Earth--is so precious to Him that He doesn't find anyone more valuable or less important than the next. So, there are no post-it notes that are covered up by others. Instead, each one has its free space on God's display. This is because God is so proud of each one that He has created. He makes room for each one for display so that He can be reminded of each one He has designed. Because God loves each one of us.

Psalm 139 reminds us just how important we are to God,
"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in -- behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me." (Ps. 139:1-5, NIV).
This is because God has taken special creative freedom to make each one of us who we are,

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Ps. 139:13-14a, NIV). 

I think this is something we all need to remember, especially broken people who tend to believe the lies of the Enemy--which is Satan.

God has made special space for each of us on His displaying wall. And this is especially true for us Christians. When we come to know the Lord, God puts us on display. He is so proud of His family and loves to be reminded of each one who call Him Father.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Grace + ugly things = Something beautiful

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name

It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that
Changed the world

And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness
In everything

She’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk

She travels outside
Of karma, karma
She travels outside
Of karma

When she goes to work
You can hear the strings
Grace finds beauty
In everything

She carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute on her lips
No twirls or skips
Between her fingertips

She carries a pearl
In perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings

Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things

Grace finds beauty
In everthing

Grace finds goodness
In everything
The above is a song by the famous band U2. It was first released on their 2000 Album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. And it's a powerful piece because of the message and for pointing to the grace we experience from Jesus Christ.

Looking at the lyrics, you can see a number of fantastic lines that should help us understand how grace works. I mean, obviously the first couple of lines go "grace, she takes the blame, ...covers the shame, ...removes the stain." WOW!

Grace "travels outside of karma." Karma is the Hindu doctrine of reciprocation. Basically it's the idea that "what goes around comes around" or receiving ones just desserts. If you live a bad life, bad things will happen to you. If you live a good life, good things will happen to you. But if grace travels outside of karma, that means it works independently of that system; so what we deserve as wicked people, we do not receive. Instead, we receive what Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NIV) WOW! Is God really that awesome!

Grace through Jesus Christ really does make beauty out of ugly things.

I'm ugly. I'm a foolish person in my sinful nature. I have hurt people, accused people, abused people, cursed God. I deserve death because I'm a sinner.

Even in these current days I have shown that I, in my foolishness tend to burn bridges with people, young people. I have seen this start to happen even in my role as a youth worker. I do things too rashly. I do things without considering the affects or the feelings of others. For this I am truly sorry. I hope those who this applies to read this and accept my apologies in grace.

I am thankful for grace. As the song goes, it is a "thought that changed the world."

If there is one thing I would like to perfect before the Lord calls me home or returns is worship. I want to perfect worship in my life and grasp how wonderful, beautiful, compassionate and sweet is Christ's grace for me. He has already forgotten my sins from yesterday, even if I haven't completely let them go. He is good. He is my God. He is my LORD.

Thank you Jesus for Grace.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

This speaks volumes.

Reblogged from: -

 What is my identity?

That's a good question.

Having entered into pastoral ministry myself, I definitely feel that Mr. Paul Tripp's discussion hits the nail on the head.

Obviously, it is a case of pride in my heart that allows me to feel as if I must, like Tripp, be an expert on everything (that has to do with spiritual matters, the Bible and the Church). There seems to linger a personal vindication in one's heart when the average church member recognizes that there is something valuable the church leader brings, but does that something really stand above the experiences of others in God's body
have had of God's working salvation?

My identity is in Christ alone and I have been deliberate lately in placing myself under this realization. So, I have been telling God that I want Him to take the reins. I want Him to lead me in the direction I should go. Having only been in formal ministry for (hold on...) 6 months, and taking note of my own pride to stand out as a "learned Bible scholar with a college degree" and the expertise that is attached, I recognize that this will be a recurring challenge I must face. But if I want to give glory to God (and not myself) I must recognize my true identity

But if I'm honest, then I will continue to confess that I am a broken saint. I am a screw up. I need the Lord Jesus Christ in my life everyday. I desperately need what I profess others need, I mustn't forget. However, as broken as I am, I am still a saint. This not on my own credit, but because God has chosen to call me loved and holy, and through His son has made it possible.

Take a look at the link. It's true about me too. This speaks volumes.

Thanks, Ben!

This article from Huffington Post was shared by my dear friend and pastor, Ben Klassen. You can follow his thoughts on blogger as well.

Back to the article though. Shane Windmeyer, a prominent voice for the LGBT population, shares how prominent conservative Christian Dan Cathy invested time to enter dialogue and relationship with him. Take time to read it and see a love example of biblical proportions. This is the call of the Christian - to love, without condition.

God bless Mr. Cathy. May his example spread like wildfire.