Thursday, August 31, 2006

The nights grow long

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

I recently started reading a book by a guy named Andy Stanley called "It Came From Within."
He's a pastor in Atlanta, started a church in like 1995 with just himself, his family and a few others and now the church has like 10,000 people or something in regular attendance. Depends on who you are whether that means anything or not, it doesn't make me look at the guy any differently than I would a piece of toast, but what he has to say is beneficial.
He looks at matters of the heart, or rather, the words of our mouths and the actions of our lives and the direct correlation they have with what's stirring around inside. Jesus said a few times that what we say and do reflects what is really happening deep within.
When things are hidden and not released, when past pains continue to fester, when habits are kept secret, they will manifest themselves in our words and deeds.
Unfortunately I know this all too well from first hand experience. The destruction that such things can have on one's attitude, relationships and overall personality is devastating. At times I've been that destructive force that pushes people away even though I think I'm trying to draw them in. When you've something to hide, people aren't able to get close because you won't let them, and when you do, it's like a volcano vomiting molten lava all over the one who was really only trying to care.
What is attractive about someone who is closed off? Who says and does things that defame themself and others? Why should a person try to dig into a heart like that? Well, logic says stay away. At least in my mind that's what it says, protect yourself and back off. I see a problem with that approach however. If I'm supposed to love others like myself, I should really stop at nothing to try and help that person towards healing in Christ. Does love shrink away? Does love say "I'm out" when there's potential for disaster? I don't think so, Scripture seems to lean the other way. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." That's Jesus talking to his disciples and telling them to love each other as he has loved them (John 15:13). But what does that say about love? It says do anything necessary to help out a friend.
What are you saying if you walk away? You're saying you don't care, that says there's stuff within that needs to be resolved. What comes from the mouth comes from the heart.
I have a tendancy to step back, to allow someone else to deal with people. To "stay out of it" even when it's a friend that needs help.
There is continually stuff that's being brought to my attention, whether by the Spirit of God directly or through a friend, that needs to be dealt with. Things that have been long neglected that have caused rifts in relationships and would continue to do so were they not resolved. Many things have been and are being resolved, it's cool how that happens actually. God walks you through the trash and removes it from you but it seems that it happens in layers. When one layer of filth is peeled away another is revealed and the process starts again.
An infected wound is not able to heal unless the dead tissue, the infection, and any other impurities are removed. Obviously I'm no doctor, but I know this is the case.

I think much of this is a jumbled mess of thought in my mind, but that's alright, I don't really expect people to follow everything, but hopefully some of the things that I learn may give some insight for someone else.
Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. So what does that say about the way I talk trash about myself, about others (at times)? What does it say about my lack of trust in other people? What does that say about the times when I do nothing productive?
Methinks it says that there may be some things yet to be revealed that God wants to heal. These days, I'm always up for a challenge.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A quick thought

I was at a retreat this weekend, a youth retreat. It was such a good time, I honestly loved it, which is quite a nice feeling cause many of the other retreats that I've gone on in the last year or so have been more burden than blessing for me (due to a bad attitude and stuff).
This morning as I sat on the dock on a beautiful lake and prayed and read some Scripture, I read Luke 18 cause I'm still following the daily reading pattern of RockPointe Church in Calgary even though I'm in Saskatchewan now. Anyway, as you sit and reflect on God I believe He tends to give you some things to ponder. Actually, truth be told, the thing I was thinking of mentioning was something that was rolling around in my little mind before that moment, but it seemed to keep coming to mind. Jesus spent much time teaching people, especially his disciples. What would it have been like on a regular night with Jesus? The nights that aren't written about in Scrtipture, although if they're not there we don't need to worry about it, it's just interesting to think about. It seems as though Jesus took any opportunity he had to teach. Maybe he just hung out with the boys on occasion, who knows? But as you read through the Gospels and pay attention to his interactions with people and his disciples, there were a good few times when he used the down times to teach. He'd give some wisdom or truth as they were kicking back at night after a long day of ministry, it was just part of his everyday conversation to impart truth into his disciples.
But how cool would it be to just kick back with Jesus and hang out with him? I mean, at this point all you'd want to do is sit on your face and thank him, but imagine the disciples, they were his closest friends. They got to be with him "behind the scenes" so to speak and just be with him whenever. As I got to sleep in a cabin with a bunch of jr. high guys the last couple nights I just thought about how it might have been like that with Jesus and his disciples on occasion. They'd just talk, he'd probably say something rather Godly (surprise, that's who he is) and it's just be a good old time. I love that thought, and man I'm sure glad that God has that in His character. I'm also glad that I can just fall on my face and sit in reverence of His greatness.
Which leads me to the Luke 18 passage. I can't remember which verse or section but it's where Jesus has little children coming to him and his disciples try to rebuke their parents but Jesus tells them "Let the little children come to me....." The part that stuck out to me, and maybe I should do a bit of a word study on it, but in Luke anyway, the verse before that says: "People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them." That was verse 15, I found it!
The part that stuck out to me pretty clearly was how they just wanted Jesus to touch the babies. That's all they were asking, not for him to do anything specific, just to touch them. It's like the woman who just wanted to close enough to Jesus so that she could touch his clothes, she knew that something would happen. Now that's faith.
All they wanted was him to touch them. They didn't ask for words of wisdom, they didn't ask for anything, just to touch them. It's like they knew that somehow just because he touched them, something would happen. People's lives change when Jesus touches them (which he still does, obviously). That's an incredible thought.
What would those babies that were brought to Him have been like after that? Did they grow to be disciples of the truth? Did they grow up to be great influencial people? Who knows, but it's clear that their lives were affected just by Jesus touching them.
What a great thing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

From the depths of my bowels

I have to rather honest about this new stage of life. It sucks sometimes. I mean there are a lot of things that I just didn't really want to be ready for let alone having to deal with them. I know this is sounding much like complaining, and that's kinda my point. I complain too much. I mean, I'm so incredibly self centered at times that all I can see is the immediate result instead of the long term benefit or consequence of where I'm at and what I do.
I finally finished that book that I've mentioned a number of times, Uprising, and near the end of the book the entire focus was on the importance, richness and nobility of a life of wisdom. McManus was very good at communicating the truth of Scripture on the topic of wisdom, as I read I could honestly feel a stirring within me, a longing to live like that. Wisdom is a gift from God and the nobility that comes from a life of God given wisdom is astounding. Not the type of "nobility" that cries for attention or looks at oneself as higher than the rest but it is a life worth running after, it is a "noble" quality.
Do I want to be considered wise? Who doesn't?
Do I want to be applauded for wisdom? No, it's not mine to begin with, so how can I take any kind of credit for it?
Do I long, yearn to be blessed with such a gift that God allows me to see the long term benefits and consequences of today's actions so that my life will be honoring to God by the decisions and choices I make? Without a doubt.
Of course I still want to do dumb stuff and act like a so-called "idiot" at times, goof around and make people laugh, cause I love that, but if at the end of my life I could look back and thank the Father for providing me with the wisdom I needed to make the right choices, and see how that has been useful to Him, I would be so very thankful.
I look at the decisions and actions that I've made in the past that have brought me good and bad results and I say "thank you Lord for saving me" and "forgive me for my faults."

In my office I have placed a few things on the bulletin board, just some quotes and reminders of God's grace. The last couple days have been a bit of a struggle for me in many ways and as I was pondering some things this morning, I read "A Father's Love Letter" which is Scriptural truths of how God views us and who He is. One of the lines had Acts 17:26 attached to it. Here's what Acts 17:26-28 says:
"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'"
The part that was in the letter is italicized and as I sit and think about the stuff that's dragging on me I am reminded of God's love. He put me here in this place for this time, so that I could seek and find him and share that with other people.
It's my calling to share Christ with people, and I don't always live worthy of that calling, but wisdom would say "take it easy, don't worry about yourself, you'll be taken care of. Just be who God has made you to be for now, God will continue the work He started in you long ago, live for others and the rest will get there in time."
It's a trust/faith issue. God gave me a moment of clarity so that I would come here, and He'll make things clearer and clearer as I continue to follow.
And so I part with the lyrics to a song that has been used to churn my soul towards God numerous times. It's by Caedmon's Call, it's called Lead of Love.

Looking back at the road so far
The journey's left its share of scars
Mostly from leaving the narrow and straight

Looking back it is clear to me
That a man is more than the sum of his deeds
And how You've made good of this mess I've made
Is a profound mystery

Looking back You know You had to bring me through
All that I was so afraid of
Though I questioned the sky,
Now I see why

I had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view
Looking back I see the lead of love

Looking back I can finally see (I'd rather have wisdom)
How failures bring humility (than be)
Brings me to my knees (a comfortable fool)
Helps me see my need for Thee

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Some things never change.

Having been a Bible college student I have had the priviledge to be a part of a few weddings in my time. This weekend was another one of those opportunities when I got to see one of my best friends marry probably the perfect person for him. I don't know what it is, but everytime I get to see that kind of match I just love it, anything that I can find to whine about just disappears and it's like some unexplainable joy hits. It's like you're seeing one of the greatest gifts that God could think of giving to someone so how can you not be excited about that?
Plus with stuff like that you get to hang out with people that you haven't seen for a while, especially at this stage of life when we're all relocating to different places and don't really get a chance to see each other all that often. So spending a couple days with the guys was a grand thing as well.
I did feel kinda bad that I took time off work after only working for a week but it was something that I asked about before I started so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about it.
It was definitely difficult to come back last night, however, for lots of different reasons. I had to say goodbye to those people once again, some of whom I really miss a lot, but also because some good things were happening as the day progressed. And of course I haven't been living in SK for all that long so it was tough because I got used to being with all those people again and then had to take off back to my new home where it's not too much unlike the Cheers themesong, because everybody does know my name, but I don't know theirs, and they don't really know me all the well yet. It's like I had to leave the familiar, again, only to come back to the unfamiliar and mildly uncomfortable place.
People keep asking me if I'm getting settled in and I'm consistently honest with them when I answer. Yes, I'm beginning to settle in but it's going to take a while for me to get used to a lot of this stuff. I'm a pastor now..............yikes........I'm living on my own now.............twice yikes.............I have no can see where I'm going with this.
But even as I write this and talk to a friend on msn, I sit and look at a little bear that my parents gave me at my graduation with a pin on a card that reads Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Right now I'm kinda feeling like I need to hold on to verses such as those and claim God's promises of looking after me and knowing what's best, because if we were to look at what logic says, I would not have moved to a place where I don't know anybody, especially knowing my personality. And the way that I've been feeling, although I'm enjoying getting to know people and this church is great, coming home to nothing is not all that enjoyable sometimes, I have to rest on those words in Jeremiah because there's not much else it seems that I can count on. In fact, there's nothing else that I can really count on.
But as a result of that hope, that promise, I need to "walk on" in the words of U2 and continue following God. I need to love like Scripture screams out at us, the way that Jesus does. That's another one that I've been faced with recently as well. Reconciliation is a good thing and I'll leave it at that for now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A question to ponder.

So here's a question, if there's anyone that actually still reads this stuff then feel free to make a comment, if not, well, that's ok too. If Jesus said that his "yoke is easy" and his "burden is light" then why is it that so many Christians consistently feel overwhelmed/weighed down/burdened/wrecked, etc, the list can go on and on. I'm not really asking so I can find the answer to such a question, I'm just curious as to what people's thoughts on said topic might be.
And maybe even an add on to it, why do so many pastors, the one's who are supposed to be studying Scripture and applying Biblical practices to their lives, get tired, weary and lose heart?
Once again, not because I feel like I'm losing my grip on reality or any sort of thing like that, just pondering and thought I'd like to hear some other thoughts on it.
I have my first youth "event", though it's not really an event, tonight and I'm curious to see how many will show up, the summer seems to be pretty lazy around here and there don't seem to be many people around a lot of the time. So we'll see how it goes, in 10 minutes we're supposed to start, here's hoping some kids show up.
Then it's up bright and early, before the sun rises tomorrow morning to head to Vermillion and meet up with Mikey before we continue on to Edmonton.
I shall try and write something more in depth later.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I don't wanna settle.

Well it has been a little while since I have had the chance to write something out on here and so here I sit in the "office" of my new place in North Battleford, SK (which is really the spare bedroom but I don't have a bed for it yet so it will remain the office for now). I started officially working at the church yesterday and found myself running out of time already, oh the life of a pastor I suppose. Today, however, was a different story. A bunch of the church leadership went into Saskatoon for Willow Creek's annual Leadership Summit, one of the churches in Stoon is a satellite host, the things you can do with technology these days.
Anyway, one of the speakers today (we're going back again tomorrow and saturday) talked a little about what we should expect of God as ministry leaders and how a lot just settle in their little comfortable lives and don't really think anything else will happen, and of course if you don't think it will and don't act in faith, what are the chances that God will honor that? Pretty good actually, I think He'll honor your lack of faith with the results that you deserve which turns out to be a whole lot of nothing. Now of course, God can choose to do whatever He wants and if He chooses to bless a ministry in spite of a leader or the congregants, that's cool, but I"m not sure it happens as often as we might wish.
Essentially what I was made to think of consequently is the fact that I don't just want to settle, I want to dream big and expect big things from God, why shouldn't I? After all He is the creator of the universe, you know, all powerful and all knowing, He can do huge things. But why should I expect something like that if I'm not willing to obey and push forward?
I look at this new ministry opportunity in which I have been so graciously placed and I see huge potential for some incredible God stuff to continue to happen. I don't know much of this place, I don't know much of anything really, but I'm finding that I have pretty strong confidence that God can do things beyond the limits what we generally place on Him. It's not a big city by any means, but why can't we have the largest church in Canada in this small city? There's no reason for me not to think it possible, especially if I'm leaving the real work to God. Something that I found much comfort in today was the sense that I actually believe God can do something huge in this city, I just need to act on that faith and tell other people about it and hopefully they can grab that vision. Why can't we have a church of 2 or 3,000 or more in a city of 14,000? There's no reason why not, unless all we all do is just settle for what we got.
God brought me to a conclusion today, that is that I don't wanna settle. I don't want to just accept that a small city has churches under 1,000 people and that's just the way it is, I don't want to settle for the daily grind, I don't want to settle for being a pessimist, I don't want to settle for a spouse just because I want to get married. I want to keep on walking, keep on looking, persue an incredible woman with passion and huge faith to spend my life with, I want to expect God to do huge things in this place and in my life, so I'm going to start doing those things. If it requires some waiting, that's fine, being impatient doesn't make the time pass by faster, or make the line grow shorter in a quicker time, it's all paced out in God's timing.
So faith without deeds is dead, I don't want that to be my faith.