Tag Archive: Church


Too often we get so wrapped up in our own importance we forget that we are not the solution. My knowledge, my strength, my culture, or my will power is not enough for myself let alone anyone else. “When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Luke 2:16-17) Christ lived among the sick, he walked beside them, reaching out to them at their level. We can learn a lot from his approach and how he loved his neighbors.

Too often we in the church think we are the solution and forget that Christ is the solution. He is the reason why we do the things we do. We serve not because it earns merit or favor but because he served us first when we didn’t deserve it, when we were sick. We serve not to be cured but because we are cured. God has been reminding me of this over and over again the last few months, from the video above, a buddies sermon, friends, my kids, and through the people I have the privilege of serving at work. Christ came, died, was resurrected, and will return, not for the righteous but for those who are sick. Stop trying to be the cure and start offering the one true cure.

around the hospital Nov 3

Will you offer the one real cure to those around you who are sick?

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Lions’ Park Okotoks after the Sheep River peaked.

Southern Alberta is under water! 100 000 Calgarians displaced, High River is completely evacuated, and Canmore is being washed off the mountain! At work we are participating in a one year program with Alberta Health Services called In Roads which looks at addiction. This week we looked at resiliency which seems timely as Alberta has become, as in all disasters, a case study of this. The way people pull together is amazing and fascinating to watch. Two people who can’t stand each other now stand side by side to protect and save others. In this dark and broken world there are glimpses of light.

Prayer

In times like this people tend to post prayers for the disaster to stop or that prayer is a useless waste of time. Prayer is more than a petition for what we want, and it is more than something meaningless. Yes, we must pray for the miracle that the brokenness will cease, for the darkness to end, and that people will remain safe. Know that God can do those things and on the day of his return it will be once and for all, but also following Christ’s example we are to pray for strength and courage to get through. Pray that despite the horror of the situation the Father’s will may shine through.

.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
 Matthew 6:9-10
 
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St. Peter’s Anglican Church Okotoks

Reality Check

The more we try to control our environment the more we fight to keep it under control. The Tower of Babel comes to mind and the reality that no matter what we build we are not the creator of all things. We are mere caretakers of this world and are not able to set the rules. We build walls yet are unable to stop the forces at work in our world. We are utterly dependent on God. I am reminded of the dependency on His provision that I felt living overseas. No matter where is the world we are, what we have, or how strong we are our efforts are not enough. The Canadian Armed Forces are on the ground in High River yet the flow of the river can not be stopped or controlled.

Next Steps

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:15-19 ESV

For those not affected by the flood we must rise to lend a hand. In this time of human suffering we must unite together and support our fellow man, despite race, culture, or creed. We must not forget that once the flood waters recede and return to their former paths that there is still work to be done. Lives have been changed on every level, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual. We must support one another because that is the way God has designed us, together with His strength and work we can triumph over the darkness. We must show love!

As the sun sets on this day my prayer is that tomorrow may bring a new found peace, a new found joy, and a new understanding. May our lives be transformed by the creator of the universe, the redeemer of man.

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The Sheep River at sunset

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.
Psalms 69:1-3, 14-16, 29-36 ESV

Impact Taiwan

As our Outreach team at OAC changes and grows so does our e-newsletter. This is a post for a  campaign released today written by Michele and her YWAM experience last summer.

link to newsletter

To Taiwan and Back

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan on a summer mission trip. I enrolled in a performing arts summer discipleship training school with Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Lakeside, Montana. The school was made up of fourteen musicians and nine dancers from all over the world; we all had a passion for God and a passion for music and dance. During our time in Montana we had one month to take classes in our field of study, music or dance, and we attended lectures learning about God and how to apply what we learned in the mission field. I was in the dance school, our team prepared by learning six dances that we would teach and perform on our four-week outreach to Taiwan.

The YWAM group reaching out in Taiwan

The YWAM group reaching out in Taiwan

Taiwan is a developed island nation in Asia. It has a population of 23 million people, and only one percent of the population are Christian. The most popular religions are Buddhist, Taoism, and Confucianism. Religion is often a frightening subject as it is associated with a dark spiritual realm. While walking down a busy market street it was common to see garbage cans on fire and shopkeepers tossing fake paper currency into the blaze. We learned that this is a religious practice based on fear and superstition where living family members are passing this money to their ancestors; a tradition that it is up to the living to provide for the dead. In Taiwan we partnered with the local YWAM office in the capital, Taipei. They had planned for our teams to have outdoor concerts at public venues, teach dance workshops at high schools, volunteer at VBS’s, share testimonies at coffee shops, and perform all over the city.

God did amazing things on our trip. During our last week in Taiwan we travelled to a college campus to minster at a weekend camp. We got to teach dance classes, perform, lead worship, and build relationships. During our last worship session we decided to have an altar call. At that altar call nearly two dozen people came forward for prayer. I had got to pray with a young lady who gave her life to Christ. For me this was the best part of the trip.

I am so thankful that God used our team in such amazing ways this summer I continue to hope and pray for the people of Taiwan.

winter fieldFarming is a major analogy in the bible. Seeding, growing, and harvesting. The harvest is what farming is all about. In the Church harvesting is seen as people responding to the Gospel and believing in the work Christ has done for us. In farming the harvest is what brings the food to the table. The harvest for the Church is what brings people to the great feast in heaven.

Where is the harvest?

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38). This idea of harvest has been miss placed and misinterpreted in the Church today. Where was Jesus when he harvested? Where were the disciples? The Bible tells us clearly where the field is that needs to be harvested. We have many promises that working the field will bring a plentiful harvest. “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense” (Proverbs 12:11).

Where should we be if we are looking to be a worker in the plentiful harvest?

In the church?

Not all, but a majority of Christians today do not look at the harvest. Is the harvest meant to be an altar call at the end of a church service or some event that you brought a friend to? Today we, pulling the log out of my own eye, tend to be dependent on these alter calls and crusades to reach out dumping the harvest on our pastors and those brave enough to say that evangelism is one of their gifts, but is this what Jesus was meaning?

Seeker sensitive churches come at the expense of discipleship and in an effort to make the Gospel understandable we lose theological understanding. Instead of being driven by our understanding of who God is we become driven to just increase our numbers or serve physical worldly needs.

These are good things, but we have become reliant on the “church” to do all the harvesting instead of the way God has chosen to use us all and send us out into the field. “The  Lord  had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). God calls us into the field, so where is the field?

The Field!

The synagogue is not typically the scene of the harvest. We are called to action, to serve those around us, and as we go to make disciples. Interestingly Matthew 9:37-38 is sandwiched between Jesus being out in public and him sending his disciples out into the area villages. When he is talking about the harvest he is not in a church but in the world. He is where the sick are and he is among them seeking them out (Romans 3.11) and being the great healer. You look at the story of Zacchaeus and see a similar thing. “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy…  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1, 2, 10). Christ was there to seek and to save. He does not sit on the sidelines waiting for people to seek him out for he knows that they cannot. And if we call ourselves Christ’s disciples then we must follow him into the field.

We must be willing and able to share the Gospel with the people we meet Monday to Saturday, with the people we spend 40 hours a week with, the parents who we see every practice, the kids we play with at recess. The key is to be open about what you believe. Acknowledge the tragedies of this life, big and small, it all starts with the brokenness we all share.

Where are you?

The church is a great place to grow and can serve as a place to harvest, however the bible clearly calls us to get out into the world around us. We must leave our homes and seek out the sick. “Then Jesus came to them and said,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18, 19). While we are going are we harvesting?

So Abram went, as the  Lord  had told him; and Lot went with him… Genesis 12:4

“The distance between the cradle and the cross is slight”
Reverend Terry Lee

 

Over the Advent season at church we have been looking at the words of Isaiah and reminded that even though we celebrate the birth and resurrection at different times in the year they are not that far a part. Together they are the fulfilled of God’s plan to rescue the lost. Over the last few months I have not really blogged, I left part way through a series I was putting together on the two kingdoms of the already and not yet. The last few months have been some of the most stressful I have ever experienced and through this time have had many
already but not yet moments. This series has reminded me that many parts of this world remain broken and that there is something more, something eternal that needs fixing.

nativity

Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7
 

 

Part of the sermon today Pastor Terry looked at how Christ fulfilled the promise of being the prince of peace when the world seems to be so broken. The world is broken, we see that all over the news, in our homes, at our jobs, but the peace Isaiah is looking at is something more, something eternal. The world is not our enemy, God is. Our relationship was broken when man bit into the forbidden fruit in the garden. The peace that Christ brings now is peace with God. Through Christ we are reconciled to Him (Colossians 1:19-22).

This Christmas don’t forget that the baby that came from God also went to the cross for our sins.

Sound doctrine is not enough, because, according to scripture, the fundamental qualification for pastoral ministry is godly character. Neither skill, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, nor reputation, nor personality, nor apparent fruitfulness of public ministry will suffice. Scan 1 timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you will encounter a profile of personal piety.
~ CJ Mahaney, preaching the cross, pg. 121
 

AND: DOCTRINE AND LIFE – article from The Resurgence

We must not lean on doctrine to reach the lost or solely lean on being an example. It is a balance of both and both are needed. “In our zeal for sound doctrine, we must not become heady and abstract”(AND: DOCTRINE AND LIFE, PART 2). Paul tells us “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4.16)

The already and the not yet, it is easy for Christians to expect everything to be perfect now, however that is never seen in scripture. “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45). This Two Kingdoms series will examine three of the different areas within it: burdens, culture, and sin.

Part 1 – The Light Burden

“ Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Via the Gospel Project

Christ never promised to take away the burdens of this life or that as a follower you would never have to work. He did say that you would find rest in him and that the burdens will be made easy. The work you do in his name will never be in vain (1 Corinthians 15.59). We look for ways to make this life easy and carefree however this was never what God planned for us. The great rescue plan does not end with health and wealth for those who believe. The burdens that drag us all down will be around us until that glorious day when Christ returns. The great rescue plan ends with the re-creation of this world, restoring it and us to paradise.

Christ our strength

The burden does not change however the source of our strength to endure does. Christians are diagnosed with cancer, bones break, jobs are lost, mortgages foreclose, and our feelings get hurt. A C&MA International Worker visiting my church once said “God is not a pill that makes all your problems go away but he will never leave you!” (The Great Omission). These burdens are not due to a lack of faith, but serve as a reminder that we are not home yet.  Our strength does not come from within or even from around us, but from above.  “The Lord is their strength, and He is a saving defense to His anointed” (Ps. 28.8). Can you still worship God in times of burden?

Worship in our Burdens

With our strength coming from above rather than from within one is freed from being trapped by the burdens that engulf us all. That is something to marvel at and worship God for. As one of my pastors stated recently during a sermon “Followers of Christ follow Christ”. We must remember that God’s Word shows us how to worship him and what is acceptable in worship to him. We see a clear example of true worship and false worship with Cain and Able. One brings a pleasing offering to the Lord and the other only brings what he desires to give. We also see the good and the bad when the Israelites were at Mount Sinai after being rescued from Egypt. Richard Elliott Friedman in his Commentary on the Torah explains that Exodus 32:1 shows that “Less than forty days earlier they heard the divine voice itself say that God brought them out of Egypt, but, like the wine steward and Joseph’s Pharaoh, they still focus on the human rather than on the deity”. We can worship God despite burdens because our eyes are on Jesus the deity, not on ourselves, and it is his strength that gets us through. The Psalms are clear examples of this as well. When we are struck with sorrow, pain, and depression we lift our eyes to heaven and we are free. Where do you turn? Inward on you or outward to God?

 

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

 
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
 
~ 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman 2011

Where do you find your strength?

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman on Vimeo.

Erwin McManus is a name I recognize as an influential speaker in the Evangelical church, however until this last week I have not really read or heard any of his work. It started with the sermon he gave at Centre Street Church (watch here) and then I watched his documentary Crave Calgary. After listening and watching I was left with a few questions and a little disappointed. I don’t want to assume that what I heard and saw was intentionally selling the Gospel short nor do I believe that McManus intended for it to be sold short. Too often today we take sound bits of people out of context and say they believe something that they don’t actually believe. I would love to sit down with a venti 1/2 sweet stirred white mocha, ask him to clear up some points and thank him for others.

Where is scripture? At some point you must cross over into Christian language. Scripture is the Word of God and as a believer or someone looking into why not go to the source instead of someone else’s paraphrase of scripture.  Present a scripture without the reference you would be amazed at how people agree with it even if they are resistant or hostile to anything God related.

The video does not seem to offer answers to the misconceptions and ideas that go against scripture. I will give it the assumption that the documentary has been designed to open the discussion however the website questions don’t go much deeper. In the book’s introduction he says “Jesus once said the kingdom of God is within us. Yet most of us even bother to explore the possibility that this might be true. It seems that what he is implying that it is that we have a better chance finding God in the universe within us than the one that surrounds us.” He was referencing Luke 17.21 which feels horribly out of context and the reference is not given. Matthew Henry describes “that the kingdom of the Messiah was to be a spiritual kingdom,and not temporal and external”(1) . The Reformation Study Bible also points to this idea saying “the kingdom of God is within you. That is, the kingdom is present as an inner reality, something hidden in people’s hearts (cf. Rom. 14:17). Translating “in your midst” (text note) would point to the presence of the kingdom in the person of Jesus” (2). McManus’ line of thinking seems to open a door to thinking that I have the power with in me to overcome my issues. How would he defend from this?

~
11 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “ Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst [Or within you].”
~
The documentary is also very me-centered instead of Christ-centered. The views shown are grounded in what the culture is seeking around us and even though it points towards God it falls short in delivering the Gospel truth that it is more about God’s glory than us. It leaves the Gospel on the ground and runs the risk of being idolatry as “it is still idolatry to want God for his benefits but not for himself” (3). This seems to undermine who God is and merely looks toward what he can offer me. This is the negative side of the seeker sensitive movement. Again I would like to ask about when do you go deeper than what God can offer? Is that even a good place to start since that encourages the consumer mentality we already have?

With the concerns explained I would move on to something I truly appreciate and think too often we get caught up in. The video can be viewed for  free online with the option to buy physical copies of the documentary (the books and study must be purchased as well). Gospel for Asia does the same thing but with all their material including books. That is something that I have come to have great respect for. If you claim to have insight about God it is because he revealed it to you and is for everyone not just for you to make money off of. I think this falls into the category of failing to love your brother (1 John 4.20) or as Paul says “What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel…I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Corinthians 9.18 &23). Videos today tend to be primers or marketing tools for something else like a book or a study. However they also open doors to reach out to people who typically would not have the desire to engage in these types of conversations. I am thankful that there are people like McManus willing to push our typical ideas of church and culture to reach the lost with the Gospel.

Finally I would follow-up on the first question. He may not go as deep into the scripture as I feel is appropriate, but something that McManus does do is open dialogue about the idea that we need to learn to connect the language within the church with the language of the culture around us. He affirms the need for special language in his April 29, 2012 sermon at Centre Street Church but says we need to do a better job being able to bridge the language of everyday and with in the church. This is something so simple yet we fail so badly at it. Fields of science have their own terms, Religions have their own terms, kids have their own terms. When someone enters one of these new areas they need to learn all the special terms. Acronyms must be explained, concepts broken down into their simplest form. When we do this we become less accurate with their meaning however over time the knowledge to understand them more accurately grows. With that I would finish my white mocha, thank him for taking the time to have coffee with me, and go our separate ways.

In all reality if I had a chance to have this conversation I probably wouldn’t be able to ask any of these things and more likely would just sit and listen.

Footnotes

1) Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Lk 17:20). Peabody: Hendrickson.

2) Whitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. (1995). Reformation study Bible, the : Bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture : New King James Version. Includes index. (Lk 17:21). Nashville: T. Nelson.

3) Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, page40

4) Picture of DA Carson quote from The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

Okotoks Alliance’s current summer sermon series

After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel.
Judges 2:10

What are we showing our kids today? If we, as parents, are not willing to share our relationship with God with our children what then will they see as important in our lives, work, works, looking just so, sports, watching TV?

 
“If you are regularly prioritizing sport over the worship of God [our children] will get the message loud and clear concerning what is really important.”

~ Pastor Terry Lee - Experiencing God in the Mountains – The Showdown on Mt. Carmel

Watch the quote in the context of the point below or watch the entire sermon here on 1 Kings 18.

Churches today must be recovered. They must once again put the Word of God at the center; and that happens most fundamentally through preaching.

Preaching the Cross by Mark E. Dever page 17

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Historic Anglican Church in Swan River now located at the Swan River Museum. Taken on my iPhone and edited with the Snapseed App.

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