Tag Archive: musings


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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

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.

Why

“… you are basically just on autopilot and everything just seems easy.”
“… you just feel stronger a lot of the time.”
“…it’s hard, it demands a lot out of me.”
“… it allows me to be who I want to be.”
“… because i have to i can’t live my life any other way.”
“… drives my life.”
“… you never really get to that place in normal life…”
 

We were made for a purpose and made for something more than just existing. Something pushes us past the place we never get to in “normal life”.

This is a post I wrote on September 3rd 2006 and is unedited from its original form. I recently watched A PBS Nova program called The Illusion of Time and it reminded me of this post. With all the Christmas Happenings I haven’t had a lot of time to spend thinking and writing but I think this fits what is currently occupying my thoughts. I highly suggest watching the PBS program.

Time

Time is a strange thing. Life is a race against time, is it not? We make lists of things we want to do, buy, see before we die. We say things like “at least he got to experience this”. What do we do with time? Here in China time just seems to be something that goes by and you jump on it when you need to. “When will you bring us water?” you ask. “Tonight around 7,” They reply. Yet it takes you three tries to get it delivered. “When is our meeting?” you ask. “Today at 2,” they reply. Yet your meeting is delayed three times and doesn’t start until 3:30. It is the exact opposite in NA. “When will you bring us water?” you ask. “Tonight around 7,” they reply. And it shows up at 7 or you call and complain. “When is our meeting?” you ask. “Today at 2,” they reply. And the meeting starts at 2 and if you are late you get fired. No matter how you look at time shapes our relationships. It is at the center of everything we do whether we use it or not.

Time exists. It is more than a theory or philosophy, it is a proven scientific measurement. It is the 4th dimension. We can’t ignore its effects on our beauty. So what do we have left when time takes its prize. We have relationship! Even something as powerful as the universe is finite. Stars die, planets die, plants die, bugs die, people die. So how does relationships trump time? Because there is one person that is not in temporal creation. He is in a place that time can not touch and He seeks our souls. He doesn’t just seek them, He longs for them so much that He actually entered times arena to repair what we had destroyed. Whether you love Him for it or push Him away it doesn’t change how He feels about you. We can’t love Him without Him loving us first. He is love (1 Cor. 13.4-13). Seek that relationship and time will loose its hold on you.

Don’t let time win!

Peace
Lee

My thoughts are in Italics while the article is in standard font.

A new Barna Group study illustrates that no single Christian leader captures the attention of the nation’s population. When asked to identify the single most influential Christian leader in the U.S. today, two out of every five Americans (41%) are unable to think of anyone who would meet that description.

This raises the question who is leading the nation?  

Some differences emerged in a review of the findings by faith segments and by age of respondent as noted below:

  • Evangelical Christians are more likely than average to name Billy Graham (35%), Joyce Meyer (12%) and Franklin Graham (5%) as the most influential Christian leaders in the U.S. today. No evangelicals consider Pope Benedict, President Barack Obama, George W. Bush, T.D. Jakes, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, or Charles Stanley to hold this role.
  • A majority of adults who are atheists and agnostics (65%) or of a non-Christian faith (52%) are unable to think of anyone they would name as an influential Christian leader.
  • Those of another, non-Christian faith are more inclined to name Charles Stanley (7%), George W. Bush (4%), or Oprah Winfrey (4%) as the most significant Christian leader.
  • Protestants are more likely than average to name Billy Graham as the most significant leader (31%), while Catholics are just as likely to name the Pope (32%).
  • Elders, ages 66 and older (31%), and Boomers, ages 47 to 65 (27%) are more inclined to name Billy Graham as the most influential leader, while younger adults – Busters 28 to 46 (12%) and Mosaics 18 to 27 (4%) – are far less likely to do so.

Today we follow movements not people, the emergent movement, the green movement, etc. These movements have key people at the forefront however those people are simply leading the charge. Is this wrong? Perhaps not but within the church it leaves room for heresy to arise and go left unchecked. Peter, Paul, and the other apostles led the early church and confronted heresy as it arose as we can see in the epistles. There was a movement was Christianity that was led by a select group, the Apostles. This group was called to disciple others and to correct misconceptions of who Christ is. When questioned Paul called on his authority not because he took it but because it was placed on him by God (Galatians 1.1-2). See also Paul’s defense of his ministry in 2 Corinthians 10-11. God appoints certain individuals to lead his people and scripture gives guidelines for what that looks like.

Although most Americans can name someone they consider to be a highly influential Christian leader, few leaders have made such an impression on the population. “Looking at the big picture, only a limited number of individuals come to mind when Americans consider leadership of Christians on a national scale,” remarked Hanacek. “However, bear in mind that a different type of measurement such as aided awareness, in which respondents are asked if they ever heard of a specific name, may have yielded different results.”

In the end this information is useless unless we can point to Christ in some way and I don’t think you can draw clear conclusions from this study, but it could be a useful tool when looked at with other information of the church today. Is our nation’s spiritual health good or bad? Are we following God or ourselves? Who are you being influenced by and where does their authority come from?

Source page – The Barna Group – Nov 21 2011

How to spot a liar

Are you a liar? Koko the gorilla is. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, knows you are. How can you go from lie spotting to truth seeking?

 

Integrity

Calgary Sun - Sept 3 2011

As my kids grow I hope that they will learn how to make decisions based on integrity. As they grow and start to do things that have negative outcomes it is my prayer that we have instilled in them that honesty is the best policy. Proverbs 22.6 states Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. The following generation typically slips morally more than the generation before it until they hit the moral bottom and start over. When Josiah was king over Judah they did not even recognize the scriptures when the scroll was found. I would hope that I live a life above reproach and impart the wisdom of God upon their lives. As my children make more and more choices with less and less of my influence I pray that they will value a life of integrity.

Vulnerable Living

vul·ner·a·ble Adjective
 1. Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: “we were in a vulnerable position”

After my post on Taking Compliments I received a question about vulnerable living ” in a third world country, when every one is trying to bring down another to live”. It has taken me awhile to process my thoughts on this and this is my response. Having seen and lived in both 3rd world and 1st world nations I think I can comfortably say that the difference is superficial as the driving factors are the same with the attack coming in from a different approach to a me centred mentality. People strike out at the vulnerable and take advantage of them. Interestingly my church started a 4 part study this week looking at the book of Genesis entitled Beginnings (see video below for the study notes or click here to check out the sermon). In the video Pastor Terry mentions that vulnerable living was effected at the fall and how we are adversely affected (you can find this section on the video starting at 6:50). It doesn’t matter what cultural context you are in vulnerable living is difficult because of our fallen nature. Studying why some of the most successful missionaries and evangelists were so effective reveals how vulnerable they allowed themselves to be. Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Mother Teresa, K.P Yohannan, Haik Hovsepian, just to name a few, took themselves out of the picture and laid everything they had out in front of the people around them to reach out with the Gospel. They removed their pride and humbled themselves to the level of a servant so others could hear about the Father. Our mission as Christians is more than simply being good but also to step out into the darkness as ambassadors to the light. When we follow Christ and proclaim his message people will turn against us. Part of proclaiming the Gospel is vulnerable living. We show our scares, our pain, our fears, our hope and people will reject us, spit at us, beat us, kill us. We must not live on bread alone but be willing to give our last piece of bread to the person who has not heard the Gospel. What gain is it to gather all this world has to offer yet loose ones soul for all eternity? Living vulnerable lives will put us in harm’s way. This said we should not be ignorant of the fact that we can use certain precautions.

I lived in a country that was hostile to Christianity. Nationals were not allowed to go to church and expats had strict rules about when, where, and how church services were held. This did not stop the spread of the Gospel nor did it mean that Christians should hide their faith or simply fit into the culture around them. The local believers struggled with not allowing themselves to fit in but to make stands based on their faith for what is right. Over my time there I saw social problems change (on a small-scale), I saw hearts soften, I saw Christ’s knocking answered. Even against all odds when darkness appears victorious God will use our vulnerability and the darkness flees. It takes time but as the article I posted states “Africa needs God” and so does the rest of the world.  Vulnerable living seeks to put God and others before our selves no matter what.

Live Exposed!

 

The Tree of Life – Beginnings: Small Group Study Notes from Terry Lee on Vimeo.

I have heard the phrase “live the Gospel” and “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessaryuse words“* a lot recently.  This idea has been around for some time however I personal have not run into it in a way that made me look at its meaning. I have listened to friends on both sides of the debate, listened to renowned speakers, read books and what it all comes down to is the question what is the Gospel? Your understanding of the Gospel will lead you down one of two paths, a Gospel of good ethics and practices or a Gospel that saves us all from judgment. Is the Gospel living in community? Christ is an example to how we should live. As the song by the Beatles states “All we need is love”. Or is it the saving work of Christ? Christ came to save souls for eternal gain above all else. What is the Gospel?

What Would Jesus Do

The Social Gospel is concerned with applying Christian Ethics to social problems. How did Christ live and who did he work with? The answers to these questions are applied to issues of the world such as poverty, equality, justice, human rights, etc. In essence it tries to correct the fallen state of this world through the actions of man. If we the church can live as Christ lived then we can correct these issues. Rick Warren once said “I’m looking for a second reformation. The first reformation of the church 500 years ago was about beliefs.  This one is going to be about behavior. The first one was about creeds. This one is going to be about deeds. It is not going to be about what does the church believe, but about what is the church doing.” (Read the full interview here).

This mentality has one very dangerous pitfall in the fact that it believes we can actually live as Christ lived. We can be in essence a type of Christ to those we are reaching out to. We are setting the other person up for failure. Why? It looks more to Christ’s humanity and negates his deity. This view says “I can be like Christ”.  The world will see  the person reaching out to them as a Christ figure who is doomed to fail for only God is good and all are sinful. If we teach people that we are to live as Christ lived and be Christ to the world we are shaping them for failure because they will always fall short. The effects of a social gospel are utter failure and  self-empowerment  and we will repeat the Tower of Babel. If Christ is merely an example we are then saying that we can be the Savior of the people we are reaching out to. It has been said that it takes 5 positives to counter 1 negative experience. Therefore, how can we expect to be positive examples of Christ’s work?

What Did Jesus Do

If preaching the Gospel is not by living it or being it then what is the Gospel? How do we preach it to all the world? Christ is the Gospel and the only one that can live it. He has proven that by his life, death, and resurrection. When Christ is the Gospel salvation is the focus. It is about reconnecting men to God. The Gospel is about truly dying to self to gain reconciliation with God. It acknowledges the fact that without Christ in the centre all things are meaningless. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? (Matthew 16.26). Social justice is not at the center of the Gospel. Christ saving the eternal souls of men is at the center.  Therefore, since humanity cannot save themselves the Gospel cannot be demonstrated through the actions of man.

Preach the Gospel Always

If we expect that we can live the Gospel we are setting ourselves up for failure. Preaching is defined as “to advocate or inculcate (religious or moral truth, right conduct, etc.) in speech or writing.” You may be emotionally moved by something like the movie The Passion of the Christ, but you will never find people who heard the Gospel message and turned to Him solely from watching the movie because it does not preach why He suffered. It shows actions, good and evil, it shows faithfulness, it shows injustice, but it does not show justification, atonement, or the separation between God and mankind. The Gospel cannot be understood without words. For God so loved the world…

Preach the Gospel, always use words!

* Often accredited to Saint Francis yet is not in any supporting sources. Googling it can lead to some interesting reading.

Suggested resources:

The White Horse Inn – This tends to be a ongoing topic with them. 
We Believe – Book by Michael Horton
The Cross of Christ – Book by John Stott
Wikipedia article about the Social Gospel Movement & misquotations

Am I a Christian Deist?

Where is God? This is a question that I fight with. The role God plays in this world is not a simple one but it addresses a fundamental need we have in understanding it. Is God continually active in this world? Does he care about who I am? Does he care about the state of this world? These questions must be viewed in light of scripture.

Scripture says:

Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban Perez / Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary / 1655-1660 / Oil on canvas / source: Wikipedia

There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
John 1.6
 
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
John 3.14-15
 
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4.19
 
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14.26
 
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  
John 16.7
 
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”
Proverbs 16:9
 
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
Exodus 3.13-15
 
God has a plan for the future – Jeremiah 29.11Matthew 24.1-51
God is in control even when it doesn’t look like it –  Job
 
An advocate is active in pleading your case; they stand up for you and defend you. God’s story is filled with examples of how he has future plans for individuals as well as all creation. These are just a few direct verses that talk about God actively working in our world. The world he created despite man’s inability to live up to his greatness. Over the course of human existence we have proven our inability to raise ourselves up to God yet he continues to come down to us. Despite falling short of the glory of God, he cares for us so much that he comes to us, “and they will call him Immanuel” (Matthew 1.23). 

Today it is popular in Christian writing to look at fixing ourselves and how to overcome our shortcomings. More often than not they talk about how we must not judge others because it hurts them, or they look at how true faith is serving the less fortunate, or they examine how to have a better you. These ideas push Christ out and raise man up. They fail to look at the fact that “I once was lost but now am found” for it is only through his amazing grace that a wretch like me is saved.  They fail in seeing that Christ came to save the lost. Christian Deism is the belief that Christ is merely a good moral teacher and it rejects his divinity as well as the need for a saviour. Claiming to be Christian but relying on our own “goodness” contradicts the very nature of what it is to be a follower of Christ. Am I a Christian deist? In my wretchedness I am, however, it is not God who is distant but me. I often choose to reject his active presence in transforming my life and settle for his good teachings. It is only by God’s active saving work in this world that hope, faith, and love can be seen (Galatians 5.13-26).

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