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Category Archives: church life

Lifted out of the Can

Yesterday, in light of the text of our message at church, I told the following story.  Our scripture focus was the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 3-7).

The story is true…I know the little girl very well, although I never knew her as a little girl…

There once was a little girl, who lived out the truth of her redheaded-ness.  She was mischievous and had a definite mind of her own.  She lived in the city of London, many years ago.  On this particular day, it was a hot summer day in 1936, and she was about 7.  She had decided that she was not happy with something that had happened at home, and determined to take matters into her own hands.  So she ran away.

Her family noticed that she was gone, and began to look for her.  After a considerable time had passed, her daddy started to get worried, and knew he needed help to find her.  Remember that this was not long after the Great Depression, and money was not readily available.  Her daddy knew that if he called the police and fire departments, he would have to pay.

But his daughter was very important to him, and that’s just what he did.  He paid $200 for the assistance (that’s about $3200 in today’s money). It was much more money than he could afford, but she was special enough that he had no other choice.   So, with the additional people looking for her, the search intensified.  The little girl could hear the people calling her name, and the whole time she was thinking, ” how powerful am I?”  What the searchers did not know, was that the little girl was hiding in a garbage can in a park, not very far from the little girl’s home.

Remember that I said it was a hot summer day?  That little girl, despite all her plans, could not help but be affected by the odors that the hot, rotting garbage were creating, and she got sick to her stomach not something that could be done quietly. Her daddy stood very quietly and listened – and it was by her reaction to the smells – that he was able to find her.

As I told that story, it occurred to me – how much like our Heavenly father is that?  When we decide that we need to hide from him (we really are descendants of Adam and Eve), we often find a spot where we are sure He will never find us.  And that usually involves garbage.  That garbage can be all kinds of addictions: drug, sex, shopping, social networking, alcohol, gambling, etc…), or we seek out self-damaging situations, or dabble in “enlightened” paths that lead us away from God (occult, Eastern spirituality). We kid ourselves into thinking that we are “powerful”, and don’t need God in our life.   Being so immersed in this garbage, will eventually make us sick – not always physically (although that can happen), but emotionally, and spiritually.  So, what does God do?

He continues to find us, and the extra help comes in the form of everyday people like you and me.  People who know Jesus, and want to bring you back to safety. And the cost?  God gave us everything He has – His first-born Son.  Jesus, that baby born so long ago, was born crucified.  His first day as fully human, began the countdown to the greatest rescue ever.  He died to pay the price for you and me.  It cost him everything, and he did it willingly.  Just because we are that special to Him.

When we know this, we need to share that good news with other who haven’t met Him yet.  Listen to the heart cries of your friends and family from inside their personal “garbage cans”.  Introduce them, through your love and care, to the One who came to lift us out…

 

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Riding On Both Sides of the See-Saw

Sunday morning was a first for me – our Pastor announced that he and his family have responded to God’s call, and are moving to another community.  Now, he is not the first pastor to make that announcement, nor was it the first time I have been in a church where that announcement was made.  What is the first is that this time – I am not packing boxes, and anticipating a move.

This time, I will learn what the congregation remaining goes through.  This transition brings so many mixed emotions.  On one hand, I am so excited for the opportunity God has given to our friends.  On the other hand, I am sad that this family, who is such a big part of my life, won’t be part of my routine anymore.  I am happy for the congregation that is anticipating this new ministry – they really are blessed beyond comprehension , and at the same time, I am sad that the visionary leadership I have the privilege to work with is being “transplanted” to another part of the kingdom.

I understand now, in a very real way, the sense of abandonment that a congregation feels.  Yet, I  know that we serve a Sovereign God, and because of that – I know that if God is calling our Pastor from us, He already knows who is being called to us. 

I joyfully listened last Saturday, over a cup of tea, as I heard all the ways that God is confirming for our friends that this move is His plan.  As has always been the case for Jeff and I, God is show her very real signs of His intentions.  If ever there were questions around our moves, it has been the opportunities for me that have been the final signs of our move being a “God thing”.  I rejoice that this family is moving into a huge ministry opportunity, into a community that desperately needs the gifts that God has given to both of them.

And so, this week I feel that I’m on a bit of a See-Saw –  being up with excitement, and being down with sadness.  It’s a whole new perspective for me…not sure I ever wanted to gain this, but waiting to see what God has to teach me through it.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2010 in church life, News and Updates

 

Needles – creative or destructive?

I love to do needlework – sewing, cross-stitching, needlepoint,  knitting – they all are active in my pass time lists.  With a small needle pictures can be brought to life, gifts can be made.  The needle brings things together and permanently joins things that were once very separate entities, and their coming together brings the one creating and the one receiving joy.  That’s my favourite part of crafting, is the giving of the final product, and to watch the joy it brings to the recipient.  I love that I am able to pray over each stitch of a gift, and know that a small part of me will be in the home I have intended it for. 

But needles have another side – a destructive side.  It punches holes into the receiving material, ones that are hard to close back up.  If the receiver of a needle is a body part – it’s quite painful too…trust me, I have much experience with this. 

Have you ever thought how you use words is your personal needle?  How we speak to those in our lives can either create something beautiful, or punch holes that are difficult to close?  I know I have been the deliverer of both kinds of words, and don’t like what I see when I have sent out the latter.  I have also been the receiver, and I would much rather be hearing the uplifting words. 

 Our children, whether our own or those in our community, are sensitive to both kinds of words as well.  Watch how tall a child stands when they are being encouraged about something they have done well, or are able to share their thoughts on a topic – and not be told they don’t understand.  See how that same child shrinks when they are “put in their place”.

 2 Timothy 3:16 teaches that ,  “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” NIV

During our Children’s Ministry time, we have been encouraging the kids to engage with the Scripture focus that day.  It is the teaching team’s prayer that they will be able to see that God’s Word is alive, and applies to their lives just as much as it applied to the first listeners.   We have imagined what Mary must have been thinking when Gabriel showed up in her house, we have talked about God’s promises being true and trustworthy. We have watched as David wrote is inner-most feelings through the Psalms.   This coming quarter we are following Jesus life, as he calls his disciples and begins his ministry.  We will make jars of clay, expecting miracles in our own lives, we will see how God can provide bounteously – just as He fed 5000 with a couple fish and a few loaves.  And we will learn what it means to have an Easter Faith, all year round.

It is a privilege to watch these young minds have “light bulb moments”, as they engage with the passage of the day.

 Wanting to invite the community to share in our engaging moments, we are excited to be planning an all ages event in March.  “How the West World Was Won” will be an afternoon where families can preview our upcoming KAC Theme (Saddle Ridge Ranch ), and our church family can have an environment that is easy to invite their friends and family members to.  We will be meeting on March 27, between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.  There will a time of music, teaching (kids and adults on their own), and fellowship.  We will be providing much more information in the coming weeks, but be sure to mark your calendar.

 

The Cradle Calls Each of Us

I have a book by the singer Michael Card, called “Come to the Cradle”.  It was written to accompany his recording of the same name.  One of my favourite  quotes is contained on the first page:

                “The cradle call us to come away from the busyness of the world – to rediscover the holy, unhurried life of a child, and to discover that as we pour ourselves into the lives of our little ones, life overflows in return.  For the cry of a baby in the middle of the night is not simply a summons to change a diaper – it contains within it more than our ears can hear.  It is a call to leave the cozy self-interest of our warm beds; to come, saying no to a thousand voices that tell us to remain where we are comfortable.  It is a call to come away from ourselves.  No one who has ever heeded this call will tell you it was in vain”

Michael’s words were meant to describe the experience of being a parent…but they ring so true for us all, and they come to mind each year as I get ready to celebrate Jesus birth.  The night God broke into history to show us how much He loves us, He didn’t arrive as the scholars had all thought.  There was no white stallion – it was a lowly donkey, being ridden by a young, unwed mother and her fiance.  There were no servants, or handmaids to assist, just a safe place where the animals were kept.  No one to hand out birth announcements,  but there were angels – an army of angels the Scriptures tell us – to invite all of God’s creation, to come to the cradle.

I don’t think that the song, as lovely as it is, Silent Night quite gets the picture of the stable right.  Jesus was born fully human, be assured that he was a “real” baby…that means crying.  I imagine that as one who help create the vastness of the stars, he had a full cry, and I’m sure he used it.  But, just as Mary will have had to respond to her Son’s call – so must we.

Jesus, still today, ask us to leave our cozy self-interest, and to say no to the thousand voices telling us not to go.  He does call us away from ourselves, and calls us to be closer to Him.  When we answer that call – nothing stays the same.  We are able to see the world through His eyes, to care with His heart and to serve with His hands.   As you celebrate the Christmas, listen for the call from the cradle, and answer with “I’m right here”, and hear Him answer, “I’ve been waiting – just for you”.

May your Christmas be blessed.

 

If they trust you…they will come.

images[3]I am not one who often invites friends to events I am going to.  I did this past Wednesday, and I am so glad…

Last year, about this time, Breakfast Television had a men’s a cappella group on, promoting their new album.  That group was Straight No Chaser.  Their sound is tight, yet fun, and they love to sing.  They formed as a group in their university days, and last year Atlantic Records reunited them, and signed them.  The first venture was  to create an album around a piece that went viral on youtube- the 12 Days of Christmas (check it out!).   They recently released their second Christmas album, and while I was downloading it, I discovered they were performing in Toronto Wednesday night.  I was so excited that I had to share the news of the concert.

My beloved had an evening of meeting scheduled, and not wanting to go alone – but really wanting to go, I invited some dear friends to go with me.  None of those I invited were familiar with them.  But, because we have a relationship, and they trust me to not take them somewhere they would be uncomfortable…they joined me.

The result was 3 very enthusiastic new fans. (To the point that one of my friends joined their facebook group before I did!!).  Great, you say, so you went to a concert, and your friends were happy they went with you – what’s that to do with a blog about “thinking orange”?

Currently, at the church I work at, we are in the midst of a series called “Go Fish”, (so is the church where Jeff is serving, as well as 2 other friends in the churches they serve). It’s helping us to see the importance of “fishing” for others to be followers of Jesus, and how God equips us to be able to do that. We are called to share the Good News of the Gospel.   Many people are afraid, or maybe better, extemely shy of sharing their faith with friend and family.  Even parents can have a difficult time talking about matters that are faith-focused.

Often we feel that we because we aren’t Biblical scholars, there is no way we can give adequate answers to those who have questions about the validity of the tenets of our faith.  The thought of Evangelism conjures up images of tearry-eyed, slick haired men making apologies for indiscretions, or God directing that one’s life hinges on multi-million dollar donations.  We don’t want our friends to turn away from “Bible thumping”, or shirk from a “turn or burn” presentation of how much God loves us.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I have friends and family that I won’t get to spend eternity with, because they refuse to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.  I know they refuse, because I’ve tried to have that converation with them.  I can’t help but wonder though – how often does my desire to have my whole family believe in who Jesus is, look like the enthusiasm Ihad when I  introduced my friends to a new musical group?

Good News is just that, it’s news that’s just too important or exciting to keep to ourselves.  If we do, how selfish is that?  As Christians, we serve a Risen Lord, who desperately seeks to be in relationship with us.  So much so, that He sent His only Son to make that relationship possible.  Sharing that Good News doesn’t need to be complicated- indeed it needs to not be complicated – simply our story of what God is doing in our lives.  People cannot deny your story, and it’s the very unique tool God has given you to share His love.  

Sharing Jesus with someone you care about so that it can change their life…will directly impact this and the next generation.  And if we all lived like we believed it’s the revolution the world needs – what a celebration that would be.  Because, to quote Reggie Joiner, ” a hundred years from now the only thing that will matter is someone’s relationship with God.”images[8]

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2009 in church life, News and Updates

 

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What are you fighting for?

I love getting an opportunity to spend time listening to Reggie Joiner share his passion for the Orange Strategy.  I did just that this afternoon. I popped in the DVD “What If” and  spent 78 minutes with him teaching leaders to answer that question.

I took many notes, and often nodded in agreement to concepts I have heard him present in other gatherings.  He told a story that particularly caught my attention today.

Reggie shares the account of a time he was having a very loud discussion with his daughter.  Without giving specifics, he described the exchange as one of getting louder and more intense.  Then something happened that he hadn’t seen coming.  His daughter, in a way that only a daughter can do, lobbed a statement that took his breath away.  It was a wounding statement, and Reggie reacted.

He did not yell, he didn’t ground her – he simply turned, walked out of the room and went out to the garage.  Then he got in the car, and drove away.  After about 15 minutes of driving, his daughter called him to apologize, and then made this statement:  “Why did you walk away?  I need to know I’m worth fighting for.”

What stuck me about this, was that our families need to know the same thing.  When ministry gets tough, we tend to pull back on the things that seem to run themselves – or don’t show up as crisis driven things.  I fear that in many churches, we figure that the family will still be there “tomorrow”.  But statistics show us that they just walk away – not angry, or loudly – just quitely go because no one is fighting for them.

In the Old Testament we find the book of Nehemiah.  He was the king’s cup-bearer – this was the man chosen and trusted to bring the wine (after tasting it) to the king.  The job of  cupbearer was one of highest honour, and truly fitting of Nehemiah.  Although he was one of the most trusted men in Persia – his heart was in Jerusalem.  When he learned that the Temple was being rebuilt, he grew concerned because he knew there were no walls left to protect it.

Nehemiah, trusting God’s direction, asked the king for leave of his post to go and help rebuild the wall.  Many people were against this, including those who sought to take over Jerusalem for their own purposes.  But Nehemiah followed his instinct and did what they told him to do.  So, in Neh 4:13, we read his solution to keep the situation safe.

So I put people behind the lowest places along the wall – the open places – and I put families together with their swords, spears, and bows.  Then I looked around and stood up and said to the important men, the leaders, and the rest of the people: ‘Don’t be afraid for them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and powerful.  Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes“.

Wow, if ever a passage of scripture jumped out from a message for me – it was this.  I constantly stand in awe at how God’s Word speaks to situations today.  Our children are being attacked by the Enemy in the open places – at school, through T.V. ads, competition for their time on all fronts – to keep their focus off meeting the Living, Loving God of Creation.   If we don’t stand in the gap, by strengthening families – we will lose this generation.

The Body of Christ, must together position ourselves to show families that they are worth fighting for.  Nehemiah reminded the faithful in Jerusalem to trust the Lord, because He is great and powerful.  We, too, must do the same thing.  Sometimes it feels like it’s a losing battle, but the victory will be God’s – if we truly trust Him to do so.

Churches for too long have thought that if we “allow” families to just be among us, encourage them to be busy for Christ, and let the Children’s Ministry instruct their children – all will be fine, and we will produce Christ followers out of the children who come through our doors.

We are now seeing just how wrong we are.  Church, we were never given that job…standing guard nowhere instructs the Children’s Pastor to teach the foundations of faith.  It was designed to be done in the family setting.  To be passed from generation to generation.   Oops!  We have generations who have never been taught the stories of our Faith.  To see the power and tenderness of the God of the Universe.  We have generations who don’t know the touch of the Father who gave His only Son to pay our penalty,  all just to bring us into relationship with Him.

Who am I fighting for?  Every family who is trying to see that their lives matter, that their child’s eternity is at stake, and don’t know where to find the answer.  The Church needs to fight – through prayer, resources and love – to come alongside our families and outfit them to stand at the gap for their children and protect the generation from destruction.  Are you willing to stand with me?

 

Tires and the Gospel

snow-tiresA sure sign of spring today – I took my car to have my snow tires removed.  While I waiting to give my keys to the owner of the garage, we got into a conversation.  It’s one of those that Christians pray to be able to have, and then hold our breath when it actually happens.

 

He asked if I was married to the minister with the same last name.  When I told him yes, his response was, “I would have never guessed that he was a minister.  He’s just a regular kind of guy.  Most ministers I know are so uptight.  Not Jeff.”

I told him that he had just paid my beloved the highest of compliments.

 

He then went on to tell me, that he had grown up in a Jewish community, but he wasn’t very religious.  I told him that neither Jeff or I were very religious either.  The look of amazement was something to behold.  I shared with him, that it’s religion that causes all of the problems people have with meeting God.  The Pharisees were really good at putting rules around people and their behaviours, but really lousy at pointing people to relationship with our Creator.

 

He agreed that the Pharisees were strict, and that’s how he has experienced a lot of ministers.  We talked about how in the Old Covenant, God desperately wanted a relationship with His people.  Adam and Eve were created to commune with God.  They broke that with disobedience, and we have managed to carry on – each generation perfecting the disobedience just a little more.  Jesus came to show us perfect relationship with God, the Father. 

 

I went on to share that Jesus came to fulfill the Law (all the details that had been put into place), and to establish a New Covenant.  One that would allow us the privilege of being in a right relationship with God.

 

It was there that someone else came in, and his attention needed to turn to other customers, but I pray that a seed will have been planted.  He had noticed that we seem to be upfront, honest and approachable people.  Not his experience with “religious” people.  He will have noted that again when it came time for me to pay for his expertise.  He said that if I was paying cash, it was X amount.  When I asked for a receipt, he said he’d have to charge me the tax.  My response was , “I planned to…unto Caesar, and all”.

 

How often do we get in the way of the Gospel we are trying to share.  Do we just say the words, or do we live a life consistent with the truth of the relationship we walk in.

 

When working with families, I remind them that their children are sponges, and they soak in everything they see the parents doing.  If service people are paid under the table, and taxes are not collected, then a logical conclusion for a child is, “Why report all my income? The Government doesn’t need all my tax…”.  Small things with a consistent message are what makes an impact for our children.

 

Praying before a meal, praying when we are in the middle of something difficult, or giving thanks for something good, all model true conversation with our Heavenly Father.

 

If I had been willing to pay under the table, after having a conversation about right relationship, what would that have said about how much I value what God is shaping me into?  Others are watching for Jesus followers to behave just that way – will we point them toward him, or help them to stay out of relationship with Him?

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2009 in church life, orange thoughts