This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

Posts tagged ‘faith’

I fell in love (unexpectedly)…

I saw a meme last week and this was what it said:love

I thought that was really beautiful. I know I feel loved the deepest by the people who know me intimately -the good, the bad and the ugly. There are people that I truly love in this way and have formed an amazingly strong bond.

If you know my story (part of it is here), I have been deeply wounded by both leaders in the church and church attenders. It has resulted in me leaving the church twice.When I came back the second time it was a slow and gradual process because I was afraid of feeling rejected and unloved again by the place and people who are supposed to be the most loving. I wish my experience was isolated and no one else has ever felt that way. Tragically thats not the case, there are many of us.

My slow and gradual process allowed me time to observe. I saw people who really loved Jesus being genuinely loving. I saw people who loved Jesus being complete a-holes. I saw leaders leading with grace and humility. I saw leaders leading by authority and rule. The church is, was and always will be filled with a mix of all these people but they all are the church.

As I navigated the choppy waters that are church life I found myself in a strange place. I was growing more and finding strength. As I grew, I was able to deal with the poor leaders better and not take their issues personally. It still made me angry and frustrated but it didn’t make me want to leave the church- I just saw them as hurting sinful people; just like me.

I realized a short time ago that I have fallen in love with the church. We are seriously messed up, but it’s because God calls the sick to be healed. It doesn’t mean I won’t call people to task when it is important to do so but it means I going to give it my all to change us for the better from the inside out. That starts with me. I have to make sure I am serving the way God is asking me to. It’s not going to do anyone any good to stand outside and throw stones. That will not bring about change.

I want to stand as part of this amazing body of Christ and say lets get better together, It will be messy, it will be difficult and I will make a ton of mistakes but let’s never give up.

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Walking Out My Own Personal Redemption

I grew up in Cranbrook, a small town in the Kootenays. I went back during the holidays to visit some family and friends. Going back to Cranbrook is always hard for me because there is so much pain and bad memories from there. I was asked to speak at a church I have never been to before, but I know the senior pastor. He wanted me to share my story. I wrote 3/4 of my talk before I left for Cranbrook. The day before I was to speak I found out that the church did not meet in the location I thought it did. It in fact met in a building where a lot of painful memories were formed for me in childhood.

God has timing right where He wants it. If I had known farther in advance I probably would have cancelled and if I had known upon arrival that morning I probably could not have gotten through the door. As it was, it gave me enough time to wrap my brain around what this would look like to be back on that property,stand at the front and share my story. At that point my story already contained a lot of the things that happened there, without me knowing where I would be standing when talking about it. It was too late to go back and re-write the entire thing so I finished it and told God to do whatever He wanted with it.

We arrived a bit early so I could do sound check but also because I knew I would need some time. I walked through the building and a flood of memories came back, some good and some bad. I went upstairs and to the room where I learned my alphabet. I went downstairs to where my desk was and the school entryway where I used to hang my coat and backpack. I went into the bathroom and it was much smaller than I had remembered it, but it smelled exactly the same. The main floor has a room that was used as a sanctuary for church but when we had school it was a gym. The platform area was so much smaller than I remembered as well. I know I used to run around on it but I couldn’t get more than a few strides on it now if I tried.

I cried. I sobbed really hard actually.I cried for the precious little girl who walked in those walls so long ago and things that happened to her. I sobbed for the scars that would forever remain. Then I stood in front and shared my story. I talked about those things that left the scars but I also talked about how God has been able to use those things to help others. That is the whole point of my story – that those things did not destroy me, though they could have. I have found healing and hope and I want other people to have that too.

That morning broke some things I didn’t even realize still had a hold (funny how that happens). Some people were there who used to attend with my family back then and their validation that those things did happen and they were wrong, was very affirming. We need to talk about the dark places. They will never find light if we don’t.

Below is a link to the message I gave that morning. It is raw, it is real and it is me.

http://www.ihopecranbrook.ca/podcast-messages/2014/12/28/god-loves-restoration

Sheep Stealers

People who attend church are often called sheep. It’s a reference Jesus used in the New Testament to refer to His followers (John 10:4 … and his sheep follow him because they know his voice). Jesus identifies himself as our Shepherd.

I was reading today in 1st Corinthians and in the first few chapters, Paul is giving a rebuke to the church about their petty jealousy and their disunity. Some members of the church were saying they were followers of Paul and others Apollos, others Cephas and others Christ. They were arguing about whose sheep they were. Paul gives a strong rebuke on their disunity and then he is very clear that the gospel is about Jesus – not anyone who baptised you or whose church you attend.
 
He continues with this in chapter 3: “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
 
Did you see what he did there? It’s all about God – not us. Not who we follow or who we lead. A wise mentor of mine once told me, “There is no such thing as sheep stealing because there is only one shepherd.”
 
I love the diversity that is the body of Christ. I love that if I want to worship Christ with brothers and sisters  in a more liturgical service, I can do so. If I want to worship Him in a more contemporary way, I can do so – sometimes even in the same day.
 
If we as leaders really believe that success is not in the numbers: Followers Are Not Fruit, then we will loosen the death grip we have on the attendees at church.I am in no way advocating for a careless leadership that has no regard for the people in the seats but that we can give people the freedom to move in the body as they need without anger and jealousy. People will feel the support to find a home where they can grow and be successful sheep under the one Shepherd..
 
 
 

sheep

Numbers Matter at the Porn Show and in Pakistan

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog called followers-are-not-fruit. Numbers do not necessarily indicate success. We so often get that confused. That being said, I would not liken that to numbers being unimportant. They are important because every number represents a person and people are VERY, VERY important.

It’s been 5 years now that I have lead a team for outreaches at the porn show in Vancouver. Each year we set up a booth, talk to entertainers and patrons, and hand out thousands of Bibles. It’s not just the numbers of Bibles that we hand out that is impressive – it’s the fact that a high percentage of people we give them to have conversations with us, and year after year many come back to talk with us more and tell us that they have read or are reading the Bibles. I am sure many end up in the garbage, but I am also just as sure many don’t, and lives are being changed as a result.

I recently reconnected with a pastor from my childhood. He was the pastor of a dear friend of mine that has gone home to be with Jesus. He has been telling me about his missions work in Pakistan. It’s not a place I have ever felt called to go but I love to hear about God working in and through others in their unique callings.

There were three things that really got my attention from his stories. The first was that there was a festival and some Christians had set up a booth to hand out Bibles – sound familiar? Some members of the team however were beaten by people who didn’t like what they were doing and then the police arrested those team members, thinking they were causing trouble. After some incredible time at the police station that emulates the story of Paul and Silas, the police escorted them back and assisted them by providing protection while they handed out their Bibles.

I am so grateful that our team has never been threated, let alone the victims of physical violence while handing out Bibles. Also the amazing story they have of then receiving police protection is so encouraging.

The second thing about his stories was the actual numbers. At our church’s last Easter service we had baptisms for 5 people (one being my daughter, proud mama here). Those 5 are extremely exciting! The area where the pastors have been ministering takes 8 hours to get to by bus and they were going to make another trip there once 100 people were ready to be baptised. I’m not sure how long that would be but I will say it would be less time than if we waited for 100 people here in Canada. Again the number itself isn’t important but the fact that each number represents a life is! 5 is exciting – so is 100!

Through their missional efforts they reached 400 hundred families – not just people, but families. This leads me to the final thing that impacted me; they only had 200 Bibles to give and so 200 Bibles were given to 200 families and 200 families who want a Bible are without. It’s hard to imagine as I look at the 7 on the shelf in front of me now, what life would be like to want a Bible and not have one.

Just as I have asked people to help us pay for the Bibles we give out in Vancouver, I also implore you to support this team and help them give out Bibles in Pakistan. You can learn more about what they do and donate here at: Bibles for Bahawalpur.

The Bible has Easter Eggs

I remember over 10 years ago when DVD’s first came out. I can’t remember which movie it was that we had watched but when it was over my girlfriend said, “Let’s find the Easter eggs.” I thought she had gone crazy. She explained to me that Easter Eggs were these hidden features you could find on the disc. They were actually really cool.

Daring to be called sacrilegious, I will suggest to you that the Bible if FULL of Easter Eggs. You can read it at face value, cover to cover and miss so much. Honestly some passages are outright confusing when you read them at face value and do no further investigation.

For goodness sake look at 1 Corinthians 14:34

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.
Churches are overwhelmingly failing at upholding this law that the Bible is VERY CLEAR on!
 
Most people understand that there is obviously more here than reads the eye. There is background, contextually, culturally and geographically, there is translation to consider (Greek has 5 words for love, we have 1 -come on!) etc. etc. This is one of the beautiful things about the Bible. It doesn’t just sit at surface level – you have dig. If you do not dig, your theology will be very contradictory. There are Easter Eggs that need to be discovered by you. It means you have to reach into the letters and punctuation and find out what was the original meaning and how do we apply it to now.
 
The Bible was written thousands of years ago and I passionately believe it is still relevant today. Yet another beautiful thing about God’s love letter to His people, that He wrote through His people.
 
What do we do when we read through the very same passages and arrive at different conclusions? We tread humbly and respectfully, showing love to each other. We listen and re-examine. Sometimes we will have to agree to disagree and work through how to do life together with differences.
 
It doesn’t mean you have to be a theologian to understand the Bible but it does mean you need to work at it. This leads me to believe that Jesus never wanted followers who are happy being spoon-fed and have things laid out like underwear with the days of the week on them. He wants thinkers. He wants people who aren’t afraid to question. If only our church leaders wanted the same thing.

The non-lonely journey

We are all in need of a Savior. I am sure there are lots of different reasons we come to accept Jesus as our Saviour and receive our free gift of grace. I have noticed a common pattern many people go through. First they get saved, then the start doing all the things they think Christians should do, or maybe even than other Christians are telling them that they should do. Then they screw those things up and so they try harder. They pray more and read their Bible even more and maybe attend another Bible study or volunteer more hours at the church. You can only keep this going for so long, before you are completely burned out of this cycle.

It’s like we recognize we need a Savior but once He has saved us we try to earn it, or prove we were deserving of it after all, or maybe that we were not as bad as we used to be. We go through all these motions and I think this is where a real religiosity can set in because motions are all they become. All those things they are doing are not bad things at all, but they are meaningless at this point.

Here some people give up. They can’t keep it going and decide this God thing and church thing and religion are just not for them. Others find some way to perpetually keep the cycle going, but they are hollow inside and really just fake people.

There is another group though, that reaches this crucial point and realizes that something is wrong and it’s not with God, it’s with them. They realize they don’t HAVE to do any of those things. They don’t have to read their Bible or go to church or pray or stop swearing or smoking or cheating or anything. We are never forced or obligated to do any of it. This is where their real relationship with Christ is birthed and grows. This is where they read their Bible to get to know Him more and not because they have to or because they are not good enough or to prove they deserve anything. They pray because they want to talk to this living God who listens and answers. They go to church because community grows us and we are not just here for ourselves. They work on issues in their own lives because they realize there is more to this life than the things that are keeping them back and they want to be more like Jesus. If you don’t know him you won’t want to be like Him. You can’t know Him if you are too busy going through the motions to hear Him and His heart.

There is a shift between doing and being. Christianity is no longer something I do or believe in, it’s who I am. I screw it up all the time and that’s ok. My life is a journey. It has crazy twists and turns, ups and downs and it is anything but perfect. The reason it’s ok is because He is Immanuel – God with us. He’s with me every step of this journey and all the things I do all need to be about walking with Him and as much as possible enjoying this journey we are on together – not because the journey is easy, but because I am not alone.

Pop the Pastor Bubble

I am a licenced pastor. I preach Sunday sermons, I lead outreaches, I have married people and thankfully I have never officiated a funeral, but I can. I do not let my title define me. I do not even allow people to call me pastor- it’s what I do, not who I am.

I have been finding an interesting phenomenon. When people find out (or I tell them) I am a pastor they treat me – normal. Occasionally when people first know me and what I do, they try to not swear around me but if they hang out with me long enough it fades, and I’m glad. I don’t want anyone to pretend to be something they are not when I am around.

I was thinking about this recently because not all pastors are that way. Some live in a bubble. I have seen it way too often. So I wondered why do people not put me in a bubble? I hold the same title, do the same job.

I conclude that there are two reasons: I don’t let people put me in a bubble and I don’t put myself in a bubble. As a people, we want idols and stars. We want perfect people on pedestals to lead the way. No one can live up to that and when they don’t we are so outraged at the bad example they set for our daughters on MTV. If others are perfect we can look to them and not have to be role models ourselves, or we can pretend to be a group that looks really nice on the outside.

The flip side is leaders who are fakers and want people to see them as more exalted than the people they lead. I get the trap – I’ve fallen to it before. Someone is in awe of you for some thing good you did or whatever and it feels good. It’s hard to be vulnerable when your in the spotlight. Your weaknesses and faults show throw exponentially. You talk less about the issues your having or pretend to have it all together so some can look up to you. It seems easier to tell someone you know the way, than to be honest and say I don’t have an answer but let walk this together. The first answer gets you home by 5 while the second means life gets messy and interrupted.

Pastor bubbles suck more than any leadership bubble. The bubble draws attention to ourselves when we are supposed to be pointing the way to Jesus. The very people we’re supposed to be helping, we are hurting. If there is ever a safe place where people can be real, honest and vulnerable it should be the church. Many have failed at this because of bubbles.

If your in a church or organization where there is a leader, please recognize that leaders are people too. We screw up, we hurt people, we make mistakes, we bleed. No one has it all figured out today. We crucified the one guy in history who did. If the leader above you wants you to see them that way then get out fast.

If your a leader, pop any bubbles that come your way. Don’t pretend. Be real, be honest, be vulnerable. It’s true that if you live that way there are people who will go and look for a “better, more perfect leader who has all the answers.” Let them. Jesus said he came for the sick. The sick need someone who can get them to the hospital and I will tell you the church is not the hospital – Jesus is. As leaders and as the church, we are the ambulance.

bubble burst