Sunday, December 25, 2005

This Week

Due to the loss of a family member I will not be posting this week.

I will however be back next week!


Monday, December 19, 2005

Spiritual Abuse

There are always trigger points to this blog and now it is time to change the subject because I have been pulled! So here it goes…I don’t know about you, but I am increasingly alarmed at how pervasive the problem of spiritual abuse is in the church is and how often it is accompanied by overt and covert forms of legalism. I am also increasingly concerned at how frequently I meet de-churched Christians, those that have simply dropped-out of church. I have discovered that there really are spiritually battered Christians who do not go to church and who have no intention of doing so. They are usually former church members who readily cite long lists of grievances… BUT can they be Christians and not go to church?

Why do Christian leaders abuse others in the name of the Lord? I am convinced that most religious exploitation stems from well-meaning, though certainly misguided, church leaders. Regardless of the purity of their motives, spiritual domination and repression still causes injury and sometimes it is permanent.

The modern church, seems to insist on venerating its leaders -- or perhaps, more accurately, leaders venerate themselves -- to exalted offices. Why do ministers assume elitist roles? Why do “studied” leaders regularly corrupt terms like "the anointing," "the calling" and "authority" to infer that their offices and spiritual giftings are an exclusive biblical gift and that they, because of some special empowerment, are somehow exceptional?

It is interesting that ministers have, over the centuries, set themselves apart from regular people from simple things such as vestments and collars, to designer Armani suits with Versace neckties. To further reinforce an assumed privileged status many commonly employ, self-inflated, titles as "Reverend," "Bishop," " "Elder," "Prophet," even "Apostle" or, my favorite "First Lady." While there is probably nothing wrong with using such terms to identify one’s function or ministry, using them as titles of special rank does after all Jesus said (Matthew 23) "Don’t ever let anyone call you ’Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are on the same level as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ’Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ’Master,’ for there is only one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." I don’t know about you, but that seems crystal clear to me.

Another even more disturbing common denominator identifying spiritually abusive churches and leaders is their paranoid penchant for concealment. They often hide executive decisions and operations behind masks of secrecy. Financial records and administrative decisions are often hidden from questioning minds.

Loyalty to the leaders and conformity to the rules of the organization are repeatedly stressed and all decisions regarding expenditures and policy are left to the wisdom and discretion of the "anointed" few. Clear lines of authority, complete with flow charts, are drawn and reinforced, usually by the person at the top of the list.

But for me, the more serious still is the flagrant and frequent misuse of scripture used by leaders to support their claim to privilege. This, despite the New Testament’s clear instruction that those who lead are, first and foremost servants. "We don’t go around preaching about ourselves; we preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us." (2 Corinthians 4.5).

The misuse of scripture for one’s own selfish ends invariably cultivates a climate of legalistic control and, sadly, fosters unnecessary, and sometimes destructive, guilt among members who fail to attribute proper "honor" to their leader.

Brennan Manning, in the Ragamuffin Gospel delivers a knockout blow to the modern Church when he writes, “No great sinners exist than those so-called Christians who disfigure the face of God, mutilate the gospel of grace, and intimidate others through fear. They corrupt the essential nature of Christianity.” Ouch!

Here is a profile that may help you to better recognize spiritual abuse:
Abusers Drive
Leaders Lead (John 10:11-15).

Abusers say “I”
Leaders say “We” (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

Abusers insist on being served
Leaders Serve (Matthew 23:11)

Abusers govern by guilt and fear
Leaders create trust (1 Thessalonians 2:10-11)

Abusers think themselves better than others
Leaders esteem others better than themselves (Philippians 2:3)

Abusers control by guilt and manipulation
Leaders influence by example (Philippians 3:17)

Abusers reply on the power of authority
Leaders rely on the power of Servanthood (Matthew 20:25)

Abusers make service and ministry a grind
Leader make the work worthwhile (Nehemiah)

Abusers serve themselves and their goals
Leaders serve others (1Corinthians 9:19)

Abusers wield authority
Leaders empower people (2 Timothy 2:2)

Abusers fix blame
Leaders fix mistakes (Philemon 18-19)

Abusers know how
Leaders gently and with love show how (Exodus 18:17)


Thursday, December 15, 2005

REFLECTIONS FROM THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS - Part 4 (Conclusion) Who-ville they sayThat the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day!And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight, He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!And he... ..HE HIMSELF...! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

The Christmas season has a deep, spiritual meaning that can serve as a source of renewal of our own faith and spiritual life! As we look at the events that surround the birth of Jesus there are a variety of attitudes and emotions that are displayed. These reflect the spirit of Christmas. Reflecting upon the REAL spirit of Christmas can help us find spiritual renewal all year through.We live in a society that is lacking of hope. For many, Christmas is a depressing time of year for a variety of reasons yet it was the angels announced a new message of hope to the shepherds…
-good news for all people, a savior was coming! Not a dictator, or political leader, or a great prophet but a savior. There was peace, man’s greatest quest is for true peace and good will... a satisfaction, delight, a kind wish or purpose, good pleasure, an easily-produced longing for it.

There is a message of hope today that is older than the earth and yet new each time it is heard. That message is as real today as it was some 2,000 years ago-Jesus Christ is the only source of hope we have. In Jesus is there is good news, salvation, peace and good will.

The real spirit of Christmas is a spirit of hope. The message was announced by angels that a child had been born. This was no ordinary child, Jesus was different, not from earth but from heaven. In Star Trek the brave explorers go boldly where no one has gone before to seek out new life. The UFO enthusiasts anticipate the coming of a superior life form to this earth. A new life, a superior life came to this earth 2,000 years ago!

-John 8:23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. -John 17:14,16 I am not of the world. -John 18:36 My kingdom is not of this world:

People do a lot of crazy things in the hope of finding a new quality of living-a new career, a new location, a new spouse, a new name, a new physical appearance, new friends BUT the same old problems still follow them.Only in Jesus Christ can we find a new life!
-Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. -2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The real spirit of Christmas is a spirit of new life for all that will receive. One of my favorite Christmas songs when done right is "Joy to the World" but the birth of Jesus did not bring joy to everyone.-Matthew 2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Jesus brought Joy to those who understood scripture and loved God!-Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Jesus is the source of Joy today.
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full-Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
There was excitement among the shepherds - Luke 2:15-18 They were excited about their search and encounter with Jesus. The Christian life should be a life of excitement - why? Because it is easier to do something you are excited about be it attending worship gatherings, praying, reading, worshipping, witnessing, working.When the fires of excitement burn low, we need to let the real spirit of Christmas touch our hearts.

There were people anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jesus.Simeon and Anna - Luke 2:25-32, 36-38-they were in tune with the Word, the Spirit and the times. As believers our lives should be marked by a spirit of expectancy, daily expecting God to show up and do something! Daily looking for the return of Christ because we can get to a place where we are no longer living in expectancy and then ‘old age,’ or a dryness of spirit sets in.The real spirit of Christmas can restore expectancy.

Our highest calling is to worship our Creator. The world in general no longer worships YHWH. The three kings worshipped - Matthew 2:1-2, 11. Worship opens the treasures of our heart and lays them at the feet of Jesus, it is interesting when our worship can become routine, dead, unfeeling. The real spirit of Christmas will restore life and feeling to our worship!

So what does all this mean? Similar to the Grinch, let the real spirit of Christmas get a hold of your life, it will completely change you and it is not for a season, it is for an eternity.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005



Some People Misunderstand Christmas! The Grinch misunderstood. In fact, he decided to steal away all their presents including the food.

It was quarter past dawn…All the Whos still a-bed, All the Whos, still a-snooze when he packed up his sled, packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings! The tag! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings! Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt Crimpit, He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it! Pooh-pooh to the Whos! He was grinch-ish-ly humming. They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming! They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do! Their mouths will hang open a minute or two. Then the whose down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo! That’s a noise, grinned the Grinch, that I simply must hear. So he paused, and the Grinch put his hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low. Then it started to grow…But the sound wasn’t sad! Why this sound sounded merry! It couldn’t be so! But it was merry! Very! He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes! Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise! Every who down in who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any present at all! He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming, it came, somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet, ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling, How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore. Then the grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.

I was at the mall, just looking for a pair of jeans. When you look around you begin to sense, the malls and stores have misunderstood Christmas…IN OCTOBER!!!!

They have gotten so busy with their collection of money, that even the decorations they display show their ignorance for the season. Jesus has been replaced with Santa, shepherds and sheep with reindeer and elf’s. The star lights the way to the store but now it is a place to spend, certainly not a place where we can come an adore the Christ of Christmas.

History has not changed much, look at Jesus birth in Luke 2:1-7
Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Who would give up a bed if they knew it was the place the Messiah was to be born? The inn keeper did not, nor did any of the guests who had filled his house and his bank account with their arrival for the census. Was it out of disregard? Probably not. It was out of ignorance because they misunderstood the significance of the events that was taking place around them. It is easy to do, especially this time of year. When is the last time you took time to think through the meaning of Christmas? Has time in gift buying, meal preparation and the getting ready for the big day overshadowed the meaning of Christmas?

Some people embrace Christmas! Christmas is not always lost in the throngs of the crowd, no Christmas can be found through the heart of our God. Jesus came to earth, to show us the way, found as a child in a stable amidst the straw and the hay.The Grinch who stole Christmas learned something that dayHe learned that Christmas was something beyond what was in his sleigh. Christmas is found in the heart of a child. Christmas is found outside of the mall. Wise men and shepherds and angels found outChristmas is found in Christ, King of all. So watch how you celebrate, enjoy all you can. But remember this Christmas to pay homage to Jesus, the Lamb.

But we are not done yet....Part 4 coming soon



Stopping Christmas! But HOW?
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
"I know just what to do!" The Grinch Laughed in his throat.And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Grinchy trick!" With this coat and this hat, I'll look just like Saint Nick!"
"All I need is a reindeer..." The Grinch looked around. But since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found. Did that stop the old Grinch...? No! The Grinch simply said,"If I can't find a reindeer, I'll make one instead!"So he called his dog Max.
Then he took some red thread And he tied a big horn on top of his head. THEN He loaded some bags And some old empty sacksOn a ramshakle sleigh And he hitched up old Max. Then the Grinch said, "Giddyap!" And the sleigh started down Toward the homes where the Whos Lay a-snooze in their town. All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air. All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care When he came to the first house in the square. "This is stop number one," The old Grinchy Claus hissed And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist. Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch. But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch. He got stuck only once, for a moment or two. Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row."These stockings," he grinned, "are the first things to go!" Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,Around the whole room, and he took every present!Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums! And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly, Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos' feast! He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast! He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash. Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee. "And NOW!" grinned the Grinch, "I will stuff up the tree!" And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove. He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who! Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two. The Grinch had been caught by this little Who daughter Who'd got out of bed for a cup of cold water. She stared at the Grinch and said, "Santy Claus, why,"Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?" But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,"There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side."So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear."I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here." And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her headAnd he got her a drink and he sent he to bed. And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup, HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up! Then the last thing he took Was the log for their fire. Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar. On their walls he left nothing but hooks, and some wire. And the one speck of food The he left in the house Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.
Then He did the same thing To the other Whos' houses Leaving crumbs Much too small For the other Whos' mouses!
So where is Santa Claus? Where is Santa when bad things happen? Why did Santa allow this to happen? Why Santa, Why?
So, it is possible for someone to stop Christmas by stealing it? Stealing every little bit of it!

Sunday, December 11, 2005


"Celebrate the spirit of Christmas" (words on a T-shirt). At this time of year you hear many people talking about getting into the Christmas spirit. What is the Christmas spirit?
Can I even speak of the true spirit of Christmas without becoming politically incorrect?

Oh, Ba Humbug on political correctness!
The spirit of Christmas means different things to different people-another holiday, time off from work, family reunion, giving and sharing, etc.

Christmas, it brings out the best in people, and it brings out the worse. We have probably all been around people from both persuasions. I want us to look at Christmas through the eyes of the Grinch. You might have watched the cartoon, or read the book by Dr Seuss, How the Grinch stole Christmas, or seen the Jim Carrey Movie of the same name. Or you might not have done any of these. Can we look at Christmas through the Eyes of the Grinch?

Some People hate Christmas! Hate is a strong word, and some people feel strongly about Christmas. In in the United States they say happy holiday now instead of Merry Christmas. They sing of Frosty and Santa but not Jesus, the Christ of Christmas all because of political correctness... is it possible that some of those people also hate Christmas? My, even the Grinch hated Christmas.

Everyone who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot…But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did not! The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why? No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Hatred can bear bitter roots. It can prevent people from attaining their true God given potential because they become consumed with the hate which has taken root. Hatred, if left untended, will affect everything around it. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, it could turn to hatred and hatred leading to devastating results.

But, whatever the reason, His heart or his shoes, He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos, staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinch frown at the warm lighted windows below in their town. For he know every who down in who-ville beneath was busy now hanging a mistletoe wreath. And they’re hanging their stockings! He snarled with a sneer. Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here! Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, I must find some way to stop Christmas from coming.

Some People try to steal Christmas. This time of year, more often than not, We hear of some shopper, whose presents weren’t bought. They have gone in the store, there intention was clear, to fill their pockets with all kinds of gear. The tapes and the CD’s, little toys or robots. All because they thought they were good girls and boys. Christmas they think is just free for the takin’ and when caught they think the clerk was mistaken. What causes people to think that Christmas can be stole. Could it be they have been misinformed by a diabolical foe?

Stealing Christmas is more than just filling our pockets, or taking gifts from someone else’s car. We steal Christmas when we get caught up in other things rather than the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, and those things become the central focus of our celebration. Santa, and Frosty, and reindeer and sleighs can point to the Christ of Christmas or they can steal it away, it is all in how we present it.

All the Who girls and boys would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys! And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s one thing he hated! The Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feat, and they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d feast, Feast! Feast! Feast! They would feast on Who pudding, and rare Who roast beast which was something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least! And then they’d do something he like least of all! Every who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing. They’d stand hand in hand. And the whos would start singing. They’s sing! And they’d sing! And they’s ding! Sing! Sing! Sing! And the more the Grinch though of this who-Christmas sing, the more the Grinch though, “I must stop this whole thing! Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I must stop this Christmas from coming! But how?

Thoughts...part 2 coming sooner than next Monday!

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Fed up with the over commercialization of Christmas? I so am. I am also fed up with how early Christmas stuff comes into the stores. I am fed up with the quest for presents and shopping. This asinine insistence that you have to drive yourself into near bankruptcy giving overpriced, unwanted gifts to everyone you know. Personally, I would rather have no gifts at all than a gift without a genuine kind thought behind it. But hey, who am I to judge?

Here is my thought for this week….Last weeks post and poverty stats have resonated with many people. The discussion has been heavy and heated but I cannot walk away without making a few observations of my own.

Can we actually make a difference in our world? Hey, let’s be honest, we have it good! And I would have to agree that part of that is GOD’S blessing upon us. But, as believers or followers of Jesus Christ we also have a responsibility to the world around us.

Can we really make a difference? How about our local world? Locally in our city, we have a number of people who are putting together items to take care of the local street people. Gloves, mitts, scarves, things to keep them warm. (realistically….$20). We can give time and energy and MONEY to our local charities as well.

In our spiritual community we are sponsoring orphans from a specific 3rd world nation at the cost of under $250 per year. Personally, we sponsor a child with Compassion Canada…roughly $33 per month. For me alone that is just over $500 a year to more than meet the needs of 2 kids. The price of an XBOX 360! Not too mention I have four kids of my own to feed.

We all know that there is plenty of food in the world, the problem is that those who have are not distributing it properly! And We are some of those who HAVE. I am not going to talk about politics or leaders or warlords, I am talking about you and me. Sometimes we feel that we cannot make a difference, but how much is it worth to make the difference in one life? I do not want to use this blog to rail on people but rather to create questions to move people to action in someway…but…

I do not have a problem with people spending their money on ‘toys’ and stuff (I do it all the time) and enjoying life to the fullest…guilt free….PROVIDING that they are contributing in some fashion to the over all health of the world.

But when someone (who had just bought and XBOX 360) said that they do not sponsor a child…because they do not feel the need right now…because I do not really have the money…I almost fell over. LOOK AT THE PICTURE ABOVE!!!!!!!!!!!

We know that is not true. In our western culture we HAVE the money! If you have the money for and XBOX 360 and all the games that come with it, not to mention the time wasted to play it; or that you have to rent games for it; or for a STARBUCKS (personal ouch) or for a SUBWAY/MCDONALDS or (Insert favorite dining establishment here _____________)(another personal ouch)…then you can CONSIDER making a difference in the life of someone less fortunate and I am not just talking about sponsoring a child!

I want to make a difference in our world, even if it is just child, one life at a time. How much money can I really give away? How much time can I give away before it affects my own family and their needs? Is it selfish?

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us…did he not? Does that mean we are to ignore them? Or was he bringing it to our attention that maybe every little bit that we do counts?


Monday, November 28, 2005

The McChurch of Canada

We live in an incredibly rich country. The North American church tries to make following Jesus attractive and we try to get people into the door and tell people it is great, we tell them that we have ALL the programs just for them. “Just come to our church and all your dreams will come true.”

“You do not have to look after any kids, we have people to do that for you. You do not have to help by meeting new people, we have people to do that for you. You do not have to pick up a vacuum cleaner, we do that for you. Oh please, let me pour your coffee. Please, don’t give any money to help pay any bills, we have people who will do that for you.”

But we still shop for churches. We compare the services between them like we do everything else. The music is better here, but the preaching is better there. And the children’s program is just like Sesame Street over there. But then, we’d have to drive 25 minutes to get there, so it’s a tossup.

This is what I do not get. People come and consume on the local church level, but they don’t buy into it, no they wait and wait to see if they will commit. Not only do they not buy into it they don’t contribute at all. Try that in Wal-mart. Walk in and start eating the chips in the isle and walk out without paying. You won’t get very far, yet it is acceptable in McChurch. Even when you go to a movie you have to pay at the door and not half way through. Not to mention that you have no problem dropping $20 for POP CORN!!!!!!!

Consume, consume and consume and when you get ticked at the pastor or someone else you can move over to the other retailer, because they don’t know you or your history and THEY want your business. But since everything is cyclical they are bound to find out, within a year or two…because that is when you get hacked-off with someone and it is time to leave again. Patterns are so loud and clear and it is funny to see that most people are blind to them.

McChurch. Some Christians are interesting. Think about this.

-Today, across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than one dollar a day;
-3 billion live on under two dollars a day.
-1.3 billion have no access to clean water.
-3 billion have no access to sanitation.
-2 billion have no access to electricity.
-A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World.
-The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined.
-Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
-20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods.
-According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
-Nearly 800 million people do not get enough food, and about 500 million people are chronically malnourished. More than a third of children are malnourished.
-Of the world’s 23 million people living with HIV/AIDS more than 93% live in developing countries.
-More than 840 million adults are illiterate - 538 million of them are women.
-Around 2 million children died as a result of armed conflict in the last decade.
-110 million landmines lie undetonated in 68 countries.
-Modern-day slavery, involving victims who are forced into labor or sexual exploitation is about 800,000 people -- mostly women and children – who are trafficked across national borders which does not count millions trafficked within their own countries.
-Six countries can spend $ 700 million in nine days on dog and cat food.
-Effective debt relief to the 20 poorest countries would cost $ 5.5 billion - equivalent to the cost of building EuroDisney.
-Today’s world spend $ 92 billion on junkfood, $ 66 billion on cosmetics and nearly $ 800 billion in 1995 for defense expenditure.
-There is plenty of food in the world, the problem is that those who have are not distributing it properly. Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger and the large majority of those victims are under the age of 5.

Hang on….”I NEED to go stand in line at Wal-mart and get a new XBOX 360, because I can get it for only $500.”

And I am thinking…What is wrong with this picture?

We live in a world where people get angry over the things that don’t matter and don’t get angry about the things that do matter. Perhaps it is time for the church to be come angry about the things that GOD is angry about.

I wonder….does GOD do McDonalds?

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Every once in a while I find myself in one of those times in life when the tension meter is up for several days. I find myself thinking, "I am going crazy" Other people will say that they need a drink. That's kind of a soul check place in my life. When I think I am going crazy, its time to recognize the mirages or those places where you tend to crawl, thinking they will quench your thirst. But when you get there you find there is only sand to drink. Have any of you been to those kind of places?

Jesus had a way of cutting through our superficial thirst issues to get down to the place of our real, deep need.

The woman at the well (John 4) dealt with the very superficial issue of physical thirst. Jesus cut to the chase and began to talk to her about the deeper needs in her life, living water needs. He knew that she had been trying all kinds of ways to quench her thirst. She had gone from relationship to relationship. She had five different marriages and then just gave up on marriage and was living with a guy. When Jesus was really pressing her at that place of discomfort, she tried to show him that she was a religious person.

If you've been pressed to the place of discomfort and what do you want to do?

You want to change the subject. She began to talk about religion, but Jesus cut below religion. She asked Jesus a superficial question. "What is the right place to worship or the right way to worship. What is the right kind of music for worship?" Jesus said it's not about place or style of music. "But the hour is coming and is now here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to allow you and I to have fellowship with God, a deep intimate relationship. Jesus told this woman of the two parts of that deep intimate relationship. There are the hydrogen and oxygen of the relationship, spirit and truth.

The greatest ultimate thirst is intimacy with God. When we are not experiencing that intimacy with God, we have a tendency to escape to other things. (I need a drink.) It can even be good things. We will pour ourselves into ministry. For many of us, ministry can be another one of those mirages that promises to quench our thirst and when we crawl over there to that mirage, we discover that there is nothing there but sand to drink. Have you ever drunk sand? I have and guess what? I'm not going to be drinking sand anymore.

Friday, November 18, 2005


I just to want to say a big HELLO and a BIG THANK YOU to all of you visiting my site from the US, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, India, Israel, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, France, The Netherlands and various other parts of the world!

Keep on coming by, maybe one day we will meet!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


A friend pointed me to his website for his church, in that is this is just too funny not to pass it on. So with his permission here it is.

When people ask me how many hours a week I work I usually tell them about one and a half—depends on how long the Sunday service is. I feel that I might as well say that because that’s probably what they’re thinking anyway. Besides, I love seeing the expressions on their face. It’s a look of shock, disbelief and wondering if I am really the only pastor dumb enough to admit what they always thought.

When I was a kid growing up I used to think my pastor was so special, he only had to come into the office to work if he felt like it. But in reality God didn’t expect him to. I had visions of him spending entire days on his knees, hands outstretched toward heaven with a beam of light shining down upon his face. That is what I thought he did during the week.

I heard about one pastor who named his fishing boat “visitation”. That way when people would call the office during the week, his secretary could tell them he was out on “visitation.” It certainly sounds better than, “he’s out fishing.” Mark Lowry called his bed, “The Word”. So when people phoned and woke him up at 10:00 a.m. and they said, “I hope I didn’t catch you sleeping”. He’d just say, “No, I was in ‘the word’.”

Well, I have decided to name my van, “the office”, watching T.V. is now “studying”, shopping is now “administration” and forms of recreation such as fishing, biking, hiking or going for walks are now “prayer and meditation.” So if you call this week and I am unavailable, it may be because I am busy with ‘administration’ in my ‘office’ or perhaps I am ‘studying’ and spending time in ‘prayer and meditation’. If you call too early you will likely find I am in ‘the word’. Next summer I plan on spending a lot of time on ‘visitation’. I am reaching for the reward of the hardest working pastor!

So why am I writing this? One reason. The Bible say’s, ‘a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” I simply wanted to make you laugh. They say the sign of a healthy church is one where people feel free to laugh out loud. If you’re looking for a healthy church, and are not insulted by others laughing and having a good time, you’ll like it at CLA. On the flip side, you will also hear some straightforward teaching from God’s word. You will experience worship that is bent on encountering God, not entertaining people. You will be in an atmosphere that enables you to come to Jesus and be healed, transformed and touched by His presence. We do all of that and still manage to stay real and authentic. We meet Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Come early for a good back seat! I will sign off now so I can spend a little time in ‘The Word’.

To respond to Jim go to

Monday, November 14, 2005

What Can a Donkey Teach a Jackass?

Numbers 22:21-35 has a great story…Balaam (arguably a spiritual leader) got up one morning, saddled his donkey, and set out with the princes of Moab. This must have been quite a scene to behold. Accompanying Balaam were the dignitaries who had been sent to persuade Balaam to come and curse the people of God. Each of them must have had their own entourage and Balaam himself was accompanied by his own servants. I can imagine that those who happened to witness this entourage of Moab’s elite must have been duly impressed. Balaam was probably soaking all this up, basking in the glory of it all. After all, this whole caravan was on his account. He was the honored member of a very distinguished group.What Balaam could not see was that by his choice to accompany this delegation, he had set himself in opposition to God. The words of verse 22 are chilling: “Then God’s anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the way to oppose him.

Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.” Balaam had angered God. As they make their way toward Moab, the Angel of the LORD stands in the path of Balaam and his donkey. The “Angel of the LORD” is a most fascinating person. He appears with some frequency in the Old and New Testaments. There are different views as to who this is, but at the very least we can say that he is an angel who represents God, speaking and acting on His behalf.

Here is an amazing thing. Balaam (the spiritual leader) does not see the Angel of the LORD, but his donkey does. A prophet was known as a “seer,” who spoke to men for God concerning the things he “saw” (see 1 Samuel 9:9, 11, 19). Balaam cannot “see” the Angel of the LORD, but the donkey can.

Three times the donkey will see the Angel of the LORD and refuse to continue on the path in an attempt to spare Balaam from his sword. The first encounter comes where the path ran through an open field. The donkey sees the Angel and turns aside, into the field. Balaam is furious with his donkey for turning off the road. He beats his donkey severely, virtually forcing her to get back onto the path. Some time later, Balaam and his mount pass through some vineyards. Just as Balaam’s donkey is making her way between two walls, she sees the Angel of the LORD once again. In order to avoid the Angel, the donkey presses hard against one wall, crushing Balaam’s foot between her body and the wall. Greatly angered by her seemingly senseless behavior, Balaam beats his donkey once again. Going on farther, the Angel blocked the donkey’s path while she was confined to a very narrow place, and so all she could do was to lie down, refusing to go on. This really angers Balaam, who now employs his staff to beat his donkey.

Why beat the donkey, is it just an innocent animal? Donkeys are not only innocent, but ironically they are known for their stubbornness. Strangely enough, it was not the donkey that was stubborn in this instance, but a leader, a religious one at that. Every time the angel of the Lord stood in the donkey and Balaam’s way, the donkey would avoid eminent death, but Balaam was too blind to see it coming. He was so blinded by power and prestige and perceived importance he could not see the holy being that stood before him. Balaam was the stubborn one, and he beat his faithful donkey back on the dangerous path.

What happens next seems absolutely incredible, and yet it did not appear to make much of an impression on Balaam. The donkey suddenly speaks to her master. She asks Balaam what she has done wrong for him to beat her so severely these three times. Balaam hardly appears to notice the incredible fact that a donkey is speaking to him. In effect, Balaam’s answer to the donkey’s question is, “Because you made a jackass out of me. And so help me if I had a sword in my hand right now I would kill you.” (my paraphrase) Balaam was angry with his donkey because she had made him look like a fool. The donkey’s actions seemed completely inexcusable, so long as one is unaware of the presence of the Angel of the LORD, with His sword poised to kill Balaam. Balaam’s actions were irrational and cruel to a donkey who could see the Angel, who was aware of the danger He presented, and who sought to spare her master’s life.

Balaam seems to be very concerned about his status and prestige. But what must this have looked like to the princes who were in the caravan, as they witnessed these events? Balaam, a man highly regarded for his ability to influence or control the “gods,” cannot manage to make his donkey go where he wants. The princes look on as the donkey does it maneuvers and then lays down beneath Balaam, so that he must jump off and beat the animal until she gets to her feet. And just when it would appear that things could not get worse, they watch in disbelief as Balaam and his donkey carry on a conversation. Can you imagine their astonishment if Balaam had turned to these princes and said something like this: “Men, I’ve just had a little talk with Jack here, and we’ve decided that it would be best for us not to continue on with you.”

The donkey’s response to Balaam is most interesting: If I may attempt to paraphrase the words of a donkey, I believe her words were meant to be understood something like this: “Stop and think about this for a moment, master. How long have I been your beast of burden? A long time, right? And have I ever acted in this fashion before? You know that I have not. And if I have not acted this way before, through all the years you have ridden me, doesn’t this suggest to you that something out of the ordinary is going on here? Don’t you think that there may be a message for you in all of this? If I turned off the path three times for what appeared to be no reason at all, doesn’t this cause you to wonder if you are on the right path or not?”Of all the things I would have said to Balaam if I were his donkey, this is not even on my list. Why does the donkey speak as she does? Actually, her words make a lot of sense. Balaam was a man who was supposed to be “in touch” with the spiritual forces. He was a man who was a spiritual leader. Are there lessons to be learned here? Has Balaam completely missed it? Can spiritual leaders today, be like Balaam, be so blinded by sin that they cannot see the presence of God? Is it possible that GOD has placed ‘jackasses’ around leaders so that they will help them listen/see GOD and keep them off the path of destruction? The irony is that the donkey is a better “prophet” (or “seer”) than Balaam.

Moral of the story….Let no leader ever attempt to take credit for what he sees and says, for God can do as much through a donkey. So listen to the jackasses!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I Walk Alone?

"Pilgrim’s Progress" was written by John Bunyan who, in 1675, was jailed for his faith. It is a novel about a person by the name of Christian. Christian is on a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. On his way he passes through places such as the Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle and Vanity Fair. Many of us are on this journey and we may even find ourselves in one of these three places at one time or another.

The interesting aspect of the novel is that Christian can never make his destination by himself, so along the way he is given travel companions. They have names such as Faithful and Hopeful. What is key, is that Christian on his journey is not alone, and either are we. In our personal journey we often feel alone. Green Day sings the song “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” which says:
I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
and I'm the only one and I walk alone

I walk alone

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone

But we do have traveling companions. Journeying is something we do together. You and I need to be connected to people. We need traveling companions. Matthew (28:20) said the last words of Jesus on earth were "I will be with you always." That’s the promise of Jesus. I don’t do this walk by myself. Jesus knows I cannot make this journey by myself, even when I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I am not by myself.

I have a problem, though. Sometimes, when I am in the Castle of Doubt, or the Slough of Despair, or Vanity Fair, the invisible doesn’t seem so present. So, how do I experience this promise?

When you hear the word "church," what do you think of? A building a place or people? The Church is not a building or a place. It is a traveling companion!
I love the four characters that we find in "The Wizard of Oz." They actually remind me of not only people in my life, but of some real people who the church is really made up of. If you think about it, none of them could have made it by themselves. Dorothy suffered from a self-esteem problem. It came from the insecurity of an unstable home. If you really look at Dorothy’s upbringing, she was raised by her aunt. Where were her parents? Like many of us, we have never experienced the fullness of God’s blessing because we didn’t have healthy parents that could pass the blessing. We’re dealing with Dorothy-type problems, problems of self-esteem and insecurity. We need a new home. We need to be re-parented. The Lion lacked courage to take the risks that he needed to take to finish his journey. Scarecrow didn’t lack courage, he was ready to step out and do all kinds of weird things, he just needed a little smarts. The Tin Man had frozen emotions. He had the inability to get into an intimate relationship with anyone. Each one of these characters remind us of people we know or even people just like ourselves. None of these could have made the journey by themselves, so they were given as a gift to each other.

As you look at these unlikely traveling companions, look around you. Take a moment. Look to your right, look to your left. Unlikely traveling companions. They are the companions that God knows you need to face the journey. God puts us with unlikely traveling companions who add to my life from their perspective.
What are your thoughts? Better yet...who are your travel companions?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Stuck in a Moment

Have you ever faced this kind of moment – a moment filled with opportunity and yet you let it slip away? Have you ever known that you should have gone to the right but you went to the left? Has it ever been in your power to do good but you choose to do nothing? You didn’t choose to do evil, you just choose not to do nothing at all – not to get involved – you choose to be neutral, a non participant, to do nothing. As if you were stuck.

Have you ever stopped to reflect on how your life would be different if you choose to go to the right rather than the left? If you chose to get involved, to get your hands dirty, to risk failing in an attempt to do something meaningful?

Can you look back on your life and remember moments that would have changed your life forever had you made different choices? Some moments have a lifetime of momentum, others appear to be mundane but later prove to be monumental.

Every moment is priceless, unique, and unrepeatable. It’s kind of like taking a picture. You capture it and that’s it. You can never relive that moment. We have countless moments like that. And within the countless numbers that make up our lives, there are divine opportunities awaiting us.

There have been many defining moments in the life of human beings that changed their lives forever. These defining moments in time often set the course for the balance of their life.For Moses, it was the burning bush. For Peter, it was walking on water.For Shadrack, Mesach, & Abednego, it was walking through the burning furnace untouched. For Paul, it was being blinded as suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he was spoken to by Jesus on the Damascus Road. For Daniel, it was deliverance from the lion’s den. For Joshua, it was taking over from Moses and parting the Jordan River and crossing into the Promised Land.We could go on and on. Each of these people never had years of preparation leading up to their defining moment. Rather, these defining moments forced these servants to experience something beyond their human experience. It took them outside their own paradigm of life. God had to bring them outside their own box. And when He did, their lives were never the same.If you can capture one moment of your life, which one would be? What particular moment in the past? A moment of regret? How many of us haven’t spent many moments reflecting on moments lost, all the time unaware that Moments lost in regret are exactly that…Moments lost? If you could take a moment, seize it, and squeezed out of it all the life available within it, shouldn’t that moment be in the future rather than the past?

Moments are as numerous as stars. It the only moment that you must take responsibility for right now is the one in front of you. Today, as I reflect, my personal moment was stepping out and starting our faith community… and I can honestly say…it is really cool…

Monday, October 24, 2005

Who Has Your Back?

What was Paul of the New Testament like? What did he look like?

Below, Paul gives our imagination a working as he describes what he has been through and it may lead to what he may have looked like.

2 Corinthians 11:21
What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Erwin McManus when referring to this text asks the question “Tell me again that the safest place to be is at the center of GOD’s will!?”

The key verses are 24, 25, 26. Here we read that Paul received 39 lashes – FIVE TIMES! That has to be at least 195 scars on his BACK…what was he saying? Maybe in though 5 times he was brought to the brink of death!?

3 times he was beaten with rods by Romans…What was the crime? Paul was a Roman citizen. Was he beaten for insurrection or treason? Did he keep quiet and not let the authorities know that he was a Roman citizen? Or did he start riots? Did he consider himself a citizen of a higher kingdom? Those rods were not broom sticks they were probably baseball bat like. Imagine how Paul had to protect himself, wrapping his arms around his head, protecting the most sensitive parts of his body…so what was left exposed? His back.

How many bones of Paul’s body were broken after these beatings, not just once but many times? Especially his BACK!

He was even stoned once. This was the Jewish form of capital punishment… Was he really saying that he was killed? Because in Acts 14 they dragged Paul outside of the city and they thought he was dead. When people throw objects at you what do you do? You cover your head and go into a fetal position…what is exposed? Your BACK.

Now, try to think of Paul without thinking about his back and all the punishment that it took…

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) who is also our battle companion. And even when we have the presence of the Holy Spirit and good friends covering our back isn’t interesting that the whips, and the rods and the stones still get through, do they not? The rods, the whips and the stones…they still connect, they still scar.

As I read Acts 14 “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” I wonder…did Paul die? Did the disciples pray over him and he was raised from the dead? HEY, where were the disciples when Paul was being stoned? I thought they would have his back!!! Why did they gather around Paul outside of the city? Why did they not cover his back?

But look at what Paul did…He got up and went back into the city.
WOW…imagine that…they thought you were dead and then you show up again!

If you consider yourself a leader…show me your back.
Is it a clean back? Or is it full of scars, bruises and broken bones?
Followers of Christ need people to “cover our back.” Nobody has made a difference for GOD without them having people “say we will cover your back.” I know this is true in my life and it has been conveyed to me over and over again by people who surround me. And that is a wonderful comfort. But even when our “backs are covered” the whips, rocks and rods still get through. So in spite of our pain and injury, can we still get up and walk right back into the face of the very thing that has caused our pain?


Sunday, October 16, 2005


I had a friend (I will call him Al), who does short term missions, visiting my house this week and we had a great time of just talking about the future of ministry, our culture and the need for a new set of paradigms for youth ministry...but that is a whole new post.

Al began to tell me a story where he was in a country where the church was fairly legalistic in its view of faith and religion. Without question the church leaders that were at his seminar desired to reach their communities for Christ but they were setting up barriers. Some of the leaders at the seminar asked him to describe what kind of barriers are they setting up.

So my quick thinking friend looked at one of his team members who was standing at the back of the room and told him to come to the front. The team member began to walk around all the people and Al stopped him in his tracks. The story is paraphrased like this…

Al “Stop where you are…don’t go around everybody. Come straight up the middle to the front."
Team Member “What want me to walk over these people, tables and chairs?”
Al “Yes, crawl over them all to get here.”

At this point the team member began to crawl over desk, chairs, little ladies, old men, pastors and leaders to get to the front. When the team member finally got to the front, Al said “Christians and churches make it that difficult for people to come to Christ. We make them climb fences, jump hurdles, clean up their act…when in reality…all we need to do is turn around and meet them where they are at.”

WOW…we (the church) does build barriers, don’t we?
What have been the barriers that you have built to keep people away? Do people HAVE to come to church first? Do people have to take a shower first? Do people have to take off their hat and wear a white shirt and a tie FIRST? Do people have to appreciate the organ music or song selection FIRST? Do people just have to clean up their act before we will “introduce them” to Jesus…or the church? What do we make people jump over?
OR have people looked at all the obstacles that we have placed in front of them and have they chosen that the church has made this spiritual journey impossible?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thankful for what?

Sorry that I haven’t posted…but I needed to give some undivided time to the most important people in my life…my wife and kids. So I ponder about this holiday season…thanksgiving…

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something to be thankful for. One Sundaymorning, the weather was stormy and dark. And one of the deacons said, "The preacher won’t be able to thank God for anything on a day like this. It’s absolutely horrible outside!"But much to his surprise, Rev. Whyte began the service by praying, "We thank thee, O God, that it is not always like this." Rev. Whyte understood that we should thank God no matter what! Because the same God who rules the universe when times are good is the same God who rules the universe when times are not so good. And God always has reasons and motives and purposes for why he does what he does.Having said that, when I hear Paul say, "Give thanks in all circumstances,"there’s a part of me that wants to say, "Paul, wake up and smell the coffee!What do YOU have to be thankful for? You’re in danger every single day ofyour life. You’ve spent years and years in prison because of your faith. Youthrew away a thriving career as a Pharisee. And look what you have to showfor it! Nothing!"And yet, it’s right there in the scriptures: "be joyful always, praycontinually, give thanks in all circumstances." For me I need to remember a few things.

I need to remember that God is at work in our lives even when times are bad. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul says to them, "in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." In other words, as harsh as your life has become, God is still at work in your community!

Romans 8:28 says that "in ALL things God works for the good of those wholove him." God uses even our most dismal circumstances to bring glory tohimself, and accomplish his purposes on the earth. So we should thank Godeven for the hard times in life?It was Jim Bakker, of 80’s religious scandal fame who said, "it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me critical distance from my crazy life. I was able to look at things. And see how wrong I was. And get back to walking with God."Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson’s Disease said "if you made a deal withGod that he would take away my Parkinson’s disease and cancel out the lastten years of my life, I would tell you to take a hike. My life is so goodnow. I’m helping a lot of people cope with the stigma of this disease. Andit makes me appreciate life as a precious gift."Does GOD use our hardships so that we can relate to others? Do we really need to thank God for those rough times?

2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God comforts us in all our troubles so that wecan comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. So thank God for our troubles! Honestly, our problems will not last forever.

Thank God for what you still have. I just got this email the other day. And it goes like this: "If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the six million who will not survive the week.If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness ofimprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you areahead of 500 million people in the world.If you can attend a church service without fear of persecution, arrest,torture or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head,and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.If you have money in the bank, money in your wallet, and spare change in adish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy."That’s something to think about during Thanksgiving. We might be sad or have some serious issues in our lives, but we should never forget how much GOD has blessed us, either…and that things could always be worse.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Morning Musing

I have struggled as to what to write this week. I am tired…it has been an emotionally charged week and I almost didn’t post, but I knew that I had to. I wanted to post about the future of denominational lead educational institutions, but that will be later. How about the consumer church mindset? No, that will just get me angry right now and I will piss off others when I use the term “dead weight.” Maybe, the communion experience we had this last Sunday? Nope, too personal. What about this whole “emergent church” bandwagon discussion? It was Rob Bell who said that "If you use the word postmodern… you aren’t." enough said on that topic.
Today is a time reflecting…I have read a number of blogs and have followed a number of threads in various email-groups and what I find is a huge “anti-church’ sentiment which I totally understand BUT…there is also this deep pessimism amongst church leaders in their current situation. So I want to ask a few questions…

What Do I Believe About the Church?
1. Do I really believe that people need the Church as a corporate body that gathers throughout the week? What is the purpose of the church? If the church is not something worthwhile that God pours his blessing into, and works through, then why even be a part of it?

2. Do I and others just play Church?
Personally, the answer to that question is that I do not have time to play church…life is just too short. But why do people and some leaders play church? Why do people play mind games (spiritual mind games), why go through the motions and see little to no change in personal lifestyle and attitude? Why not just walk away and play another game?

3. Do I really believe that God is working and that I am a part of it?In the “christian culture” it appears that many self professed believers are aloof, non committal, angry, hurt, filled with gossip, back biting, and are just plain ignorant of the needs of a world other than one’s own. (Do I sound a Tad Judgmental or and I just stating the obvious?)

So what do I believe about the church……simply put…GOD IS working and in some strange twisted way, I find myself a part of it…and in the words of Saint Garth and Saint Wayne… “we’re not worthy.”

Monday, September 26, 2005

A Tad Judgmental

For me the week is over, but my mind is constantly racing. I have been holding back on this post for a number of reasons, the first being I said I would wait until Monday. So here it is…
Leaders are always challenged and criticized for decisions that they make. I, personally, can handle people not accepting my way of doing things, however…is there not a place where people can do/say/practice/read/listen to/watch/etc without others feeling the need to cast judgment? At the start of this week, in many different types of words I was told that I was going to Hell. Let me clarify that this revelation was not from GOD, although the person spoke as if they were the gate keeper of the big pearlies themselves. WHY? Does it really matter WHY? Is not the accusation itself abhorrent?

What is in a person that causes condemnation of fellow human beings? Better yet, why must people (need I add here…Christians) make choices of right and wrong for everybody else? Why does human nature search so hard to label something WRONG if nothing is immediately apparent? Why are people so judgmental? What it is about the human nature that causes one to judge others based on one’s own notions of how things should be. The Christian culture is the best example: As if all that will be played in heaven is Gospel music…COME ON…(sorry…I don’t know where that came from.)
WAIT, was I just judgmental? (No, just speaking truth…but for argument sake…)
C.S. Lewis said in his book The Case for Christianity “This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practice ourselves the kind of behavior we expect from other people.”

How true. How easy it is for me to cut off and want to give a ‘one digit wave’ at people who drive like “idiots,” or get terse with the store clerks, or angry with the drive thru employees because they screwed up another order or simply POed with those who don’t listen to the instructions or directions, or snippy with the waitress who bring me cold food or coffee?

C. J. Jung said "We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses." I wonder if people judge others and attempt to force others into conformity out of a basic sense of fear; fear of their own shadows; the fear that they are, deep inside, just like the person they are condemning. How many Christians operate in this mode? Better yet, how many Christian leaders operate in this mode? Not only that, have you noticed that being judgmental is also contagious? It is, after all, much easier to condemn than to look within and see the ugliness that lurks there.

Imagine for a moment, a world wherein everyone faces the shadows in their hearts. A place where everyone has contemplated the truth of their own darkness, where no one must fear themselves, because they have faced the worst in themselves and emerged victorious (Alas, only a dream). In this dream world, our fears and petty judgments of others would lose meaning. Just like when you were a child: How do you get rid of the monster under the bed? You turned on the light.

Is it time that we took time with people before judging? Walk with them and turn some lights on? One common problem with being too eager to judge others is that we often conclude too quickly and fail to understand the other person from their perspective. It is this failing to consider another person and their life, experience, knowledge etc. that makes judgmentalism so disastrous in the realm of Christian community. Rob Bell in his book 'Velvet Elvis' talks about Christians, who when reading the Bible, must come to grip with the reality that their interpretations are essentially opinions and that nobody is really objective. Oh Boy…that should send some fundies off with their underwear in a knot!

But I wonder, if we don't attempt to understand other's lives then, are we then unable to appreciate them as they are? The way that GOD created them?

I close with this quote from Thomas à Kempis:
Those things that one cannot improve in himself or in others, he ought to endure patiently, until God arranges things otherwise. Nevertheless when you have such impediments, you ought to pray that God would help you, and that you may bear them kindly. Endeavor to be patient in bearing with the defects of others, whatever they are; for you also have many failings which must be borne by others. If you cannot make yourself be as you would like to be, how can you expect to have another person be to your liking in every way? We desire to have others perfect, and yet we do not correct our own faults. We would allow others to be severely corrected, and will not be corrected ourselves. We will have others kept under by strict laws, but in no case do we want to be restrained. And so it appears that we seldom weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves.

Now go and practice love this week…

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Great Read for Tough Times

OK, Listen...this book is a must read! If you have ever owned a dog this book will resonate with your funny bone. I didn't even know that it is a best seller!

This book will appeal to four distinct groups of people: pull-my-finger dads, dog owners, people called Walter, and friends of people called Walter.

Walter is based on a real-life dog who lived in Fredericton years ago and was renowned throughout the New Brunswick capital for his room-clearing abilities.

I have a "must read" book list below, and this one was just added.

In our world of seriousness, we need to lighten up a bit...this book is a sure fire way to do it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Monday, September 19, 2005

Don't Touch?

Has church leadership ever demanded that you consult with them before making a major decision or any decisions at all? Have you ever had extra biblical rules equated as coming from GOD, with your salvation or spirituality linked closely behind them? Have you ever felt that you just can’t do enough for the system or the leadership and that you are not good enough and just can’t live up to what is expected? Has church leadership forbidden you to go on vacation or spend time with certain people or in certain places? When in a church service do you feel beaten down and depressed afterwards? Do you find that leadership often discourages questioning and interprets it as being spiritually immature, or rebellious? Have you even found yourself in the position of being removed from a church, shunned, labeled or even excommunicated because you did not follow the rules?

Not too long along a friend of mine was sitting in his church {which according to him is going through a bit of a struggle} and the pastor began to speak on a passage, that I must confess is really easy for all leaders to use when are facing conflict or opposition:
I Chronicles 16:22 "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm."(NIV)
It is interesting to note that many [of us] leaders when approached personally, regarding something questionable that [we] have shared {preached on} with the community can and usually is perceived as a challenge to authority. It is important to note that Jesus did allow his disciples to question what he taught. He even allowed those who were against him to question him.

I can honestly say that I am not shocked by any pastor’s response ( I heard it all) and many times, leaders obviously feel the need to either defend their actions, statements or whatever. How is it that when one calls something into question regarding something previously said or done, that one is touching GOD'S anointed? How is it that in the asking of a simple question, one can become GOD’S enemy? How is it that a leader can see himself as the recipient of an anointing that sets him apart from the rest of the community? How is it that these ‘anointed ones’ come to be defined by having a special anointing, one that makes them incapable of making mistakes?

Is it acceptable to question? And when does the questioning end? Someone once attributed this entire concept of “not touching” back to when the papacy was loosing power and would not go down without a fight. As I understand, it was Pius IX who declared an edict stating that, as GOD’S delegated authority, he cannot be wrong, and he also declared that much of the ceremonies of the papal church could not be called into question. The records of history are filled with the dirty narratives of leaders who dominated and controlled people through their rants and word twisting.

Johnson and VanVonderen in their book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse state: “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way that you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian – to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another- that is spiritual abuse.”

So in a world, where spiritual manipulation, even spiritual abuse is common, who are the anointed ones? In the Old Testament, were not the anointed the Priests, leaders, kings and even the Israelites? In the New Testament is it possible that the “anointed ones” are the entire community of Christ? Did GOD pour out His Spirit upon all flesh and not just a select social order of Ministers, Pastors, Elders, etc? Peter wrote. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (NIV) (1 Peter 2:9). Scripture tells us that as followers of Jesus Christ, there is now a new priesthood, the priesthood of all believers, and this priesthood represents a better covenant. Under this covenant, GOD puts His laws into our minds, and writes them in our hearts. So as believers are we all not priests? Are we all not His anointed? Or does GOD have special followers or are those in leadership more special to GOD than the average person? Are there some people who are more important than others? If that is true than one must examine what is written in 1 Corinthians 12 which enforces the idea that each individual is needed and has a specific work to do, and each person is equally important, but with different responsibilities.


Monday, September 12, 2005

Putting it all together

After reading many other blogs and wondering why in the world I would spend precious time writting out my thoughts...I have broken down. I will be writing every day off? Here it goes...

I am part of a new church experience. This experience is fantastic, overwhelming and terrifying all at the same time. But here is my ramble...

Is the church to be looked at as a hospital or a hospice? People become part of a church for a variety of reasons. People leave churches for a variety of reasons. The one thing that I see in common is that people will come into a church setting with hurt and pain, and others will leave a church setting with hurt or pain.

Now, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to acknowledge that churches are not perfect places because they are made up of people. BUT....The way I see it is that people have a choice. People have a choice to work at getting better and healthier, or people can sit in thier muck and filth and not do anything about it.

At our church we talk very openly about refuge, repair and rejuvenation. The problem with a motto such as this is that many people what to stay in “Refuge.” They want to hide. It is sort of like the difference between a hospital and a hospice.

Let me say that I believe that it is ok to hide for a period of time...that is what Refuge is all about, but when do people start the process of healing? Of repair? Is there a starting time?

When you get sick what happens? First our bodies tell us that something is wrong. We usually get a confirmation of that when we go to the doctor. But if we are seriously ill, what do most people do? They go to the hospital. When at a hospital, you are there for a reason. But as soon as you walk in through the door, you begin to start the process of healing. The nurse takes your vitals, checks your history and depending what your injuries are, they may have to hook you up to an IV, give you a shot, clean and bandage, even stich a wound. As you stay there longer, they will have you eating properly, walking after surgery, using the washroom and even doing physio therapy…but you are in the process of repair, of getting healthy. You do not intend to go to a hospital to stay sick!

But if you look at the idea of "Refuge" as a hospice, that means you will lie there until you die. You assume that there is no hope to your condition, that it is terminal. If you seen refuge as a place where you can sit in your stink...then what is the point of getting better. Why wash and clean up if I can just sit down and rot. There is no point to eating properly, or of walking, there is no point to physio, it is just a matter of time…then one is gone.

Gone in more than one way. The first is that they leave the community, only to go to another place to soil it with their muck. Not concerned about cleaning up, rather only concerned about the fact that they have pain and are clear to let everybody know it. It is like the drunk in the emergency ward. He finds himself there because he got hurt falling down, but in his condition he believes that he is the only one in discomfort and that the staff should treat him as the highest priority.

Many of people fall into the lie that pain and suffering robs of us options. Yet, in the midst of hurt and pain we have options of 'how am I going to respond to my situation.' Then the classic question is "Am I going to be bitter or better?"

Any one can become bitter, it is easy to ripped apart everything and become apathetic, skeptical or cynical…anybody can do that! But it is a rare person who in the midst of hurt, pain and suffering responds to become a better person.
We have a choice to be bitter or better.