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?