Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thoughts for the New Year


Thanks to all those who commented in the last post.
Here are some new questions for 2009.
What is the one thing that you want to accomplish this upcoming year?
What is the one thing that you would like to see happen? (a very general question)

Friday, December 19, 2008

What are your thoughts?

Many people stumble across this blog for a variety of reasons from all over the world. What I would like to do is invite all who read this to simply, and even anonymously, post the answer to this question:

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS RIGHT NOW?

The topic is whatever you are thinking!

Friday, December 12, 2008

So, is this what Christmas is about?

A while back I had the opportunity to read the story of Brian "Head" Welch, who was the guitarist of the band Korn. Here is the book in a short version...from the website I AM SECOND...

http://www.iamsecond.com/#/seconds/Brian_Welch/

So, is this what Christmas is all about?
Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Kenya Update.....



Just in.... please remember Bernie and Celia in your prayers.

"Dear Friends and Family

We received the very sad and shocking news that Josephine, our senior teacher at the school, died last night. I only just found out yesterday afternoon that she was very ill and I phoned her straightaway. She was in the local district hospital waiting for the results of an X-ray they'd done on her chest. She was breathing in short breaths and sounded terrible. She told me that last week she had suddenly felt a sharp pain in her chest and then was unable to stand or walk. At the hospital they told her that her heart seemed to be getting bigger but they didn't really have a clue. I urged her to go to the mission hospital at Kijabe (about 40 minutes away from us) as it's a much better hospital. I was very worried about her and had a sense of foreboding. I rang her again in the evening when I knew that our cook, Joram, was going round to see her.

She was back at home. It turned out that they couldn't find anyone in the hospital to read the X-ray results and wanted to keep her in hospital until such a person turned up. She told them that she wanted to leave and try to go to Kijabe Hospital. She sounded better on the phone and told me she was planning to go to Kijabe Hospital the next day. I then received a call at 1.15 am telling me that she had died. Her husband also called me at 6 am to give me the news.

To be honest, I feel completely devastated. Josephine was more than a teacher in the school, she was a dear friend. I used to have lots of chats with her and trusted her and valued her wisdom. Somehow, after you'd spent a little time with Josephine you felt that the world was a better place. She had a strong faith which amazed and challenged me frequently. The children at the school also loved her: she was fun, caring and so concerned about each child's progress. I will miss her terribly. I know that all of her colleagues at work feel the same; we don't know quite what we're going to do without her. I wish that I had known about this sooner, I wish that I had done more, I wish, I wish. I feel full of self recriminations. We managed to rescue her at the beginning of the year during the clashes, so why couldn't we have done something to stop this happening?

If this is the way that we feel, then how much worse must her poor family feel? She leaves behind her husband, Philip; little Marianne, 3, who was coming to our school; Winnie, 8, who is Abbie's best friend; and Sharon, 14, her eldest daughter. Josephine and her family became intertwined with our lives especially from the beginning of this year when she came to take refuge here after the violence. Her family has suffered so much this year, they lost everything they owned and now they've lost their wife/mother. It's too sad.

The other day I dreamt that a Tsunami was coming. I was trying to warn people to get to higher ground but no one was listening. Maybe this is it. It certainly feels like a tidal wave has hit us. One thing is for certain: Josephine is in a place now where she won't be having to face life's Tsunamis anymore. I just wish that we could have got everyone to higher ground with this one.

It has surely been a tough year this year. And now, after we say goodbye to a colleague and friend, we will have to start looking for a suitable replacement, a task which fills me with dread.

Thank you for listening.

God bless.

Celia"

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Meaning of Christmas?


OK…we can now rest for a month until parliament reconvenes. So, I am changing the topic:

Every year as we approach this season we call Christmas, I ask a simple question... “What for? What is all this for?” I do not want to sound like a scrooge....maybe I do.....wait, I guess I must only be happy if I am spending money on something that no one really needs or wants!
What for? I guess this is what Christmas is all about!

Watch the video, and would love to hear your thoughts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K14c4NGuhDI

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prorogue


So, our government has moved to prorogue Parliament. Here is a new thread to express your thoughts...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Your thoughts on Canada?



With what is happening in Ottawa right now places us in a unique position as Canadians in this moement of history. I know that our spiritual community is made up of all types of political leanings and I tend to stay away from mixing the Bible and the Pulpit...but now, I would like to hear your opinions. (Tastfully)
Thoughts?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thought of the day?


So once again...people get needled on a Sunday morning. Here is a quote from the life lesson..."very often the way God would have us go is the most sensible way that we would have chosen anyhow. It is only when God wishes us to depart from the expected that we should look for guidance that is spectacular or unusual. I wonder if the church spends too much time looking for GOD in the bizarre and spectacular and we miss Him whispering at us in the every day?"
Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WORDS! Do I have your attention now?


Take some time to read through Jeremiah and Ezekiel and you will notice that God seems to be saying the word “whore” a lot to describe how He felt about Israel. Wow, God said ‘whore!’ God (through His inspired authors) uses the term many times throughout the Old Testament. If you think of it, the usage of certain words in our culture tend to slap us in the face to get our attention. I wonder if that is what is going on here?

But the usage of strong words by GOD doesn’t stop in the Old Testament. Look at Jesus! In Matthew 23 he calls the religious leaders of the day “snakes!” (Oooooooo that hurt!) Actually, it was a very strong word for that period of time. When you called a person a snake (in this time and culture) it had reference to Genesis 3 and Adam and Eve’s sin. Jesus was calling these people 'devils!' Jesus goes on throughout the gospels and uses many terms to get people’s attention and to rattle their cage. Even Paul in Galatians 5 makes some statements that will make most men blush. Again, I am reminded that he was inspired by GOD to write…right? (2 Peter 1:20-22)

So…God said called Israel a “whore,” called the religious leaders “snakes” and told religious people to basically go ahead and cut it off; so much for the safe, gentle and predictable God that most churches portray.

What is the point? There are times that a speaker is called/impressed/inspired to say things that will shock and offend people…and that is OK. I don’t personally think a speaker should ever try to be shocking just for the sake of doing so, (I have heard my fair share)…but I do believe, according to Scripture, that there are times when controversial and bold statements need to be made! I often feel that I need to warn people and place a disclaimer in at the beginning of the life lesson…why? Because I know that people will be offended by what I am about to say and it is sometimes easier to take when you know it is coming.

I have used strong language or words in the past…and it has caused a stir. I will often hear from people…”I can’t believe you said that!” My response is “The fact is, we all thought it…I just brought it to the table for discussion.” I do not think that as pastors we need to go out and try to shock or offend people on purpose…but if we are faithful in preaching the scriptures then it is only natural that people will be shocked and offended. “Well, Gerry you often repeat yourself as well!” Have you ever thought that you never got it the first time?

Again, I am reminded of the saying that "I am called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Funny thing is…the comfortable, will always walk away…

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Church and Starbucks

I need to thank a friend for the link to this clip! THANKS ROB! Rob is a pastor in Ottawa and has a passion for reaching bikers for Christ! His blog is http://www.robdale.ca

Anyway, I made a post on my Facebook a while ago; and in a moment of silliness I posted that "Tim's was the Starbucks of the middle class." Needless to say there were a number of responses on my Facebook and I realized very quickly that many people have no sense of humour! ANYWAY

Watch this...I would love your thoughts...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7_dZTrjw9I

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Personalities BEHIND the Screen

I am one who has a Facebook account, however I am very careful as to what personal information is posted on this trolling tool (www.soulpastor.blogspot.com/2007_10_01_archive.html).

I personally have never taken Facebook seriously but have been intrigued as to how much people personally self disclose. The deeper we sail into the new online world of communications, the sadder I get about its future. I’m OK with criticism, I’m fine with disagreement, I’m perfectly capable of handling angry notes, that’s not the issue here but what’s really stunning is how hostile people are to each other online these days.

The last two weeks, because of imposed boredom of being at a mandatory conference, I needed some fun in my life and began to “update my status” and was amazed at the responses that began to pour in…PEOPLE, Don’t you work!? I began to continue some “status” thoughts with the US election running hard. Again, I am amazed at the responses of people. All of a sudden, I realize that once again, there is etiquette that is needed on the web and that people should not be so serious and personal on such an impersonal sites.

Without question, Facebook is a community of “FRIENDS” but are they really your friends? How many people really know your birthday? How many friend requests does one get from people you do not even know? How many friend requests do you get from people you want to stay away from? Anyway, after the election and messing with people and wanting to be the pope, I thought that should toss out a reminder of internet guidelines and hear your thoughts.

I believe it is important to understand the culture and the community that you are a part of. Every site and community has a different flavor. Myspace is different than FaceBook, Yahoo 360 is different than Linked-In and then add the world of blog spheres. They not only have different technical platforms, they have different personalities on both sides of the controls. One moment you may be having a chat about the latest gadget and political joke on site A, and the other moment you will find insult on answering questions or discussing personal topics.

When you get online, don't try to fake it. There are plenty of people who recognize you from other social circles and environments. What you say online will be noticed in the other circles. It may not be written in the text on screen, but people will take note of places you have long forgotten. I believe that we need to treat people like you were having a face to face meeting. So many people become rude or negative online when they would never do so in the real world. There is a tendency in the web world to make hasty statements or jump to conclusions and coming off like an idiot.

I am convinced that on the Internet, you are anonymous, (to some degree). Since you don’t have to face the person you’re talking to, you don’t see any reason to display courtesy. Because you are somewhat anonymous, you worry that your comments might get lost in the shuffle, so you lay it on thick to enhance your notability.

Many people who spend lots of time online are, in essence, replacing in-person social interactions with these online exchanges (OUCH). With so much less experience conversing in the real world, they haven’t picked up on the value of treating people civilly. That is, they haven’t yet hit the stage of life when getting things like friends, a spouse and a job depend on what kind of person you are.

People used to dream of a ‘global village’ (Marshall McLuhan), where maybe we can work out our differences, where direct communication might make us realize that we have a lot in common after all, no matter where we live or what our beliefs. But instead of finding common ground, we’re finding new ways to spit on the other guy, to push them away. The web makes it easier to attack, not to embrace.

So people, first write your responses or posts in a Word .doc file. This enables you to have a handy reference guide to proper English, grammar and spelling so you really do not look all that stupid. Try and gauge the community before posting. Don't just jump in and shoot off your thoughts. Who is posting? Do they know you? Do you have a relationship off line so that you can further the conversation? Remember the interpretation! We read messages shared in text form based on whatever mindset we are in at the moment. Don’t forget that if I’m in a bad mood, or reading in a hurry I might interpret your sarcastic humor as plain rudeness. Try to remember this reality when you type messages.

People often get grumpy for all the wrong reasons. In a written environment, people often fall prey to a few words that flavor an entire relationship. One brief statement does not make a relationship, nor does it create one. A relationship is made by a consistent level of interaction over a period of time.

Expressing your thoughts are important but make sure what you've written is relevant and encourages people to continue the discussion. Online communities can be amazing tools for making connections for business and personal interests, yet it can also be a detriment to how you are perceived. If you post offensive content, pretend to be someone else (my personal angst), or try to annoy others it can get ugly. It's not worth it and no-one will think you are funny. Have some common decency when you write a post. Don't patronize people with false concern by writing "Sorry, but you're wrong." Don't insult people's views that differ than yours, people deserve respect, and chances are...you are wrong! :)

Be sensitive, if you do step across someone's line, apologize! Treat everyone online as if you are dealing with a REAL friend. Do not take your preconceptions into the conversation. If they say they are offended, offer an apology and move on. If you don't understand a question or comment, ask for clarification rather than posting a knee jerk response.

If all else fails, enjoy a cup of coffee! There are bigger issues in life. I like St. Arbucks.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quote

"Beware of worshipping Jesus as the Son of God, and professing your faith in Him as the Savior of the world, while you blaspheme Him by the complete evidence in your daily life that He is powerless to do anything in and through you."

Oswald Chambers
Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Random Thoughts and Readings



I read this off a great blog that I would encourage you all to read. It is Walt Muller’s blog of CPYU (Center for Parent/Youth Understanding). http://www.learningmylines.blogspot.com/

This morning I've been getting ready for a big trip to Pittsburgh scheduled for next week. I'm working with a couple of churches who have put together a very aggressive schedule of events, most of which are designed to engage the culture-at-large that exists outside the "walls" of our congregations. The folks in Pittsburgh have been diligent in the task of framing, wording, and preparing in ways that are truthful without the "noise" of turnoff. . . . which, by the way. . . tends to typify many of our shameful efforts to engage a watching world in compelling ways.

In an email to one of the event's organizers earlier this morning, I suggested some wording changes in something I was putting my name to so that the message we want to share doesn't get lost in translation.This all got me thinking about a couple of conversations I had last weekend at the Youth Specialties National Youthworkers Convention in Sacramento. The first was about some of the infamous stuff done by the brothers and sisters over the years. Or perhaps I should say, the infamous stuff made by the brothers and sisters in an effort to bring more folks into the fold. A couple of us got to talking about Christian "witnessing tools," you know, that Jesus Junk that we think is more effective than an embodied apologetic for the faith. One of those things that we talked about has been sitting on top of my desk since the day I picked it up - almost 10 years ago - in the exhibit hall at one of the conventions. Actually, and I'm ashamed to admit this, I paid for it. It's a can of root beer. . . Holy Cross Root Beer to be exact.

Never heard of it? Neither had I. I think it's Christian root beer. . . . or at least that's what the guy manning the booth told me. What makes root beer Christian? I still haven't figured that one out. Is it Christian because the can features a cross, a "Jesus Saves," and references to Acts 16:31, John 3:16, and Revelation 20:4-6? Does drinking it draw one closer to God? I can't answer that because I've never popped the top to take a swig. Does that mean that 10 years later what's in my can is actually better than what was in there when I first laid eyes on it? Who knows? All I do know is that if this is the best we can do. . . or even if we think this is an effective tool in our witnessing arsenal. . . . well, then we're nuttier than we think. And I don't mean "nutty" in a nice way.Another weekend conversation was had with some of my favorite new friends who are ministering to kids through First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, Colorado. Kim is one of the female interns who used to be a waitress at Appleby's. She told us how waitressing at the chain on Sunday afternoons was always an embarassment. Why? Because the restaurant would fill up with the brothers and sisters from the after-church crowd who would eat a normal amount of food, then leave an embarrassingly abnormal tip. . . . like a gospel tract sans cash. Do we seriously think that we're leaving a good impression when we share the Gospel of being cheap, cheesy, and uncaring with a piece of paper that winds up provoking anger before flying into the trash? Are we really caring for people when we demand that they wait on us for $2.01 an hour plus tips. . . . and we don't leave anything? Shame on us.

It made me think about this funny little video that's been floating around on YouTube. I watched it and laughed. I watched it and was embarassed. I watched it and thanked God that I'm not like that. . . . or am I (we)?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-NOZU2iPA8&eurl

Thoughts?

Friday, October 17, 2008

How to?

The comments and emails from the last post a great and thought provoking. In keeping with the “how to” or “want to” theme is a quote from an now departed youth worker.

"I am beginning to understand that faith is not the way around pain, it is the way through pain. Faith doesn't get rid of the opposition it invites it over for dinner. Faith doesn't give you the winning point at the last second, it ties the games and sends you into overtime. Faith does't give you the solution, it forces you to find it."
Mike Yaconelli
Thoughts?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How To OR Want To

Had an interesting conversation with my staff today…we talked about the “HOW TO’s” of a Sunday Life Lesson. The “How To’s!” Now, don’t get me wrong, our staff is great but I love the fact that they are very candid and I must say we had a great talk. Unannounced to them, one of the criticisms that has been directed at me as a pastor is that “I tell people that they can CHOOSE to believe want they want.” REALLY. I did not know that! I just may have to go and sacrifice a cat now! (sarcasm)

Our conversation went further to the point that someone said that “people are so busy that they want leaders to do all the thinking for them.” So, as a pastor, my job is to do all the thinking for you and tell you what to think and do? WOW, is that cultish to the tenth degree or what?
I am of the mind that effective, biblical preaching taps into an innate longing by helping people envision what God created us to be in Christ. Some scholars have called this visionary preaching.
Visionary preaching is not content merely to instruct people in the ways of God, or to confront the sin in their lives and the world, or to exhort believers to do better and try harder. Visionary preaching empowers people to pursue God's better future by painting a vivid and compelling picture of that future with words, images, and stories and encouraging people to become more like Christ, the how’s are written between the lines.

Now, if I were to preach on tithing…wow…some of you just shuddered with that word, I could explain all the Old Testament foundations and commands of tithing and I could also draw from a more all encompassing giving approach based on New Testament examples… So, after I have finished preaching, I could assume that people would simply understand GOD’s expectations and they would make the effort to give MORE than 10% based on the great biblical exposition that I would be able to draw out (Simply an egotistical statement here used for emphasis). The other side is that I can try to guilt people into thinking that they are robbing God. In either case both of these approaches fail to understand how people grow.

I love what happened at Willow Creek a while back when they did a survey regarding the spiritual growth of their community. Those who described himself as “spiritually stalled” said that the reason was their failure to make spiritual growth a priority in their lives. WOW~ is this a reflection of our culture or what!?

I am of the mind that is it not that people so not know the HOW, simply put they do not want to grow. Spiritual growth is not necessarily a priority. How many of us know what to clean up in our lives, but we don’t. Let me rephrase that; WE SIMPLY DON’T! It is not a priority. You can say AMEN OR OUCH!!!!

The question is not the HOW TO the question is the WANT TO! I am of the mind that many know the HOW TO’s really we do! The question becomes do we really want to? I am of the mindset that people today have a renewed hunger for theology and an interest in the discussion of the mysteries of God. They are starving for depth in teaching and preaching and will not settle for shallow answers. I am of the opinion that pastors can no longer give simple messages on “3 Easy Steps to…” or “10 Rules for…” If one were to add up 52 sermons a year that the average church goer would hear; and presume that they have a minimum of “3 Principles” per message to apply to their life they would have to remember at least 156 different “rules” in order to be a good Christian every year. Dallas Willard calls this "sin management"—teaching people how to grow, exhorting people to grow more, and warning people what will happen if they don't grow and the problem with such preaching is that it causes listeners to fixate on their fallenness and failures, establishing a self-fulfilling prophecy that often leads to more and deeper failure.

Many pastors remind people of motivational speakers giving a lecture add to that the fact that the established church has tried to systematize God in order to understand Him and explain Him. Many times we have taken away the mystery as we have tried to rationalize God.

The seeker sensitive movement has made great strives to introduce topical messages that address the specific needs of the Baby Boomers; however, in this transition we have mistakenly taken the focus off God the provider and placed it on humans with themes such as “How to have a happy life,” or “How to be financially successful,” or “How to have a better marriage.” When we speak to people's intrinsic motivation and God-given longings, we don't need to "should" and "ought" them into obedience. I've found it's a lot more fun, and a lot more effective, to invite people to become the men and women they were created to be—and deep in their hearts, have always wanted to be.

I do not want to insult people’s intelligence or desire to have spiritual depth because people are hunger for a deep experience of God’s wisdom, and we must respect them enough to give it to them. I am of the mind that the church must constantly be retelling the whole story of God and his love for mankind from Genesis to Revelation by painting the big picture of the Bible story and telling it in as many ways as possible though preaching.

People want to learn about the God they seek to encounter. Dan Kimball in a lecture at Youth Specialties mentioned that he uses “theotopical” preaching. Kimball defined it as a mixture of both expository and topical preaching. It is expository in terms of doing the right exegetical work for biblically rooted messages, but at the same time it becomes an opportunity to shape a theological worldview for the hearers by telling the story. Every time one preaches they must clearly know what the concept is that they are trying to teach and how it fits into the grand story of scripture.

When Jesus wanted to describe the mysteries of the kingdom of God to the people who were following him he often used stories. He would communicate complex and potentially confusing ideas about the nature of God and his relationship with humankind in the most basic and simple stories. Today many churches have lost the ability to tell stories and instead have moved to tire their listeners with sermons full of lists, points and practical propositions (HOW TO’S).

Today the church must be able to have its listeners see that their story is part of a bigger story, God’s Story. Once we understand God’s story, then the listeners are in a better position to understand their own personal story and how they can personally experience change.
Unfortunately, most sermons, like the tithing examples above, fail to address the want-to factor in people's lives. Yes, our fallen nature and sinful tendencies need to be exposed and addressed. The harsh realities and inevitable disappointments of life should not be glossed over by eternal optimistic preaching. But when people are presented a compelling vision of what their lives can look like under the rule of God, they will be inspired to pursue that better future. It is not so much about the how to, it is all about…do we really want to!

Thoughts…or should I ask?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

We all wear glasses!


The glasses we all wear are the filters through which we view our world. Each one of us views the world different from the other, everything that is viewed or heard is seen through our own filters. We may share some common characteristics but the way we view the world is shaped by our upbringing, education, ethnicity, life experiences both joyful and painful and the list goes on. Most of the time we are not even aware of our own filters and we rarely think about other people’s filters.

For example: You can attend a church gathering with two other friends and you will have three very different reactions to the shared common experience. This is what baffles me all the time. One will say that the experience changed their life, while the other friend would fell that it was the worst day in church history on all accounts, and then there is your opinion. Did you all go to the same gathering? Of course, but what happened? They are looking through different filters.
So, what are the major filters that you look at life through? Is it a family filter, a parenting filter, a consumer filter, a relational filter even a church filter, just to name a few? Are you even aware of your filters? Or the filters of others?
Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Guardian


Last Sunday we looked at the movie The Guardian and attempted to draw out some biblical themes…there was one last clip that I purposely left out so that I could blog about it. Let me set up the scene. In this scene Ben Randall appears to be “passing the mantle” to his former student Jake Fisher, the new rescue swimmer asks about that mysterious number, the one spoken of in hushed voices at the Coast Guard elite training school. Is it 200 lives, or 300 or more that Ben has saved? What is his number?

Young Jake, has graduated and been assigned to Alaska with his Senior Chief Ben. They are having a discussion in a locker room and Jake asks the question he has wanted to know throughout the movie…

(Jake) "I've got to know; How many saves did you have?" After a long pause, Ben says "22".

"22!” Jake says in a somber moder.
“Not bad...it's not 200." Jake is taken aback; you can see the wheels turning as he imagines how easily that record will be broken.

Ben’s explanation shakes him back to reality
"22 losses" Ben says. “That’s the count of the ones I didn’t save. It's the only number I kept track of."

In the powerful silence that follows, the implications are clear: Ben never bothered to count the hundreds of souls he snatched from a watery death, but he carries the weight of every individual life that might have made it but didn’t.

So when people ask "Hey Gerry, how big is Soul Sanctuary?" my response will be "over 600,000". " I can see it now… “600,000! Impossible!" No church in Winnipeg is that big!” “Gerry, why are you so focused on numbers?”

But “over 600,000” is the population of the city I live in. It's the approximate number of people that are still ‘lost.’ It's the only number I as a pastor really need to keep track of. In other words, my ministry will not be shaped by the number of people in our church--the number of saves-- but by how many more GOD wants to reach. One hand at a time.....

Thoughts?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Call to Prayer and Fasting!


Fasting is a spiritual discipline that our culture will not make easy for us. WE LOVE FOOD. In fact, the messages of almost every commercial urge us to buy, buy and buy and eat, eat and eat. Oh, and I love to eat!

But this post is to call our community and our readers to prayer and fasting. OK, the prayer is easy but what is fasting for? Since our community is seriously considering purchasing a building we are desiring the direction and blessing of GOD on this process. So, we call you the reader to not only pray but also set a time aside to fast.
The primary purpose of fasting is for focusing on God. If you do fast, you find out early on, the pangs of hunger may serve as reminders to focus our hearts on God. As we develop in this practice, fasting will result in an increasing spiritual sensitivity. We will be more "tuned in" to the Spirit's leading. We will be more aware of our own inner condition. We will be more aware of the needs of others.
When Jesus was fasting in the desert he was tempted to turn stones into loaves of bread, but he said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Another time, Jesus' disciples urged Jesus to eat some food (here, Jesus was not said to be fasting), he responded, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about…My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish the work" (John 4:32,34). In abstaining from food and/or drink, we discover an alternative source of strength.
One reason to fast is to eliminate the things that keep us from experiencing the fullness of life in God. Through this practice of abstaining from food and/or drink, God can break our bondage to satisfying ourselves. Fasting reveals the things that control us.
Fasting will reveal much more than our dependence on food. As we focus on the character and presence of God instead of food, our character will be revealed to us. We will have a heightened spiritual awareness not only of God, but of our own hearts. As Richard Foster writes, "Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear-if they are within us, they will surface during fasting." This is a benefit to us because with these things revealed, they can also be addressed.
Fasting is not commanded, but is assumed. Jesus said, "When you fast…" (Matthew 6:16). As with any discipline, there is the danger to turn it into law, but we must not make it so. Fasting is not for impressing others. Jesus essentially said, "When you fast, don't make a big show of it." If you fast, it does not make you superior to others. In fact, if you think yourself better than others because of it, that will only display your spiritual poverty.
Fasting is not magic. The teaching of some may imply that fasting can be used to influence God to act. We do not go on hunger strikes to force God's hand-that is an attempt to manipulate God. Neither do we need to make extravagant pleas to move Him to action (Consider the parable of widow and judge in Luke 18:2-8; also Jesus teaching about prayer in Matthew 6:7-8 and 7:7-12). Fasting is not to try to get God to change his mind, but to help us "see more clearly" what God is doing.
How do we fast?
1) Keep your focus. As you begin the practice of fasting it will be important to keep reminding yourself of the purpose of fasting. Your body will argue (grumbling, weakness, headaches), but don't let those things distract you from your goal. Allow them to serve as reminders to pray or to be still before God.
2) Start out small. Take baby steps into it by fasting one or two meals, one day a week. Then you may increase that as is appropriate (read Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline and the chapter on fasting).
3) Meditate on Jesus' teaching and practice of fasting along with related Scriptures. Read Matthew 4:1-11, 6:16-18, 9:15; John 4:42-34; Luke 12:22-34; Phil 3:19; Rom 16:17-18; 1 Cor 6:12-13).
Thoughts?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Teaching in the Classroom

Summer is over and school is starting and I am just getting back into routine. So, as I was doing that, I had the opportunity to be a guest on our local radio station CJOB with Richard Cloutier.

(You can listen to the show via the audio vault: Sept 2/10 am)

The subject of the morning was talking about sex with kids, specifically in the school system. It was felt that attitudes have positively changed regarding sex and its discussion with parents. Today, kids and parents are more likely to communicate regarding the issue but most kids and parents will say that it is not a comfortable or easy conversation.

However, with all the openness regarding sexuality in the media and airwaves one school division in Winnipeg has The “HAM rule.” This rule basically says that teachers are not to talk about homosexuality, abortion and masturbation unless the kids bring it up. And if the kids bring it up the teachers are warned not to offer a personal opinion. What!!!? No personal opinion! How can one not have a personal opinion on these issues?

I realize, as a parent, that when a teacher pours into my kids they are pouring more than just unbiased facts, whether I like it or not they are pouring their own biases. I am wondering what you think about this topic? I know that many of you are educators and your opinion is valued. Thoughts?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Summer is Almost Gone

Summer is almost over and school is soon to start for many. I would like to say thank you for all who have been patient waiting for me to post. I have been just trying to unplug a bit and will be back at it in September.

Every once in a while I get a great quote thrown across my screen and here it is...

Many of us would rather watch a noisy demonstration of miracles, signs and wonders than have a quiet Bible study. Yet we are faced today with the sad reality that our untempered zeal is a sign of immaturity. Our adolescent craving for the wild and crazy makes us do stupid things. It's way past time for us to grow up.

Now, let me say that in no way am I anti charismatic, actually quite the opposite contrary to some people's opinion! What are your thoughts on this quote?


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are you listening? Part 2

Hi

All is well here. Very busy though. But what else is new? I have to stop saying that. People will start wondering. After all, everybody's busy nowadays! Too busy.

We're doing concrete work today. The floor slab for the final floor of the large building is going in today. I think it will be (at least) a two day job. They have to throw the cement up grade, one shovel at a time, in order to get it up to the fourth floor. I can't imagine people even DREAMING about doing it that way in Canada! Very labour intensive. We need to maybe see if we can get a winch lift or something the next time. Incredible amount of work!

We don't want to go through the same thing as last time, where people "striked" on us, refused to finish the job. So this time we tried to just find people whom we know. We pray, in that way, that we've avoided hiring any trouble makers. Prior to working I then got everybody to agree to the terms and sign a paper. It's not worth the paper it's written on, but it's better than nothing I guess. Anything just to prevent the problems that so many people have here in ********* when they do concrete work. It's awful! We had over 200 people outside the gate waiting for a job this morning. When our foreman opened the gate to let one person in, they all stormed into the centre. Once they do that they then insist that you MUST hire them. So I immediately went to the gate and threw them all out. At least they listened to me. We were then able to get the people in that we wanted, one by one. What a drama!

In addition to the local people, we also have about 13 people from the refugee camp whom we've been able to give a temporary job. They are so glad for that! Dad's even been able to hire two of the pastors to help, including the guy who lost a hand in ******. He used to be a construction supervisor apparently and thought he'd never be able to do that type of work again. So he is so grateful for the opportunity!

Since we now have a cook we're also able to provide all the workers with a cooked meal. Even have some meat in the meal which is a special treat. The cook tells me it's "African meat". You wouldn't get me eating it! It's pieces of stomach, stuff like that. All the things that are cheap but at least give the flavour of meat. And that's what people like, especially as meat is so expensive!
53 people working up there today! It'll cost us about 60,000 Ksh (at least!) on labour alone to finish that slab. A lot of money. But it'll be good to get that done. Then we can put the walls up for the final floor, and then the roof.


The drama continues down at the Kedong Camp. The police came at night again and tried to get people to get into lorries so that they could be transported "elsewhere". They refused. The police then returned in the morning, yesterday, and confiscated all the tents and other shelters people had set up, including some personal effects, threw them into a waiting lorry and drove off with them. Now the owners wonder if they'll ever get their stuff back. They don't even know where it was taken. Anybody else doing stuff like that, it would be considered theft. But of course, not the police. So people are starting to get tired and slowly are drifting away. Nobody is taking any notice of their plight. It really is sad! We went down yesterday and gave out some food and some more clothing. Someone from our church had donated some brand new stuff. Lovely clothes! People were so grateful! It made it all worthwhile.

Anyway, that's just an update from us. Hope you and yours are doing well.

God bless

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kenya Update

So, it is summer and I will be a little late posting my updates...but keep the replies coming!

So, Kenya....here is one of two emails from our 'friends' in Kenya.

Dear Friends and Family,

Shortly after 06:00 AM this morning my mobile phone rang. "Of all the…!" Why do people always insist on calling us so early? There's no such thing as office hours. We get phone calls at any time of day or night. It gets rather tiring. So I turned my phone off – which in this case happened to be the wrong thing to do. But I only found out about that this evening.

I was just returning ******, (a teacher), when the chairman of the.... refugee camp came up and told me what had happened at the other refugee camp. All of the inhabitants of the Kedong camp – the one set up by the flower farms for many of their employees – were supposed to have left last weekend. We had been to the camp last week to give out some clothes to some of the more desperate souls still there. On Monday I went to see what was happening and found a few tents remaining, about 100 people. I spoke to the camp chairman, and he told me that those still in the camp had nowhere to go. None of them had a job and all of their businesses had been destroyed. Nor did they have anywhere to go in their tribal ancestral homeland.

That all changed today. The camp inhabitants had a rude awakening when the police and DO (District Officer) showed up at 0430 this morning to throw them out. This wasn't just a courtesy call. The police meant business. They went from tent to tent, tore them out of the ground, and threw the people's meagre possessions about, indifferent to what was damaged or destroyed. In the process one little boy's arm was broken. But that didn't stop the police. In the end everybody was thrown out of the camp and out onto the road. There they were left, to fend for themselves.

That's when ****** tried to call me. The news was all the more shocking as we know some of the people who were involved in the attack. ****** himself has expressed the desire to join one of the courses we are running here at the centre for the displaced people from the camps. He just needed to sort out first what he was going to do, where he was going to live.

By the time I heard what had happened it was already dark – too dangerous for me to be travelling about. I needed to leave the ***** camp and get back to the centre. I'll head down to the other camp first thing tomorrow morning to see if there is anything we can do. But for now the refugees will have to find a place beside the road to sleep. Some will now be taken to their tribal ancestral homes where they will be "dumped" (their words, not mine). Others are still waiting to find out what other options they may have.

The displaced who are living in the other camp in ****** are now all terrified. They fear that the police will come and do the same thing to them. And, like the stragglers at Kedong, they too feel they have nowhere to go. But the government is desperate to close the camps. As long as people are in these camps it shows that there is a problem.

On another note, there is a cholera outbreak in our area, from Naivasha to Nakuru. The news reports that 4 people died today in Naivasha and more than 50 have been admitted into hospital. It's all the more worrying as there is a large open sewerage leak in one part of town! The stink is bad enough. But now with cholera in town, it's downright worrying!

This week a couple from our church, good friends, were attacked by four thugs (one with a gun). Fortunately they were able to get away from the carjackers. Our friend's arm was quite badly cut by the flying glass from a broken window but they were otherwise okay. Praying for God's protection is a very real and necessary part of our lives here!

And so our work continues. Thank you for thinking of us and remembering us in your prayers.

God bless

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thoughts on Discipleship

Discipleship, what is it? Many are talking about it, but many do not have a workable definition that eventually leads to a desired result, even I don’t! Wait, maybe I do…I “believe that we exist to walk with people, guiding them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, nurturing them towards a Christ-like maturity and equipping them for ministry to release them into the world.”

So a while back I threw open the idea that I wanted to make myself available to “do life” with a number of men from our community. So, here I am trying to meet with a number of individuals and find it incredibly difficult to connect, other than the internet!!!!!

Here are some of my thoughts and I would love to read some of yours.
(For some of you read CAREFULLY [that may mean s-l-o-w-l-y as well] before your respond)

I, and many other believers are following Jesus and living life as broken, fractured people – and by that I don’t mean that we are bad people; we are redeemed and we have a position, a new identity in Christ, so I’m not talking about walking in shame and guilt when I say that - but what I am saying is that we are still broken. We are not fully reclaimed. We are, thank God, redeemed, and there is a difference. But the process, or this theological concept is what we call sanctification and it is ongoing and lifelong.

So, in a nutshell I wonder if being a disciple of Jesus is messy? I know in Christianity we want things nice and neat and churchy, PERFECT almost like 'Shiny happy People' but hear me out! While following Jesus is a passion, following Him is a daily struggle, a daily commitment (Just drive the streets of Winnipeg). Even as a pastor, I think about my own life and how much further “down the road” I should be and I’m not. So, before you start criticizing those of us who take discipleship very seriously because we refuse to make it a program or a religious process or a set of rules, or a book where you fill in the blanks remember, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is messy.

It is wonderful. It is worth it. It is fascinating. It is a blessing. It is life changing. But at times we gain and then lose ground, we step forward and then fall back, we attempt to step over it and then sometimes we end up stepping in it. I wonder if the key here is not the process, but progress.

So, if you’ve made progress in your walk with God as a spiritual being then you’re a disciple, and you’re in the process that the theologians call sanctification. One day we will be fully restored to a glorious state. But today you feel like a mess, and if you feel like a mess, that is OK. OH, I said it!!!!!! Yes, even if you feel like a mess, there is someone who is there to walk with you…carry you…be with you…pray for you…encourage you…help you…listen to you… and the list goes on…sometimes all we have to do is just ask.
Thoughts?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Mind Dump



One of the greatest privileges I have is to be a Dad. I have four great sons: Joshua, Jordan, James and Jesse. It has been the joy of my life to be their father. They are wonderful young men and I couldn’t be prouder of all of them and then to see three of them playing at Soul on Sunday in the band. I love my kids because they are all very different and they all have great hearts, amazing talents, they are strong, and smart; all a winning combination.

One of the things I have to admit regarding Father’s Day, is that while I love being a father, I haven’t always been a good one. I’ve been too flawed, and too self-centered and selfish too much of the time. So on Father’s Day when we thank fathers for all that they do, why don’t we as fathers take time to re-double our effort to be the godly men that our children need and deserve?

My prayer or my pledge to my boys is that I will love them, lead them, bless them, to pick them up when they fall, and to follow their lead when they outrun me, as they’ve already begun doing, and I will also love thier mother.


On a separate note!

"The greatest opposition to what God is doing today comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God was doing yesterday." - R.T. Kendall, pastor of Westminster Chapel


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Well Said....

I get confused at times...really I do. I get confused how people "do church." I wrote a post a while back on McChurch but recently an fellow blogger wrote one that I found interesting.

Give it is a read and tell me what you think....

http://www.kinnon.tv/2008/06/whats-wrong-wit.html

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tattoo Testimonies


Tattoo's, currently a cultural phenomena, yet something that has a history! I received an email that got me thinking and the email went like this...

Hi Gerry,
Sunday {at Soul} I met a young woman who had an amazing Tattoo on her left arm. Chatting with her a little during the coffee break this crazy thought hit me. Could we do a "Tattoo Testimony" service . . . or something similar, where we get those folks from Soul with Ink to share the meaning behind their artwork.

This young woman had her Tattoo done in Indonesia, and although I didn't get any details, I walked away knowing there was a story behind it. It would be a very cool opportunity for people that aren't really "mainstream" in the church to get the opportunity to share their story and journey. I have three Tattoos and they all have meaning and a story to them.
So this got me thinking...why tattoos? and what is the story behind them? I would like to know...
Personally, there is no way that you would stick me a thousand times to leave a mark that Goof Off couldn't remove! Ok, fine...I hate needles....but I am still a man! So, I threw this thought out on Sunday and I promptly recieved and email that went like this...
"Pastor Gerry, On the topic of tattooing- I quote Lev.19:28 'You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you.' However, I do believe in the temporary kind of tattoo, the impression of my hand on the BUTT of my child. this kind of tattoo is visible for a short time but has lasting results in responsive children who now serve the Lord and minister to people. MOM ."
Ummmmmmm......
What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Thought!


That cartoon made me snicker! Thought I would share it and it has nothing to do what I am going to write about.
I have a collection of old books and everyone once in a while I pull one out and read it, along with the 5 other books that I am reading. I was struck on a quote in a small daily devotional. The topic is on holiness...here it is and I would love to hear your response....
"One great characteristic of holiness is never to be exacting - never to complain. Each complaint drags us down a degree, in our upward course. If you would discern in whom God's spirit dwells, watch that person, and notice whether you ever hear them murmur."
Gold Dust - (seriously, that is the name attributed to the quote)
Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Interesting Quote



In the industry of rock, Alice Cooper has been quoted in the book "Life on Plant Rock" by Lonn Friend. I would love to hear your thoughts...

"I was pretty much convinced all my life that there was just one God, and there was Jesus Christ, and there was the devil. You couldn't believe in God without believing in the devil. I always tell bands that the most dangerous thing you can do is to believe in the concept of the devil or the concept of God, because you aren't giving them full credit.

When you believe in God, you've got to believe in the all-powerful God. He's not just God, he's the all-powerful God, and he has total control over everyone's life. The devil on the other hand, is a real character that's trying his hardest to tear your life apart. If you believe that this is just mythology, you're a prime target, because you know that's exactly what Satan wants: to be a myth. But he's not a myth, of this I'm totally convinced of that.

So here we are. We have God pulling us one way and the devil pulling us another, and we're in the middle. We have to make a choice. And everyone, at some point in their life, has to make that choice. When people say, "How do you believe this? Why do you believe this?" I just say nothing else speaks to my heart. This doesn't speak to my intellect, it doesn't speak to my logic-it speaks right to my heart and right to my soul, deeper than anything I've ever thought of. And I totally believe it. That being said, I'm not a very good Christian. I mean, none of us are ever good Christians. That's not the point. When you're a Christian, it doesn't mean you're gonna be good, it means you've got a harder road to pull."


Thoughts?

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Thoughts


Sorry that I have not been able to post, it has been kinda crazy and I felt that I really did not have anything to say!!! (Please keep comments to yourself)
I have just got back from a conference, in Toronto, for the fellowship that I belong to. During the business sessions and workshops, I got thinking...
How would you answer,"A church is..."
How would you answer "The primary the primary purpose of the church is..."
Finally, how would you answer "A Christian is..."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Simple Question


So, here is the question.
CD's or MP3's?
When was the last time you bought a CD?
When was the last time you bought/shared a MP3?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Space...



So, Sharon and I were having a conversation rearding the fact that the lease for Soul is ending and we will need a place to gather. So, what about calling everyone to begin to pray? Many times we just take things for granted and expect GOD to just show up. Soul Sanctuary has always been GOD's idea and I believe we need to listen close to His direction.

So this week, be praying for Soul this week. We are looking for property/a building either to purchase or lease. There are always a few options but we need GOD to open a door for us. We are believing GOD will provide us a building that will meet our needs and also that will become a hub to reach out to the community in a more effective way. So, my request my request is that you would make it a matter of prayer that we would lease on property or find a building to purchase and that in this process GOD will move and give us favor.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Confrontation

Sorry for taking so long to post!!!!!

I love this picture because it is so disturbing. I stumbled across an article on confrontation that I will share with you. In the past I have heard people say to me "Gerry, you love confrontation." The fact is I don't, but I am not afraid of it. The reality is that no one really likes confrontation, and if you really like it, you’re a bully more than a person. But the truth is, we do have to confront. So, here are 10 signs it’s time to confront the people you love, care about, work with, or are responsible for.

1. It’s time to confront when things aren’t working out even after you’ve given them sufficient time to do so.

2. When you’re avoiding each other.

3. When your silence is more about fear than the truth.

4. When allowing the contact to go on is hurting the other person.

5. When the contact is hurting other people.

6. When you see there is still time to redeem the relationship, the job, the person, or the potential future.

7. When you’re responsible for the health and well-being of the people involved in the situation. You have the power to do something, therefore you have the obligation.

8. When you’re able to separate the behavior from the person. You love the person always, even though you can’t support the behavior.

9. When your integrity and reputation as a friend, manager, leader, or business owner is on the line, it’s time to confront.

10. When you understand that sometimes love must be tough if it’s truly love. Love that is based on a lie is indulgence. Love that is based on truth and applied with mercy and grace is truly a gift from God.

Are there people in your life that it’s time to confront? Really good things can happen at the other end if done in the right way, at the right time, for the right reason, with the right tone, unlike the picture above...



Monday, April 07, 2008

Adoption


So, this weekend Geoff Moore of famous 80's and 90's 'christian' rock fame was a special guest to our community. He was there on behalf of Compassion International. "Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults." What I didn't know was that it was founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, as they began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than 1 million children in 24 countries. We have been sponsoring a child for quite some time from Uganda.

But I would like to talk about something else...adoption. What are your feelings out there on adoption? Should Christians be more open to adopting children from other countries?
Thoughts?




Monday, March 31, 2008

Update From Kenya



It has been a while since we've been in touch – we thought we'd give you a break from hourly emails! As I write, we've just had a very dramatic thunder storm here and torrential rain. The short rainy season has now started which is great for the garden and it's wonderful to have no dust for a while. The kids love it too, the combination of water and lots of mud has to be a child's paradise!

We're all doing well here, at least things are calm now which is a relief. (the children) are also much happier these days, I think it has been good for them to have the routine of school again and to be with all their friends. We do wonder sometimes how they are processing the events of a few weeks ago. ****** never speaks about it but ******* still has restless nights sometimes and the other night he prayed before going to bed 'Lord Jesus, please keep the bad men away from us all the time.' We're all feeling rather tired … and we're heading off to the coast next Thursday. We've rented a house by the beach and we're aiming to do as little as possible for 10 days! I can't wait.
****** and I have been visiting the nearest IDP (internally displaced people) camp quite regularly. About five minutes drive away from us you are suddenly faced with a sea of white tents. Each time we go we see that more tents have gone up. Apparently, 3000 people now call the place "home". The Red Cross is no longer accepting any new arrivals as there is no more room to put them. At one end UNICEF has put up 4 tents to be used as classrooms for the children. Over 400 children are crowded into these 'classrooms', sitting on the dusty floor trying to balance their exercise books on their knees. The teachers (all volunteers) bravely try to teach the children, writing on wobbly blackboards that form part of the tent partition. It's very hot and not really conducive to learning, but I guess it's better than nothing.
We have offered our premises here for the children to come to school and to ease some of the congestion. You'd think people would jump at the opportunity. But that is not so. I think it's because there are a few large NGOs involved in these camps and it seems that there is much to be gained from other people's misery. There is also a new District Education Officer in town and the wheels of bureaucracy run slowly. Although we have a much better solution to offer than the tented classrooms, we fear nobody wants to make a decision (especially if it involves spending money) so the youngsters will have to make do with less than adequate teaching facilities. We find this so frustrating and feel our hands are tied despite all our efforts.
We've also been looking for people in the camps who have particular skills that they might like to teach to others. The other day we met **** and ***** who are both hairdressers. They lost everything, including their businesses when they had to run away from Eldoret. **** seems particularly traumatized by what happened to her and is struggling to come to terms with her life now. We've suggested to them that they come and teach a hairdressing course here and get some students from the IDP camps. We're also looking into starting a tailoring course and a basic computer course. There are a lot of people in the camps who are sitting around doing nothing, so we trying to think of practical solutions that would help people earn some money too. Just about everyday we have people coming here looking for jobs and it's always the same story 'I've lost everything.' So tragic.
Meanwhile, our youth discipleship courses continue to grow. We've started our second 'Basic Christianity Course' (now including young people from the camps) and we're onto the next module which is 'the Bible' – an in-depth study of Mark.
We have been pushing lots of doors over the past few weeks which is both time consuming and exhausting, but everything seems to take so long to actually work out which can be very disheartening. Please pray for us that the right doors open and that we can make better use of this place to help those who are struggling so much. We don't want to be spinning our wheels unnecessarily. I have to say though that my priority right now is to get ready for our holiday. I think it's definitely time to hit the beach! **** wants me to pack the suitcases right now and is busy looking for all the buckets and spades that **** has deposited all over the Centre as he likes to pretend he's a 'fundi' (expert builder!) - he will tell you that he's WORKING, not playing! We're all getting excited.

We'll keep you posted about what develops here.

Thanks as always for all your prayers and support.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Am Not the Only One Who Rants!


Mark Beeson (a pastor in the states) blogged a rant about maturity in the church and what it means. This is what he wrote:
"Three days ago Rick Warren proffered this question for me to mull over. What is the mature church?
I knew immediately how I would respond: "The 'mature church' is the church filled with immaturity."
Anywhere in the world, whether plant or animal, the clear delineation of maturity is the ability to reproduce. Immature animals can't reproduce. Immature plants can't replicate themselves. The definition of maturity is being fully ripe, fully aged, so the connotation of maturity is obvious. Where you see maturity you'll observe new life, babies and immaturity all over the place.
Maturity desires reproduction. Maturity tolerates juvenile behavior (from juveniles) while training its progeny for success in life. Maturity means little [babies] running all over the place.
If you attend a mature church, be prepared for immaturity. Where you find mature Christians you'll find little babes in Christ running all over the place. In fact, if you have been looking for a church where everyone tithes and everyone serves--you're not looking for a mature church, you are looking for a dying church - aged, impotent and bereft of spiritual newborns because everyone is mature.
Few things are more disturbing than a flock of adult believers standing around complaining that no one has come to Christ while refusing to do something that might result in new life. So when you bump into someone who acts immature at one of our services, don't complain, and don't be surprised. Instead, thank God the mature in Christ are busy delivering newborn babies to the family of God."

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Darker Side of Chrsitianity Part 2


This last week I had the opportunity to share how I really felt about a few things. I decided to place an excerpt of that on the blog...

Although I love GOD I have a hard time loving other Christians. Actually I really dislike a lot of Christians. (now, this is a huge statement of admission because how could a pastor say that!!??? I just did, and if you were honest with yourself you would say the same thing!)

I wish I could tell you that I like a lot of Christians, but that would be a lie…because I don’t. To be honest with you, I would rather hang out with fouled mouth, beer drinking, rock listen, woman chasing heathen, than I would a self righteous, hyper critical, narrow minded holier than thou so called “Christian.”

There are a few reasons why I said what I said and to get the full context you will need to listen to the podcast. I went so far as to categorize the type of Christians that drive me crazy. But for the purposes of this blog I want to focus on one type; The Anonymous Christian.

It is the Anonymous Christian who loves to send letters, emails, and even post on the internet behind a veil. These people tend point out fault and error and usually criticize other believers (and believers they have never talked with in person) and they hide behind the veil of anonymity.

So here it is…Shame on those who cannot be honest and place a name to a letter, an email or a post. Shame on those who deceive people and use false names or no names and call themselves Christians and criticize other believers.

Scripture is full of references about speaking truthfully to one another. Read your Bible!

Psalm 52:3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. Selah

Proverbs 16:13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.


(Now, let me say that there is room for anonymity when it comes to people sharing personal details about themselves, like on this blog. This is NOT what I am railing against!)

Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Kenya Update


"Dear Friends and Family

It has been a while since we have written and given you an update of life here for us at the moment. We have enjoyed the calm of the past couple of weeks and the sense of normality, even if things are really far from being normal. We have even been making a few plans for the future – i.e. thinking about ideas for reaching out into the local community especially to those directly affected by the crisis and who have lost everything; how we can be used as an instrument for bringing about some form of reconciliation; and how we can kickstart our youth programme again. We will fill you in with more details as these ideas become a more practical reality. It is a little hard to make too many concrete plans right now, partly because we ourselves feel that we are just emerging from quite a traumatic experience and partly because we don't know whether the country will be stable enough to put many things into practice. However, we feel it's important to at least begin to work something out, otherwise we just stagnate and become depressed.

The headline at the start of this week was 'Kofi Annan suspends talks'. It looks as though he has become completely fed up with the people at the top and those involved in the mediation process – and who can blame him? Now, we think that things have really reached a critical stage. We have heard alarming reports (which have been independently verified and also reported in the UK's Telegraph newspaper) about militias building up and gathering strength in various parts of the country, including Nakuru and Naivasha where the Mungiki have returned (if they ever left). Even more worrying, the director of the Kenya Human Rights commission has stated that these militias are now apparently trying to gain access to conventional arms. In other words, instead of using bows and arrows and machetes, which are deadly enough, they are trying to get hold of guns.

A close Kenyan friend of ours who we have much respect for believes that civil war is virtually inevitable, even if things are signed in Nairobi. He believes the leaders have allowed the situation to go too far. I'm trying not to be alarmist here and it's hard to imagine this especially after the period of relative calm that we are just going through. However, we can't help but think that it would not take much (the collapse of the talks for example) for it all to ignite here again.

But, we believe in a powerful God and to be honest He is really the only one now who can intervene and do something to bring a lasting peace to Kenya. Please pray with us – for resolution to the political problems and for peace to return to the country and that reconciliation can take place among the people. Kenya desperately needs our prayers right now.


Breaking News
------------------
In our ongoing plans for the future we have continued work on our new classrooms. Today we poured the concrete slab. We wanted to pour the whole slab in one go as it would make the building much stronger (important as we do have earthquakes). Unfortunately while ***** was in town and I was driving the kids home after school we got a frantic call to come back to the centre. The workers had all downed their tools and refused to finish the remaining quarter of the slab. There were obviously some ring leaders creating the problems.

Although we were able to isolate 11 primary trouble makers, we were unable to finish the slab. We pray we can avoid this happening again tomorrow. We've been told that this happens a lot in ****** though we've been mostly protected from experiencing this in the past.

I was particularly worried when I discovered that this particular team of labourers had all come from one of the nearby areas of town which had been very badly hit by the violence. We heard from some of our own workers later that many of them had been directly involved in the violence and had assisted the Mungiki in their exploits. This was apparently a major subject of conversation as they worked. Early in the day they expressed outrage that there was a Luo working amongst them. Fortunately ****** was able to defuse the situation when he explained, although he wasn't a Kikuyu, neither was he a Luo.

This information did not come as a surprise to me. This morning when I went up to see the progression of the work, the looks I got from a number of the labourers were not what I have come to expect from Kenyans. A few addressed me, not in Swahili as I would have expected in the past, but in Kikuyu. They were clearly making a point so what they said was irrelevant. I was SO glad for ******** wisdom, that she told our Luo teacher and Kalengin cook to keep a low profile today.

Thank you and God bless.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Interesting Perspective


This week we had a long staff meeting, but a good one. I don't like long meetings but when your staff is busting a gut, you cannot help but keep it going. It was a meeting where we laughed and laughed and laughed and there is something healthy when a staff can come together and laugh. I believe that our staff is GREAT! Last week, I shared with them a post I found entitled "Becoming Friends with Your Pastor" Although there are things on this list that we (the staff in general) may not agree with, we are interested in hearing your opinions on this. It is written by Craig Groeschel, a pastor of a mega church out east.

Becoming Friends With Your Pastor

If you want to become friends with your pastor, here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t be pushy. Pushy people come across as needy. We minister to needy people all day. We crave friendships not more counseling appointments.
2. Don’t tell us “God told you” we’re going to be friends. He may have, but that doesn’t work on us. Tons of people have told us that before. Friendship for us needs to happen over time, not be born because of something God told you but not us.
3. Coming to a stranger’s house for dinner isn’t the high point of our lives. (You know a lot about us. We don’t know as much about you.) We work a lot of nights. Our kids are busy. Finding a babysitter is hard. Bringing our kids to your house often puts stress on us. A night at home is often more meaningful than a dinner at your house. (Some pastors will disagree with me and be very blessed by these dinners. Most aren’t.)
4. My wife doesn’t want to send our kids to your house just because you want to baby sit them. You are probably an incredible person, but we don’t know about your neighbors or your kids’ friends or your uncle that might come by. There are too many weird people for us to send our kids to your house without knowing more.
5. We are grateful for “gift cards.” Many pastors don’t have the financial margin to take their families out. Gift cards mean a lot.
6. We love talking to you about things besides church and the Bible. We have other interests like you.
7. We love your notes of appreciation. They mean more than you know. You have a way of sending them when we really need them. Thank you!
8. We love talking to the real you. Many people show us a spiritual front. Truthfully, we’d rather see your dark side than a fake spiritual one. Thank you for being yourself!
9. We are slow to open up. It is not because of you. We’ve been hurt many times by people who say the same things you are saying to us. Give us time.
10. If we can’t be close to you, it doesn’t mean we don’t truly love you. We only have room for a handful of very close friends. We simply don’t have the time or energy to be close to tons of people. Please don’t take it personally.
11. Please don’t try to use our kids to get to us. We love our kids and don’t want anyone to use them. Our kids also can’t go to every kid’s birthday party from the church.
12. If we ever say “no” to you, please understand that it is very hard for us. We want to serve you. We want to minister to you. We want you to like us. Sometimes, we simply can’t do everything. We hope you understand.
13. More than anything, we want to represent Christ to you. When we let you down (and we will), we pray you will show us grace.
14. We want you to know that we value your prayers more than you will ever know.
15. When you do become our close friend, you are an answer to prayer and a gift from God!
What are your thoughts? FYI some of the staff felt that some of these points are very harsh...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Darker Side of Christianity Part 1





















Not too long ago I had a conversation with an individual that was more concerned that someone broke an “unwritten rule” than something clearly outlined in scripture. Needless to say the discussion left me puzzled as I walked away. Not puzzled in what I believe, but puzzled in that I wonder if LEGALISM is that one thing that threatens people’s relationship with Christ more than anything else today in the church?

Legalism, has been around for centuries and is an improper fixation on codes of conduct and tends to uphold the rule of man and neglects the mercy and grace of GOD. Behind the legalist is pride, superficiality and ignorance with an emphasis on the letter of the law, over the Spirit of GOD.

I would suggest that there are 2 types of legalism.

One type is that which people attempt to earn your salvation by contributing your own works to the work accomplished by Jesus on the cross. In others words, it's a "Christ-plus" message. The true Gospel, by which we are saved, is one totally by grace through faith whereby the individual rests solely in the sufficiency of Christ's work to forgive sins, remove wrath and justify the ungodly in the sight of God. To ignore grace or combine our works to grace is legalism. Even before explaining that the true gospel was one solely of faith (Gal. 2:16), the Paul said, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed" (Gal. 1:8-9).

Then there is the more common form of legalism in some churches today, which may accept salvation by grace alone, but then believes all must follow certain prescribed extra-biblical standards for godly conduct and favor in God's sight. Legalism often begins as a personal conviction (which is fine), but then elevates that conviction to a corporate mandate expecting compliance from others in (and outside) the church as well, which is wrong.
I find it interesting that there are people who would never dream of subtracting from Scripture, but have no problem adding to Scripture and judging others who fail to comply with their standards, pressuring them to blindly adopt their burden or making them feel unholy and impure for failing to go along.
Thoughts?






Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kenya from a Child's Perspective

Dear Friends and Family

It has been a while since I've written to you so thought I'd give you another update! Last week was rather strange. We've been feeling tired and demotivated which is probably a normal reaction! We did take a couple of days break though which has been good. We went to visit our friends who live in the bush again and played a mad game of Pictionary. Also, yesterday, we went to a nearby (and virtually deserted) tourist lodge to take the kids swimming. It was good to get out a bit. I must admit that the idea of going down to the coast at Mombasa for a few days seems very tempting right now, but not sure how we could work it out.

We decided to start the ....... again today. I sent a text out to the parents over the weekend and we were expecting around *** children. As I walked up to the school this morning with **** and ***** I felt quite down. I had no enthusiasm for the school and was feeling desperately sad that "J" our head teacher would not be there. I took **** and ****** into the classroom and as we walked in, there was a familiar face standing there – Teacher "J"!

I couldn't believe it, she decided to come back. The French company where her husband works is housing them at the moment (in a secure setting) and they are based just down the hill from us so she decided to come and be with us. It is still dangerous for her to be walking about on her own and in fact she told me that when she came back from Nairobi over the weekend and was dropped in town, a few people noticed her and said 'what are there still (a tribe) in town?' She was very afraid. We will now pick her up each morning with the school bus and take her home directly. ...... I was so happy to see J. again, it really made my day! Then the next nice surprise was that about *** children turned up, many more than we were expecting. They were all so excited to be back again.

All in all, it has been a tonic for me to have the school open again. I've spent a lot of time just sitting with the children and chatting with the teachers and staff. Everyone has their stories. We had a relaxed day with the children and gave them the opportunity to talk about 'why they had not been to school'. These are some of the things they said:

O – There was a battle between the wazee (old people) and the young people. The wazee feared to be cut so they ran away.


H – People were being cut and there was shooting so we feared.

I – There were policemen all over town so there was no room to pass so we stayed at home.

A – People passed by our gate with pangas (machetes) but we were not Luos so we were not hurt.

M – I saw a helicopter shoot some people and the people hit our gate with stones and the gate fell over.

C – I saw a helicopter and policemen with guns. Some cut a policeman in the face with a panga (machete).

L – I saw a police car and policemen with guns.

T – There were angry men just by the roadside and they were dying people. If you went to Nairobi you were safe, but not here.

We have now made a short term policy that we will no longer drive the school bus in the back streets of the various parts of *****, we will only pick up children from the main highway. However, **** had to drive into one of the bad areas in town as the message hadn't been clear to one parent. There were remains of burnt personal effects all over the place along with torn town telephone poles which had been used as road blocks.

We also have our cook back with us and ..... They are Kalenjin and live in ***** so again, we are taking them straight home with no detours. Some parents are complaining about this but we still don't think it is safe here, or rather, there is an illusion of safety. We have heard that leaflets are now being dropped in town telling the remaining non-Kikuyu tribes, who have so far not been attacked, that they must leave town. We are definitely not over this yet.

Sadly some of our non-Kikuyu children have not come back. We heard of one of our sets of parents who had all their things taken out of their house and burned, they even killed the dogs and burned them too. I was particularly friendly with ****, and rang her today. They are not planning to come back to ****** (not surprisingly), it's very sad. We're going to see what we can do to help them get going again.

Tomorrow ******* will have to make a trip to ******. We are still on our tourist visas which run out in a week's time so they will urgently need to look at the situation with our work permit.

Thanks again for all your prayers. Please do continue to pray for protection, both for us and those that we care about.

God bless.