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'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.....


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).

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?