Grace Community Church

eyes on the prize

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Change? In Red Lake?

Posted on February 8, 2012 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (2)

Can Red Lake change? Should Red Lake change? How? Who should decide? What should drive change, and what methods should we use?

I have heard all of the following complaints about Red Lake:

  • There is nothing to do here but drink. 
  • The mine doesn’t invest enough in the community. 
  • People are too nosy about their neighbour’s business. 
  • People are too isolated and they ignore each other. 
  • It’s impossible to find volunteers for charity work. 
  • There is too much money in Red Lake. 
  • No one wants to work for a living. 
  • Drugs are the problem. 
  • Alcoholism is the problem. 

So it seems that some change is necessary. So how will Red Lake be transformed? A town is not made up of streets and houses and workplaces. It is made up of people. So if we want to transform a town, we must first transform people.

And how are people transformed? Transformation takes place from the inside out. The key of that transformation is the work that God does. When we talk about transforming an antique piece of furniture, we think in restoring terms. We take the drawers out. We scrape off the old flaky paint, and strip off the old finish underneath. We sand out the scratches, fill the holes, and sand it all smooth. We purchase quality varnish. We apply the varnish carefully. We hand rub the varnish, and produce a gloss. We put it all back together and say, “Transformation!”

God doesn’t transform by recycling old components. God speaks in much more fundamental terms when it comes to transformation. His transformation is so radical and so powerful that God views it as a birth. He doesn’t take something old, and paint it so it looks new. He takes something old, and plants a seed in it that grows into something new. “You must be born again.” In other words, you must start as an infant. You must take that first breath-again. You must experience a new life, just as a baby experiences a completely different life than he or she had in the womb. You must eat new food. You must learn new skills. You must learn to feel and think. You must learn how to handle freedom. The Bible is clear that without a new birth, we are dead. There is no hope for eternal life without new life. Jesus invited Nicodemus into a vision of the kingdom of heaven, into the power of the kingdom of heaven, and into the guiltlessness of the kingdom of heaven. His invitation was through a birth. (John 3) Jesus offered a radical transformation, not a new coat of paint.

This is the transformation that transforms a town. When people are renewed and revived by God they have a powerful depth to effect change in the world around them. That is the force that will change Red Lake. Good political leadership is necessary, but it is not the prime agent of change. Transformed people are the agents of change.

Still learning… Pastor Keith

Rest

Posted on December 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Thanks to Josiah for giving us an applicable and timely sermon on rest last Sunday. Christmas is probably one of the best times for a sermon on rest. We routinely hear things like “Christmas rush” and “last minute shopping”. How many of us have sprawled on the couch after a strenuous day of decorating, shopping, cooking, and wrapping, and wondered, “Why am I doing this?” Simply because Joseph and Mary had a hectic and chaotic arrival of their first son doesn’t mean that our season of commorating that birth should also be hectic and chaotic. At least I hope not.

What is rest? How do we “enter” rest? How long can we stay in that rest? How guilty should we feel about resting? Can my work be restful? We know our bodies need rest, although we still aren’t totally sure how physical rest works. For a long time, sleep was one of the most poorly understood functions of the body. Scientists didn’t know what drove the sleep-wakefulness cycle, or how to treat sleep complications. As recently as May 2010, National Geographic wrote: “From birth, we spend a third of our lives asleep. After decades of research, we’re still not sure why.” http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/05/sleep/max-text/1

There are now “sleep doctors” who will watch you sleep and try to diagnose problems with your sleep. Does anyone need one of those? Regardless of our knowledge or ignorance of the mechanics of sleep, we all instinctively know that we need it. Fighting the effects of drowsiness is difficult, and the effects of not enough sleep are also unpleasant. So our bodies need rest.

What about our spirits? Since hearing Josiah on Sunday, and reading in Hebrews, I have been meditating on the importance of heart rest. Several things have impressed me as I’ve thought and prayed about this:

 

  • This rest is not vegging out. It is not Facebook, it is not watching football, it is not watching hockey, it is not Youtube, it is not a good novel, it is not switching our brains off. 
  • In the natural, we rest by stopping activity. In the spiritual, we rest by actively trusting. This connection between rest and trusting has led me to coin a new word: tresting. When we trust in God, we find rest. Trust + rest = trest. Jesus invited us to come to himself “...and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29. 
  • We can operate from a place of rest. The angels announced “peace on earth”. That certainly means peace between God and mankind, but that isn’t all it means. It includes our hearts finding rest and serenity in the arms of Jesus. 
  •  Our rest is guilt-free. If Jesus came to bring us rest, and invites us into it, then I’m happy to stay there. We can reject feelings of guilt when those around us feel worried or anxious. Worse, sometimes we think it’s spiritually mature to be worried and anxious. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

 

I’ve seen headstones at graves that say, “Resting in Jesus.” I want that to be true about me long before I die.

...living and learning through him,

Pastor Keith

p.s.  With the above in mind, I won't be posting next week.  I plan to rest.

Loneliness? In Red Lake?

Posted on November 23, 2011 at 11:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Some time ago, a Red Lake social worker told me, “A lot of people that I help are just lonely. They have no friends. People come into your church every week who are looking for someone to care about them. And they don’t carry a big sign that says, ‘I’m lonely’. They hide it very well.”

Is she right? Are we surrounded by lonely people? I hear social commentators lamenting that people today form fewer meaningful relationships today than a generation ago. And this is in the environment of a convenient and pervasive social network. It is common now to know a great deal about what our friends are doing through Facebook and Twitter and similar networks. It seems that this up to the minute knowledge doesn’t translate into deep connection. It can translate into much awareness but little relationship.

I’m not sure if many people in Red Lake would classify themselves as lonely or not. But we do know that everyone has a need to be loved. Jesus created us to be first receivers and then givers of love. Babies have been known to die because they received no delight from people, even though they were well fed. We are made in God’s image, and he receives love too.

So how do we love people? What is our best way to appreciate them? James Friesen describes being loved this way: “Someone is happy to see me. Someone’s eyes light up when realize that I am present.” (The Life Model: Living from the Heart Jesus gave You, Shepherd’s House). This delight only comes from a genuine enthusiasm and real pleasure for the person. This pleasure isn’t something that we can manufacture. It starts with understanding the reality that God loves me, right now, without reservation, that he really is delighting in me, that he will move all of heaven and earth to reach me, and that he genuinely likes me. When we live in that reality, we are then able to give the same kind of delight to the people we meet.

I think this is the best way to cure loneliness: first receive God’s love, and then give it to everyone else. In the natural, when you give something away, you don’t have it any more. In the spiritual, when give something away, you still have the same amount. Or more. Jesus, speaking in the context of not judging and not condemning, said, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 You can’t give all of God’s love away. It will never run out.  It's possible to keep giving and giving and giving.  

What if we expected to bless the people of Red Lake with our delight in them? What if a stranger walked into our church and was immediately greeted with enthusiasm? (This is already happening.)  What if we greeted each other, week after week, with the same kind of joy? What if your spouse or children expected delight in your eyes when you saw them? What would happen to loneliness in Red Lake if we loved people that way?  What kind of message could we send?  

What kind of message DO we send?

...living and learning through Him,

Pastor Keith

Welcome to the Pastor's Blog

Posted on November 10, 2011 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi, and welcome to my blog.  Yes, this is the Pastor's blog, and you're welcome to it.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it.  On this blog I want to share my thoughts on current issues, as well as stimulating our thinking about God, our Red Lake culture, and following Jesus. I don’t expect to provide answers for everything, although I do hope to raise some really good questions!  Perhaps you can answer my questions for me.  I plan to post every Wednesday, but I’m a little nervous about making that a deadline for myself. So at this point I’ll treat that as a guideline instead of a deadline. (Why are they called DEADlines?)  I hope we have lots of fun together!

Here is a sample of the questions I hope to tackle over the next few weeks:

  • How does God feel about personal vision, goal setting and achievement? 
  • How are the messages that our popular media feeds us affecting us? 
  • Are lots of people lonely in Red Lake? If so, what should we do about it? 
  • How does our culture and mindset differ from other worldviews, and does it matter? 
  • Does God want to do miracles? Today? 
  • Is it necessary to know the original languages of the Bible to clearly interpret it?

Stay tuned…

Living through Him, Pastor Keith