|Posted on January 11, 2012 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
Over the past few week, I have had the….privilege? of witnessing the effects of a stomach flu go through my entire family. All within the space of a week. One night it was so bad that I bedded down in the living room with three sick children so that I could be close at hand when...well, you know. And, as I write this, I feel the faint stirrings of unease within myself. I’m tired, weak, and unmotivated.
All this started me thinking about soulsickness. We can easily have the same symptoms spiritually: fatigue, lethargy, dia-- you get my drift. I must be a little lightheaded. In fact, I wonder if many of us have chronic soulsickness and think it is our normal state.
One of the things that makes our souls sick is the Creeping Doubt Worm. It slowly slips into our hearts like a parasite sinks into its host. The symptoms of this worm include “healthy” skepticism and God-shrinking. Once the worm is inside, it simply asks a few questions. But, it asks them over and over. “Are you sure God is good? Does God really care? Will I ever change? Are you sure the Bible is authentic? Are you sure God is good? Does God really care? Will I ever change?...” The constant repetition of the same questions chip away at our trust. After a while, the host of the CDW begins to believe that he can’t believe in God because the questions keep coming. And all the mature and strong followers of Jesus don’t constantly ask these questions, do they? So I must be a doubter.
Here is where we are deceived. We believe that true trust is the absence of questions. If I ask, I’ve already lost my faith. True trust is not stifling the questions. True trust is asking any question to the right Person. A simple reading of the Psalms makes that clear. The various authors of Psalms are shockingly free to express outrage, deep sorrow, doubt, charges of neglect, hesitation, indecisions, and suspicion against God. The cure for CDW is not a determination to quash the questions. It lies in honestly bringing them to the Lord Jesus. The desperate father of the demon possessed boy in Mark 9 had the perfect expression of honest doubt when he said, “Lord, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” This desperate plea can go far in killing the Creeping Doubt Worm. Jesus responds with kindness and patience to those who honestly seek answers.
I know that there are other sicknesses that affect our souls, but I’m not going to explore them today. I’m going to rest a bit.
|Posted on January 4, 2012 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
Why do men and boys find video games so fascinating? Why do males get addicted to games? Is it satisfying some deep need to shoot things? Is real life too boring? Is success in gaming enough to make life worthwhile? Is the best use of one’s life accumulating meaningless points in a make believe space? Do men need video games to help them cope with life’s pressures?
I’ve played a few games, and I’ve watched people play games, and I know a few game addicts, so I know a little about gaming. Gaming is scary because it is such a deadly trap. Gaming tells us men three things that we desperately want to hear:
I could go on about the dangers of wasting time, addictions, loss of real life perspective and more, but I’m going to leave that for another time. I think the important thing for a gamer to do is to examine his motivations for playing, and ask the Lord if those motivations honour him.
These verses may be helpful: Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? The Message: By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single minded in my pursuit of You; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. Has God posted a road sign that says something about your gaming?
Just one comment about the last question in the introduction: Do men need games to cope with life’s pressures? I’ve heard the "I need to check out" argument used to justify everything from alcohol use to watching TV to playing video games to getting engrossed in a book to getting engrossed in Facebook. The argument is baseless because checking out only provides temporary relief. In fact, in my experience, it makes the problem worse because using the relief valve actually drains the strength and mental energy needed to deal with the pressures. I’ve often felt drained after watching a movie. How does that help!? God promises us that he will “restore our souls” (Psalm 23:3). Show me a video game that can do that!
|Posted on December 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM||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:
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,
p.s. With the above in mind, I won't be posting next week. I plan to rest.
|Posted on December 14, 2011 at 9:55 PM||comments (0)|
What is a Follower of Jesus? And why do I keep calling Christians by that title instead of simply calling them Christians? Some of you who have heard me speak may have noticed that I usually call Christians “followers of Jesus”. I do this intentionally. I’ll explain the reasons below. But before we look at those reasons, a brief look at the term “Christian” is in order.
The term “Christian” is used three time in the New Testament.
There is no reason to think that the term was complimentary in its early use. The practice of adding the suffix “-ian” was used to designate the relation of a slave to a prominent household. Later it become a term that meant a person was a follower of a particular leader or member of a group. Later in the New Testemant era the term Christian simply came to mean...wait for it...a follower or adherent to Christ.
My reasons for referring to people who believe in Jesus, who love Jesus, who want to know Jesus, and who have had their sins washed away by Jesus’ blood and are walking in the light of God’s love as “followers of Jesus” instead of “Christians” are threefold:
...still learning from him as I’m leaning on him,
|Posted on December 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM||comments (2)|
I’m hijacking my own blog to discuss some questions that I have faced since we began the process of changing the church name. Usually I use this blog to explore questions relating to our daily walk with God, not church leadership and administration. But since we are very close to voting on a new church name, I thought I would give you a chance to see inside of my mind (a scary place, believe me!:o). So, on to my questions!
Are we going too fast? Are we going too slow? Should we vote? How passionately should we grab on to a particular name? What does the name say about us? Which words are the best ones? And, quite frankly, the biggest question of all: Will this be divisive?
What is the correct speed for a change like this? A common complaint about church leaders in general is that they make changes too quickly. Another, similar complaint is that they make changes too slowly. Here is my general philosophy about the speed of change: everyone should have enough time for comprehension of the new idea, enough time for response and discussion and engagement with the idea, and then given a clear choice. I don’t think that there is a formula to determine how long change should take, but it seems that if people have enough time to go through the stages of comprehension, engagement, and choice, then we as leaders have done our job. Obviously the time needed will vary depending on the newness of the idea, the amount of study and engagement that people need, etc. Also, different people need different amounts of time for these stages; some people grasp ideas quickly and can quickly evaluate the effects, benefits and losses of a new idea, and others need more time.
Is voting a good method? Generally I am not in favour of voting. Usually we make decisions by consensus. We chose voting in this instance so that all of the church population can have a broad input into the choice, and because this choice was not about a person. We realize that voting by simple majority has weaknesses. First of all, it is too easy for a very small portion of the group to make the choice. Due to voter turnout of 61% in the May 2011 federal election, 24% of all registered voters actually voted for the Conservatives. And this was enough to give the Conservatives a majority! Secondly, when people are being voted into positions, the voting process can easily become a popularity vote, instead of a reasonable evaluation of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. Finally, a simple majority of votes simply means that choices are made when 49% of people don’t choose the end result. So why did we choose voting in this name change process?
First of all, we aren’t voting on a person. We are choosing a name, so we aren’t making any statements about the popularity of one person vs. another person. Secondly, we aren’t using a simple majority vote. We are holding elimination voting by secret ballot, which works like this: Voters are given a ballot of names. They vote for their top choice only. The votes are tallied, and the names with the fewest votes are removed from the ballot. The voters are given an updated second ballot. They choose their top choice from the remaining names. Again, the names with the fewest votes are removed from the ballot, and so on. When the ballot is reduced to one name through this process, we will choose from the possible name options (Name Options: Will “Red Lake” be added to the name or not, and will we choose “Fellowship” or “Church”?) Elimination voting has these strengths: it gives people multiple chances to choose, even if they don’t get their top choice, and it is obvious which names don’t get much support. Therefore, we are using voting in this instance. I don’t expect us to use voting as a common method of making church decisions.
What name should we choose? What are the best words? I think we want to have a name that 1) accurately reflects who God made us to be, and 2) is easily understood by anyone. Looking over our list of name categories makes me think about the reality of what Jesus has called us to do and to be. We are the house of God. We are full of God’s grace. We are a fellowship. We have hope, and we want to give hope. We give living water--Jesus--to people. I think the best way to choose the best words is to ask the Lord Jesus to guide our thinking, and then imagine how a particular name will sound to the average person in Red Lake. What is God showing us? What words describe who we are in Jesus, and what we are to do in harmony with him?
Finally, what about the emotional aspect? Do we hold some names so dearly we can’t imagine anything except our name being used? Are we going to pout when our name isn’t chosen? Are we going to make a campaign for our name? Are we going to talk for months about how sad it is that my name wasn’t chosen, and it is just such a huge error that we have the wrong name? That is the kind of rhetoric that builds unrest and distrust. These attitudes do nothing build the community of the church. Here is how I think we should approach a new name: We want the best one, and we are committed to holding our choice lightly, recognizing that the name isn’t the foundation of our church. An attitude that does build up the church community is when we decide that we will support the name that is chosen without sabotaging it.
And finally, one administrative reminder: this Sunday we won’t be choosing the final name. We’ll be narrowing down the categories of names from 10 to four or five. Once we choose one name category, we will continue with choosing the final wording. Here are the categories:
|Posted on November 23, 2011 at 11:35 PM||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,
|Posted on November 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
Today's Question: What does God think of personal mission statements and goals? I've read Stephen Covey's book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and he suggests that we start our journey into effectiveness by writing a personal vision statement. The idea is that your life is centered on achieving this purpose and vision. Every day you expect to grow closer to this goal, every year you can look back and mark the signs of improvement. At first glance it sounds quite humanistic: "I will change me." Or at worst, it has echoes of the sentiment that "I can do anything I want to do; become anything I want to become." Frankly, I'm wary of manmade mission statements because of our humanistic tendencies.
But then I am reminded that the Apostle Paul had his own mission statement(s). "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2) Or this one, in Acts 20:24 "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God."
Paul's mission in life was uniquely and totally dedicated to service to the Lord Jesus. He is at the extreme end of DISregarding his own life in order to fully appropriate the life of Jesus. In Phillipians 1:21-25 he is arguing with himself about the best use of his life: die and be with Jesus, or stay, and help the people he loved. He reaches the conclusion that many others have reached when given the choice: stay and help people. I think he is basing his decision on something deeper than the comparison between eternal bliss and temporary earthly ministry. He decides to stay because he understands the servanthood of God's love, and that God's love is expressed so well through sacrifice. The fruit of his continued presence with the people at Phillippi will bring "glory in Christ Jesus" (v. 26), and Paul can't think of any higher goal than that.
So how do we focus our lives? What is the purpose of me, or you? What does a good mission statement look like?
We know that we are "made in his image" (Genesis 1:27), we are "His craftsmanship" (Ephesians 2:10), and that God has "crowned us with glory and honour" (Psalm 8:5). Therefore, it seems logical that any consideration of our purpose and value should start with God's ideas about us. So we ask God, "Why did You make people? Why are we here?" God has a purpose for people, and it goes something like this: "I wanted to demonstrate to the universe that there are creatures who will love me with their whole hearts. So I made people to illustrate in living colour the true possibility of intentional love. I can make a creature, put my heart in him/her, and they will return love to me of their own free will. You people are to show the reality of unforced love." I believe that is the general purpose for our creation. That is the overarching purpose of people. How does that relate to you and I?
A better question might be: "Jesus, why did You make me?" Since we know that if we seek we will find, I'm sure that God wants to tell us his unique purpose for us. God will show us his answer. He doesn't want your life to be wasted. My experience has been that God will give us answers to the sincere questions that we ask. And often (or always?) His answer will be truth from the Word of God. This is the mission He has given to me: "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but it is Christ who lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 Often the theme of my walk with God has been dying to my selfish desires, finding life through Jesus, and walking in faith. Perhaps this isn't the focused mission statement that Stephen Covey envisions. But it is a powerful motivator for me to remember why I am here, where my life actually comes from, and what God has in store for me.
...living through Him and learning to know Him,
|Posted on November 10, 2011 at 5:20 PM||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:
Living through Him, Pastor Keith
|Posted on||comments (0)|
Usually we pick our influencers on the basis of personal preference. We read blogs written by people with similar views as our own. We listen to radio shows or podcasts that promote the values we hold. We choose the TV shows we watch by the political or religious views of the host or the network. We read magazines that cater to our interests and likes. We seek out preachers whose theologies we trust. Each of these voices in our lives influence us. We often want them to influence us, or at least challenge us. We generally avoid influencers who present arguments against our deeply held views, because answering those arguments makes us uncomfortable. We like to have our ears soothed by the re-hearing the ideas we already hold. Some of our choices are legitimate; they come from a sincere interest in a field or a desire to refine our views.
But often we choose our influencers simply on the basis of what we like. Is this good? Is there a better way? How do we evaluate music, blogs, podcasts, and the like? What is the yardstick to apply to the voices that influence us? In this post I want to explore the difference between judging that is condemning, and judging that is observing.
We are very cautious about judging people at all because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” So we don't judge. Yet just a few verses later, Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree produces good fruit; but the corrupt tree produces evil fruit.” Matthew 7:15-17. How do recognize a false prophet without judging?
The context of the first passage is that Jesus is warning against rampant condemnation of people around us when we have the same sin, or the same tendency to sin. His point is that a quick criticism of people will turn back on you. Our criticism often comes from a sensitivity to that particular wrong or sin because we already do that sin ourselves. "(Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam in your own eye?" --verse 3.) Jesus is telling us to be reluctant to point out sin in another’s life. A readiness to convict others of sin is at the heart of judging that is condemning.
However, Jesus does show us how to recognize false prophets. These are people who have the look of a follower of Jesus, who talk the talk of a follower of Jesus, who do the things a follower does, but are false, or untrue. Their followership is an external coat instead of an internal life, identity, and calling. It is driven by self effort and by hypocrisy, instead of love. Their true identity is a ravenous wolf. They come to eat. They eat by destroying the joy, life, and security that Jesus brings. They slip false doctrine in with true doctrine. They bind people to certain actions, such as telling people not to get married, or telling people that certain foods are wrong to eat (1 Timothy 4:3). They add to the Gospel. And Jesus tells us that we will know them by their fruits. When we see the blueberry on the bush and say, “That’s a blueberry plant” we are observing, not judging. We are using fruit as the identifier of the true character of the plant. We are not making theoretical statements about the sins in a person’s heart, or the hidden motives of their life. We are simply saying, “What’s on the outside reveals what’s on the inside.” False prophets produce fruit that is consistent with falsehood. It leads to all sorts of division: “Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.” (1 Timothy 6:3–5 NLT-SE) So the fruit of a false prophet is quarreling, jealousy, division, greed, etc. “By their fruits you will know them…” So when you read the blog Jesus Lover by Joe Blogger (I just made that name up), and you know that the writer consistently leaves quarrels, division and greed in his wake, then you know that he is a false prophet, and you should stay away from him.
How often do we evaluate the fruit of a singer’s life? Of a preacher’s life? Of a blogger’s life? Of a writer’s life? How often do we assume that what they write/say/sing is okay because the look all right?
Living and learning through Him....