Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Dare You

I dare you to risk that God actually means that you're a new creature right now.

I dare you to believe that God is crazy about you- right now!

I dare you to believe that God never, ever leaves your side- no matter how bad you get.

I dare you to believe that you are not on God's "B" team.

I dare you to believe that you don't have to do penance after you fail.

I dare you to believe that you don't have to put on appearances because God knows exactly the pace of your maturity.

I dare you to believe that you are considered blameless- right now- even though you still act out in wrong ways.

I dare you to believe that you are godly because you share this new nature fused with the God of the universe.

I dare you to believe that God doesn't keep a logbook of your offenses- bringing them up to you from time to time.

I dare you to believe that God is never disgusted with you.

I dare you to believe that God is never ashamed of you. Never. Ever.
(from 'TrueFaced', see November 18 post)

The boys from Switchfoot put it so much better than I ever could in their song,

"I Dare You To Move"

Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everyone's here Everybody's watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next

I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before

Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistence
The tension is here
Between who you are and you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Wonder Of It All

Remember the show "The Wonder Years"? It was a comedy that parodied those growing up days that were literally both the best of times and the worst of times.

Once we hit adulthood we often lose touch with wonder in our life. Baggage heaps heavy on our shoulders and life's pressures can seem to choke any wonder out of our life. The only wonder left is the bread you buy for your kids!

Contrast that existence with the life of following Jesus when He says in Matthew 11:28-30,
"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light."

What Jesus is saying is to let go of everything that's not from him: destructive thought patterns; addictions; harmful behaviors and being lost in the past. Sometimes we're not conscious of what we're holding on to so we are instructed in Philippians 4:8 instead to

"Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."

Learning to shift our gaze from the harmful to the lovely is the journey of personal transformation. It is an act of opening up our eyes and seeing more clearly than ever. In order to even attempt this we need to slow ourselves down.

We can feel quite burdened simply by the pace that we live our life. If we can learn to lower our RPM's, we can see life more clearly. The fingerprints of God become more visible. Make no mistake though; this is a discipline to cultivate and work at. It gets easier as we practice and soon becomes second nature because we awake to a new reality that sees the handiwork of God everywhere:
- in the frost of the morning;
- in the steam that rises from our favorite coffee;
- in the eyes of young children on the way to school;
- and in the story that we have lived for so many years called our life.

One friend of mine put it so aptly when he wrote to me that he was feeling like he was home because "he was coming home in his heart". Heed the words of Elihu to Job today,

Job 37:14
"Listen, Job; stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!

Those miracles are your life.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What, Me, Complain?

How do we complain so that God is brought into the process? Most often, God doesn’t enter into our process of complaining.

What is the boundary when we cross over into just plain whining?

Our goal is to be transformed in the midst of our trials,
James 1:2
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.

"The greatest insights on life are found at the center of pain." - Rick Warren

James 1:12
God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

"Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow." Goethe

“There are basically two sorts of folks on planet earth: “ulcer-givers” and “ulcer-getters.”” Bill Gillham

There seem to be 2 extremes:
1. Some people stuff it down and they experience depression and illness;
2. Others wear their heart on their sleeve. If they’re hurting they want everyone to know and even feel their pain, too. They’ll inflict their story on you so to speak.

Where is the middle ground? Picture laying your life, your issues, and your trials in the open before God. We usually say that we’ve prayed through our stuff, but in reality we haven’t prayed about it at all. All we’ve really done is to think about it and ruminate on it. And sought reinforcement from others that we’re on the right track in dealing with it our way. All the while we’ve never consciously prayed about it and sought God’s input.

Proverbs 21:1
The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he turns it wherever he pleases. People may think they are doing what is right, but the LORD examines the heart.

Notice verse 2 and what it says about our ideas of knowing what is right.

I want my heart to be like that mentioned in verse 1, a stream of water directed by God himself.

Jeremiah 17:9
"The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
There is a problem with my heart. There is a problem with your heart, too.

How do we get our eyes off of our thoughts and ourselves and get them onto God and his perspective? We can’t do that by shoving our issues down deep inside of ourselves.
Slowly, over time, little challenges with God are submerged. One day you awaken to find our self immensely angry with God. William Backus calls this ‘The Hidden Rift with God'.

What does the Bible say about complaining?

Let’s look at Exodus 16 and 17.
There was no food and the people complained. God sent manna. There was no variety and the people complained. God sent quail. There was no water and God sends water.

A pattern emerges:
1. God provides.
2. The people become discontent and grumble.
3. God sends his grace.

Let’s flip over to Numbers 16
The sons of Korah rebel against Moses. Verses 23-24
And the LORD said to Moses, "Then tell all the people to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."

God is serious about complaining. We are called to be a thankful people. This applies to all of us, myself included.

1 Corinthians 10:1-11
Recalling the wilderness wandering Paul says in verse 10,
"And don't grumble as some of them did, for that is why God sent his angel of death to destroy them."

Philippians 2:14
In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing.

Psalm 107:8-9
Let them praise the LORD for his great love and for all his wonderful deeds to them. For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

1 Kings 8:56
Praise the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses.

Psalm 88:13-18
O LORD, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.O LORD, why do you reject me? Why do you turn your face away from me?I have been sickly and close to death since my youth. I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me. Your terrors have cut me off.They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long. They have encircled me completely.You have taken away my companions and loved ones; only darkness remains.

There are more verses in the Psalms dedicated to complaining than praising. Can you believe that?

These are called the Psalms of Lament and they have a pattern.
1. Complaint
2. Request
3. Usually an expression of trust.

1. The Complaint

Now the complaint can range from being disappointed with his own actions, or for the direction of the world or perhaps feeling set up by God to take a fall.

Over time these situations erode our ability to trust God and we develop the hidden rift with God.

The most heartbreaking example of one of these is Matthew 27:46
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

If Jesus can cry out like that, so can we.

Psalm 13
O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die.Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

Can you see the pattern? There is a complaint, followed by a request and then an expression of trust. The trust has nothing to do with feelings, but is all about obedience.

Psalm 62:8
O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 42:4-6 (sounds like we could be saying this as we go to church)
My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks--it was the sound of a great celebration!Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again--my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember your kindness-- from Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.

Psalm 142:1-2
I cry out to the LORD;I plead for the LORD's mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.

Pour out your heart in complaint. As I mentioned before, we haven’t usually prayed about stuff, we’ve thought about it. The Bible tells us to pour it out. Don’t edit it for god as if it’s a made-for-TV-movie. Don’t pretty it up, spill it forth. The word used can literally mean vomit it out, puke it up. Don’t be afraid, God can take it!

“And in the morning the poison drains away.”

That’s what happens when we learn to complain biblically. The pain drains away. Fear and anger are replaced with love and joy. Not instantaneously, but steadily as healing comes, forgiveness is found, repentance occurs and thankfulness pervades our soul. We are usually drawn to a ‘fight or flight’ response in the midst of difficulty.

We usually want what we want and we want others to want it! We stay stuck. Do your journals look and read the same year in and year out? Have you given up on journaling because all it does is regurgitate the past?

Do you keep spinning your tires looking for traction but you can’t find it?
Are you saying ‘I keep laying it before God and laying it before God and laying it before God.’ ‘Come and feel my pain with me!’

2. The Request

In Matthew 20, Mark 10 and Luke 18 a story is told about Jesus encountering 2 blind men. Jesus asks them what they want. Well, duh? Here is the movement from a complaint to a request.

The blind men needed to say what they wanted. They wanted 2 things:
1. to regain their sight.
2. to have their eyes opened.

It’s very easy for us to lose our perspective, as if we’re in a house full of distorted mirrors that are skewed towards our perspective.

“Don’t change me I just want to whine!” That’s essentially what we say if we won’t move off of our complaint and get to a request. We are essentially allowing god to have ‘veto’ power in our life.

There are some questions we have, some complaints that He never answers. Why doesn’t He answer these questions?
- Why didn’t you keep my parents from divorcing?
- Why didn’t you stop the abuse?
- Why didn’t you prevent the accident?

God will answer no such questions, no matter how passionately we ask. Instead, he invites us to weep with him and receive his mercy. Dan Allender

2 Samuel 7:7
“I have never once complained to Israel's leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, "Why haven't you built me a beautiful cedar temple?"'

Remember, our goal is to have a heart that is a channel of water that God directs.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Something rushes in to fill a hole. If we complain and stop without taking the next steps, we’ll just keep complaining!

3. The next step is an expression of trust.

Lord, I know that you’re here somewhere is sometimes our most honest expression.

Mark 9:24
"I do believe, but help me not to doubt!"

Honest expressions are always the best way to go.
Come as a child to God the father. Don’t come as a theologian, or as a counselor or as a pastor. The key is the trust dynamic. You can’t have a personal relationship with an idea. You have a personal relationship with a person, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.

How would a 4 year old express the idea that God is omnipotent (all powerful)?
God can do it.

How would that same 4 year old say that God is omnipresent?
God is here.

What does a child say about God being omniscient?
God you know everything, including my heart.

Exodus 3:7
"You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering.

God is aware of your suffering. He has not forgotten you.

Exodus 3:8
So I have come to rescue them…The cries of the people of CoHo have reached me
Do you believe that?

Isaiah 57:15
The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: "I live in that high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts.

Expression of trust lifts you up to a God’s eye view of reality.

"Faith is seeing from God’s perspective." - Rick Warren

Maxine Hancock says that in order to get there we need 3 things:
1. Recollect, or re collect our memories, our altars like we talked about last week.

2. Rehearse what we’ll say when trials strike us: “God I know that you’re here.”

Psalm 107:1
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

"I can't think of any time when I actually doubted the presence of the Lord. There were times, of course, when I felt somewhat discouraged, but I don't dwell on anything negative when it comes to my life. I think negative attitudes are very destructive, so I think positively and have hope in the future and in those people who are willing to live good lives and do the very best that they can to help themselves and other people." - Rosa Parks

3. Receive God’s gift of grace

Hebrews 4:16
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

With God’s help we need to write and continually rewrite Psalm 151.

Psalm 116:7-9
Now I can rest again, for the LORD has been so good to me.He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.And so I walk in the LORD's presence as I live here on earth!

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.

Lord with your help I will become more like me. Soren Kierkegaard

Psalm 29:10-11
The LORD rules over the floodwaters. The LORD reigns as king forever.The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.

Got a flood going on? Is God still the king?

1 Peter 5:6-11
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you. Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power is his forever and ever. Amen

As you keep your mind on this truth and praise Him for it, you'll be filled with hope—even when life is difficult.

The first group had a couple of spots open with Christmas With Style. Gord called the Women’s Emergency Shelter and explained that there was 2 openings. The first woman who showed up asked what was going on. Gord explained that she’s get to go to a salon & get a style, manicure, etc, and then go to the church to get a poinsettia, some clothes and other stuff. She burst into tears, explaining that she’s just came to town last night, and had all her clothes and possessions stolen. She woke up this morning and said “God, I know that you have something for me today.”

Blessed Be Your Name
I’ll find a way to say “Blessed Be Your Name”

In 1991, when Rolling Stone interviewed Bob Dylan on the occasion of his 50th birthday, he gave a curious response when the interviewer asked him if he was happy. He fell silent for a few moments and stared at his hands. 'You know,' he said, 'these are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It's not happiness or unhappiness, it's either blessed or unblessed.'

Cindi Broaddus, A Random Act

Questions for reflection:

Do I ever complain, grumble or whine?

What would my responses to adversity reveal to those observing who don’t know Christ?

What would people around me learn about what it means to be a Christ follower by observing and experiencing my attitude?

Do people feel better or worse after an encounter with me? What is it like to be around me?

Do I ever complain to everyone around me instead of pouring out my frustrations and emotions to God in prayer and journaling?

Or do I keep it all bottled up until I eventually explode in anger and frustration?…

Or become passive-aggressive (irritable, sarcastic, avoiding, manipulative) with those around me?

Does my prayer life reflect trust in God’s sovereignty; peace in His presence, faith in His Word and the love of Jesus?

Can I pour my heart out to God? Do I know Him well enough to be transparent with Him? Or do I attempt to avoid Him or give Him a snow job about my real feelings?

Where might I need a bit of renovation of my heart? What do I need to acknowledge and praise God for?

How do I need to “bring God into the negative”? What are the tough, heartbreaking, frustrating issues in my life?

What do I need to give thanks for, even if I do not feel thankful?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Grey Cup Chili Cook-Off Part 3: And The Winner Is...

Well, there were actually several winners. First, the Eskimos actually won the Grey Cup game in a thrilling overtime shootout 38-35. Second, Robert Harper claimed his first ever CoHo Chili Championship with a narrow victory over Gloria and Matt, and Daryl. Sorry Danny, there's always next year.

But most importantly the church won. There was about 70 people for the afternoon and evening festivities! From the 25 people who braved the elements and played a couple of football games outside, to the numerous other kids and adults alike who munched on chips, drank pop and chowed down on chili during the actual watching of the Grey Cup, it was an amazing day indeed.

Who will ever forget Robert's stunning chili presentation. It touched me deeply. Robert is pictured here with the birthday girl, Deb S. , who passed a significant milestone, but decorum forbids me from wishing her well on the other side of f_rty!

Sandy was unbelievable in her tireless work preparing for the meal and judging the contest. Daryl was astounding in his multimedia set-up. It was like visiting the Future Shop electronics area! Daryl's company is and they do great work should you ever need home theatre help.

I must admit that the sting of losing the chili championship will be felt in my mouth for some time (not to mention my stomach!). I guess I should have added one more can of Stagg Chili to my 'homebrew'. To quote a famous line, "I'll be back." Both Shanley and I felt we were crowned 'The People's Champion' based on the fact that our whole batches of chili were consumed, while other pots had a great deal of food left inside of them.

Stay tuned for tomorrows post on 'hurt and bitterness'....

Grey Cup Chili Cook-Off Part 2

Bruce has assured me that the CoHo Chili Champ will get to keep the trophy at home and be allowed to show it off.

There may even be a chance to have your name engraved on it! Your name could be beside the all-time greats in the field.

(Note: Trophy may not be exactly as illustrated)

Grey Cup Chili Cook-Off!

Today at 300 PM @ CoHo. We start the fun and frivolity with a little game of football, then progress to getting comfortable watching the game, eating snacks and sampling chili. We'll make a joyful noise at halftime when we crown the 2005 CoHo Chili Champion.

Our own Bruce and Deborah Keltie will be in Vancouver taking in the festivities live at the Grey Cup. Deborah sings at several of the Grey Cup functions while Bruce ably represents the city as Chair of the Spirit of Edmonton.

Whether the Esks win it all isn't very important. We'll enjoy the competition on the field and in the trenches over the chili. May the best chilli win!

Happy Birthday Danny!

It's hard to believe that this handsome looking fellow is turning 42, oops, I mean 48, oops, I mean 53, oops, I mean he's having a birthday! If he was a tree we'd get tired of counting the rings! All of that said, Danny has one of the biggest hearts around. We love you Danny!

Romans 12:9-16
Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful. When God's children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.

If people persecute you because you are a Christian, don't curse them; pray that God will bless them. When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Tonight at 7:00 PM at CoHo is the second installment of 'Ignite!'

Not really a worship service, although we will worship with 'Life Atomic'; not really a sermon, although Ken will share from his heart; not really just for fun because you'll meet old friends and make new ones that'll charge your life up with Jesus Christ!

'Ignite' is a movement, defying definition. It can happen anytime and anywehere you'll open your life up to the leading of Jesus. Dick Halverson once said that Jesus didn't have a day planner but simply went about doing good. On His way to heal a dead child He stopped for a woman who had been healed by touching His garment. We never know what our life will become when we let the passion of Jesus flow through us. We never know how a small blessing will grow. Giant oaks grow from small acorns.

As you guessed the hoodies are in full production. They'll also be for sale tomorrow night @ Ignite! The hoodies are just a subtle reminder that we live to start a fire for God, to ignite a revolution of love. They have a story all their own, too. When Ken dropped the design for the hoodies off, the guys who went to work on them were so enamored with the logo they asked him back to explain all about Ignite! Let love rule!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Women of Hope Mini-Retreat

Tomorrow marks another pilgrimmage to the Leblanc's farm for an afternoon of connection, relaxation and bonding for the women of CoHo.

One of the blessings of an intergenerational group is the potential for formal and informal mentoring that can take place.

God’s light shines through our humanity, and despite our many shortcomings others are drawn to the expression of love in our life. Our imperfections can be awesomely overshadowed by God’s light as we open up our lives one to another. That is what the heart of mentoring is all about.

Mentors are created by God to offer safe, grace-filled, accepting places. In other words, no one goes to a shark to be comforted.

In David Benner’s book, Sacred Companions, there are five gifts mentors offer to mentees:

Gift # 1 Hospitality: A mentor makes welcoming space in her life for others.

Gift #2 Safety and Love: A mentor is a soul friend who offers relationship without the fear of criticism or ridicule.

Gift #3 Modeling: A mentor shares the “how’s” of life so others can emulate her and find their own way.

Gift #4 Coaching/Guiding: A mentor gives information on how life works.

Gift #5 God Awareness: A mentor helps others see God’s activity in their lives.
“A spiritual companion helps a friend to see herself as God sees her. What is God saying to this life?” David Benner

All of us should seek what Robert Clinton calls a 'mentoring constellation'. We need to have a trusted individual or two who is an upward mentor that we can seek guidance from.

We also need peer mentors who help us fulfill the idea of Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend."

Thirdly we need downward mentors that we pour ourselves into, helping them to see where God is at work in the seemingly unrelated details of their life.

We ourselves cannot experience the fullness of life that Jesus promised if we won't live the life He offers. That is a life full of community and relationships, given to mentoring others and receiving instruction from those more mature.

My own two upward mentors, Jim and Glen, are an incredible blessing to me. We meet bi-weekly and monthly, respectively, to discuss matters of the soul and everyday life. I don't know where I'd be without those portals of growth.

Who is in your mentoring constellation?

1 John 4:11-12
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Who Do You Trust?

"God, are you strong enough to heal my patterns of self-drestruction?"

"God, do you always have my best interests at heart?"

"God, are you able to take care of me if I live without a mask, if I walk around with no devices for self-protection?"

"God, are you able to vindicate me if I do not vindicate myself?"

"God, are you able to deal with my sin if I make the decision to turn away from my willpower to trusting in your willpower?"

"God, are you able to protect me when I disclose the truth and am vulnerable to others knowing what is really real about me?"

These and a myriad of other questions that surge deep within our hearts are a doorway of growth in our spiritual life. If and when we get trapped in shame, blame or anger, we stop maturing. When we stop maturing, we lose the ability to say "yes" to the questions above.

It simply hurts too much to trust God when we're frozen in our misery. If and when we stop growing our dreams begin to atrophy and ultimately die. They become a hollow reality that is better suited to a fantasy comic book than a vision of where our life is going.

Very often our relational sadness, our inability to be loved, our festering wounds and broken relationships freeze us in the past and in immaturity. While it is true that Jesus loves children, the reason is his value on innocence and not immaturity.

Children often have an innocent faith and trust in Jesus. Theological concepts are experienced as personal realities. To a child, trust isn't an idea, it is a reality meant to be lived. "Throw me into the air, daddy!" is the request of my four-year-old son because he trusts that I'll catch him. Do you trust that God will catch you while you're twisting and turning in the air?

Matthew 18:3
“Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Ken Gire has asked, "What dream is God dreaming when He dreams about you and me, and how can we help that dream come true?"

The first step is to trust Him.

Hebrews 4:14
That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hypomanic Christ Followers

John Gartner, in his book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America, provides a little different view of what helps provide success and acheivement in the United States. Gartner is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore, Maryland.

To quote Gartner:

"There's a mild form of mania that is very common, but very little understood, called hypomania. It's not a pathology; it's not an illness. It's really more of a temperament. But it is genetically based, and it runs in the same families as mania. Manics and hypomanics tend to be related to one another. The difference is that it's a predominantly productive level of mania. These are people who are incredibly active.

When Louis B. Mayer's doctor told him he should relax and take up golf, Mayer exhausted caddies half his age by hitting five balls down the fairway at once, in essence shooting 90 holes of golf. The doctor said, "Lou, that wasn't what I had in mind" and told him to take up racehorse breeding. Within two years, he had the second most money-winning stable in the world, and he was just doing this as a hobby. So these are people who really do give it 100 percent.

In addition to the energy, they're also very driven people with a very high level of self-motivation. They have an almost insane level of self-confidence. These are people who have incredibly ambitious, almost grandiose goals and are absolutely 100 percent confident they can achieve them. And they're people who think fast, talk fast. And by the way, thinking fast is related to their very high level of creativity. They're people who can make decisions fast, which can sometimes result in impulsive behavior and sometimes lead to seizing the moment in a very fortuitous way.

These people tend to be somewhat visionary and unconventional, and sort of rebellious against the normal structure of things. They become extremely zealous about their vision of what they're trying to create, whether it's a company or a new religion. And they tend to be charismatic, so they tend to energize other people and be very persuasive about getting them on board with their vision. And they tend to be a bit on the arrogant side."

One example Gartner will cite as a hypomanic is President George Bush of the United States. Bush exhibits many of the characteristics mentioned above and does himself feel that he is on a mission from God.

As I thought about George Bush, hypomanics and Christ followers, I couldn't help but think about the parable of the talents. In Matthew 25:14-30 we have the story of a man who left three of his servants in charge of his money while he was away. The first servant received 1 talent, the second servant received 2 and the third was entrusted with 5 talents.

The five talent servant parlayed that amount into 5 more bags of gold. He was rewarded with even more responsibilities.

Are there many five talent leaders in the contemporary church today that fit the description of a hypomaniac? What about Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, author, speaker and founder of the Willow Creek Association ? What about Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church, author of 'The Purpose driven Life'? What about John Maxwell, former pastor and now the self-professed leadership guru of America? Or how about Brian McLaren, pastor, author and 'godfather' of the 'emerging church' movement?

Come to think about, many of the Willow Creek Association churches seem to be lead by hypomanics. The same may be true for various emerging churches. What about Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Dallas? The Leadership Network is lead by Bob Buford, and it targets innovators. Buford would be close to a hypomanic, as would Ken Blanchard, management guru and founder of the Lead Like Jesus movement.

Interestingly, since Gartner published his book in April, many people think it chic to be considerd a hypomanic. Many more want to become hypomanic. I guess it all comes back to the parable: it's not how many talents you're given, it's what you do with the ones given to you. Rid yourself of envy and find joy serving God being yourself!

1 Peter 3:10-12
For the Scriptures say,"If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard at living in peace with others. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Beautiful City Called Hope

The stories are coming in from Christmas With Style.

One of the drivers prayed with every woman she dropped off and then would pull over and weep because of the brokenness of each story. She'd cry out to Jesus on their behalf.

Christie went to Walmart to buy some panty hose and the like to give to the women, and after the clerks heard what was happening she left with more gifts and cash in her purse than when she'd arrived!

The first group Sunday morning had a couple of spots open due to cancellations. Gord called the Women’s Emergency Shelter and explained that there was 2 openings. The first woman who showed up asked what was going on. Gord explained that she was going to go to a salon and get a style, manicure, etc, and then go to the church to get a poinsettia, some clothes and other stuff. She burst into tears, explaining that she’d just came to town last night, and had all of her clothes and possessions stolen. She woke up in the morning and said, “God, I know that you have something for me today.”

Psalm 13
O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the light to my eyes, or I will die. Don't let my enemies gloat, saying, "We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the LORD because he has been so good to me.

Waging Peace

The 'Rumor Mill' and 'Gossip Grapevine' are usually always working overtime. Often we don't know what to do when a situation falls into our lap. What do we do with what someone has said to us about someone else?

The following are some very helpful guidelines to ask before repeating something we've heard:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it worth sharing?
4. Is it for the building of the kingdom? Is it going to benefit the person?
5. Will Jesus be pleased with my motives?

The bottom line and simplest solution as I think about it is this: if someone says something to you about another person, take them to the person in question, and ask them to repeat whatever it is that they said. The idea is to "wage peace" wherever we go. To live in a spirit of reconciling friendship. That is what a community of hope is.

I love what the late Adrian Rogers used to say when he was offended or hurt by what someone said or did. Adrian would simply say “I just told Jesus on him.”

When Rogers was trying to stay unbiased in a conflict he added this bit of simple wisdom: “It takes a mighty thin pancake not to have two sides.”

Colossians 3:12-15
Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Four Horsemen of Marriage Twice Over

The Bible is full of vivid imagery, especially the book of Revelation. In chapter six of Revelation “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” give us a picture of death and destruction. Within relationships we have all experienced certain factors, or horsemen, that lead to destruction. What are some of those factors in a marriage that wreak havoc and lead to wounding and eventually divorce?

Psychologist John Gottman has identified the “four horsemen” in marriage that lead to destruction as:

1. Criticism, which is more than just complaining because criticism attacks a person’s character;

2. Contempt. This is more damaging than criticism because it seeks to deeply wound a person’s intrinsic value as a person;

3. Defensiveness. Once we’ve been exposed to contempt usually defensiveness sets in. Defensiveness pushes back against character attacks and further undermines honest listening;

4. Stonewalling. Just like ‘hitting the wall’ in running tests a runners resolve to keep going, a person may give up in a marriage and become a wall. Total withdrawal stops all listening and responding. When stonewalling occurs habitually in a marriage it is said to be barely on life support.

The reason that I personally find Gottman’s work so compelling is the prophetic power of his model. He has 95% accuracy in predicting whether a marriage will stay together after observing the relationship for only 15 minutes!

Take a moment to survey your significant relationship, be it marital or otherwise. Are you exhibiting any of Gottman’s four horsemen?

Tommy Nelson is a great Bible teacher from Denton Bible Church. In his exposition of the Song of Solomon, he crafts his own set of “four horsemen” of marriage. According to Nelson, the four patterns of behavior leading to marital destruction are:

1. Sin. When romance dies it usually begins because one or the other has caused pain and not repented, or there has been a lack of genuine forgiveness.

2. Age. If we focus only on our external appearances, our marriage becomes morally bankrupt, built solely on superficiality.

3. Laziness. When we get in a rut we take for granted the power of what first drew us to our soul mate to begin with. Routines slowly sap the excitement until you live with a roommate, not a lover.

4. Forgetfulness. All too often we forget that our spouse is a gift from God, a unique creation in all the world. Instead of being a beautiful rose that we’ve tamed, they become a valet who exists to serve us.

Regardless of which set of ‘horsemen’ you look at, the reality of marital breakup stares us in the face everyday. We may see friends, family and coworkers walking down a dark path to destruction. Reach out to them with hope and honest love. Choose to focus on your own marriage for the better. Resolve to take the high road with your spouse. Don’t become just another statistic.

Philippians 4:4-9
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Fueling Up: Communion

Acts 20:7-12
On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord's Supper. Paul was preaching; and since he was leaving the next day, he talked until midnight. The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he sank into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. "Don't worry," he said, "he's alive!" Then they all went back upstairs and ate the Lord's Supper together. And Paul continued talking to them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved.

One of the biggest challenges we face spiritually is forgetting what we should remember and remembering what we should forget.

The following three passages highlight the building of altars to remember the work of God:

Joshua 4:19-24
The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month--the month that marked their exodus from Egypt. They camped at Gilgal, east of Jericho. It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River. Then Joshua said to the Israelites, "In the future, your children will ask, `What do these stones mean?' Then you can tell them, `This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so that all the nations of the earth might know the power of the LORD, and that you might fear the LORD your God forever."

1 Samuel 7:3-12
Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, "If you are really serious about wanting to return to the LORD, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the LORD; then he will rescue you from the Philistines." So the Israelites destroyed their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the LORD. Then Samuel told them, "Come to Mizpah, all of you. I will pray to the LORD for you." So they gathered there and, in a great ceremony, drew water from a well and poured it out before the LORD. They also went without food all day and confessed that they had sinned against the LORD. So it was at Mizpah that Samuel became Israel's judge. When the Philistine rulers heard that all Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching. "Plead with the LORD our God to save us from the Philistines!" they begged Samuel. So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the LORD as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the LORD to help Israel, and the LORD answered. Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived for battle. But the LORD spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way. Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer--"the stone of help"--for he said, "Up to this point the LORD has helped us!"

Genesis 35:1-12
God said to Jacob, "Now move on to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to worship me--the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau." So Jacob told everyone in his household, "Destroy your idols, wash yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has stayed with me wherever I have gone." So they gave Jacob all their idols and their earrings, and he buried them beneath the tree near Shechem. When they set out again, terror from God came over the people in all the towns of that area, and no one attacked them. Finally, they arrived at Luz (now called Bethel) in Canaan. Jacob built an altar there and named it El-bethel, because God had appeared to him there at Bethel when he was fleeing from Esau. Soon after this, Rebekah's old nurse, Deborah, died. She was buried beneath the oak tree in the valley below Bethel. Ever since, the tree has been called the "Oak of Weeping." God appeared to Jacob once again when he arrived at Bethel after traveling from Paddan-aram. God blessed him and said, "Your name is no longer Jacob; you will now be called Israel." Then God said, "I am God Almighty. Multiply and fill the earth! Become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will pass on to you the land I gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants."

In the following passage, Paul highlights what our memory should be of Jesus during communion:

1 Corinthians 11:23
"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Joseph had his memories re-positioned by God:

Genesis 50:20
As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people.

Part of staying on track in your spiritual life is revisiting those places of spiritual significance from the past, mainly through memories. We do that to refill our faith tanks.

Most of our oldest memories are the product of repeated rehearsal and reconstruction. Ulric Neisser

"You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind. " Irish Proverb

Ephesians 2:8
"God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so that none of us can boast about it."

A feeling of entitlement is the beginning of the end of our spirituality.

James 1:17
"Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above."

"Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace. Every day should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone." Jerry Bridges

Let God recast your past memories into meaningful steps of growth.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Christmas With Style

This is the fifth annual event that seeks to help make the festive season bright for
- a single mom struggling to make ends meet;
- or for someone who has suffered abuse and sought the safety of a women's shelter;
- or perhaps for someone who's pressing needs put personal care luxuries at the bottom of the priority list.

We simply want to provide some hospitality to deserving women in extremely difficult circumstances. The preparations are ongoing even today, with the event getting underway tomorrow morning and continuing throughout the day. Please be in prayer for all of the logistics and for all of the women who will be served, and all of those who give themselves to help.

This is one of thoses times where I marvel at what the church can do when it seeks to follow Christ wholeheartedly. Only God can inspire such an event, and we get to partner with him. Yeah God!

Romans 15:13
So I pray that God, who gives you hope, will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Questions and Doubt

Lately I've been reading the book 'TrueFaced' by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch. Essentially it is a book that helps challenge us about wearing masks. In ancient times, Greek actors used very large masks to convey the emotions of the character they were playing so that people distant from the stage could follow the story. This is the origin of the word 'hypocrite', literally, 'one who wears a mask'.

None of us wants to be the big-cross, bible-thumping, wwjd-wearing, fake-talking person who doesn't really believe what they say or live what they preach. In other words, we don't want to be Pharisees! And the fear of becoming a Pharisee drives us into the closet unwilling to share the best news we've ever heard. David Alexander

When doubt comes we all need a safe place to ask the questions that scream inside of our head. We all need people who will come alongside of us and help us struggle well with life. Otherwise we'll pretend we have it all together and out comes the mask. Following Jesus then becomes 'Churchianity', or wearing 'church-happy-face'.

A Christian doesn't avoid the questions; a Christian embraces them. In fact, to truly pursue the living God, we have to see the need for questions.

Questions are not scary.

What is scary is when people don't have any.

What is tragic is faith that has no room for them...

...this is why questions are so central to faith. A question by its very nature acknowledges that the person asking the question does not have all of the answers. And because the person does not have all of the answers, they are looking outside of themselves for guidance.

Questions, no matter how shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted in humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know.

Questions bring freedom. Freedom that I don't have to be God and I don't have to pretend that I have it all figured out. I can let God be God.

'Velvet Elvis' by Rob Bell

2 Corinthians 3:17-19 (NIV)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

It's hard for paper mache to reflect God's glory. Take your mask off and don't fear asking your questions.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


"At its core, hospitality is an act of faith. It is faith in God and faith in people. It is an open posture that views others not as threats, but as participants in the process of one another's redemption." Doug Pagitt 'Reimagining Spiritual Formation'

Hospitality is not a term that gets used much in today’s vernacular, and yet it is incredibly important in our own spiritual formation as Christ-followers. God has created us for community, gifted us with a longing to belong, and sends us ample opportunities to engage in relationships. Hospitality is one of those opportunities. So why aren’t we more hospitable to each other and towards those who most need it?

I believe that one of the reasons we don’t engage in hospitality is safety and convenience. The times that hospitality is most needed are usually not the times that are most convenient to us. It can be just plain inconvenient for us. On top of that problem, those most in need of hospitality aren’t always all together in their time of need. It can be very uncomfortable for us.

When we allow others into our space we move them from being a stranger to being a family member. What could be more important to someone who is struggling than to be grafted into a family? Being a stranger usually involves a story of betrayal or abandonment. Bringing healing to those stories is often in the form of hospitality. We are given the awesome privilege and responsibility of being and bringing Jesus to others.

Is God opening up some doors for you to show hospitality? You really don’t need much in the way of resources and possessions other than a willing heart.

Romans 12:13
When God's children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.

1 Peter 4:9
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Finishing Well

Peter F. Drucker, the world’s foremost pioneer of management theory, died Friday morning at the ripe age of 95. The Claremont Graduate University summarized his life as follows:

"Drucker was the Marie Rankin Clarke Professor of Social Sciences and Management at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) from 1971 to 2003 where he continued to write and consult up to the time of his death.

Drucker’s career as a writer, consultant and teacher spanned nearly 75 years. His groundbreaking work turned modern management theory into a serious discipline. He influenced or created nearly every facet of its application, including decentralization, privatization, empowerment, and understanding of “the knowledge worker.”"

Peter Drucker was also instrumental is teaching and mentoring some of the contemporary church's best leaders, including Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Bob Buford of the Leadership Network. When Buford set out to reposition his life for the second half, he consulted with Drucker. Drucker gave him this advice on starting a new organization to encourage building for the kingdom of Jesus Christ:

-"Build on the islands of health and strength" (that is, recruit leaders from successful churches as Leadership Network's first customers);

-"Work only with those who are receptive to what you are trying to do;"

-"Work only on things that will make a great deal of difference if you succeed."

What I love about Peter Drucker, besides the monumental amount of insightful writing into management and the human condition, is the fact that he finished the race of life well.

Many Christ-followers do not finish their life well. They succumb to temptations and pressures that have dogged them for years. Dr. Robert Clinton, in his vast work into leaders in the Bible, says that only about 1/3 of all Bible leaders finish well. We scarcely have to look around at the church and business world to realize that this number isn't much better in today's society.

Read the following account from the August 2nd edition of Newsweek and tell me if you're excited about finishing life in this way:

Peter Drucker was a shining example of finishing the race well. The apostle Paul writes about the race of life in one of his letters:

Philippians 3:12-15 TNIV

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Peter Drucker wrote many things on finishing well, and this is one of them:

Recognize the downside to “no longer learning, no longer growing.”

“I see more and more people who make it to their mid-forties or beyond, and they’ve been very successful,” Drucker said. “They’ve done very well in their work and career, but in my experience, they end up in one of three groups.

One group will retire; they usually don’t live very long.

The second group keeps on doing what they’ve been doing, but they’re losing their enthusiasm, feeling less alive.

The third group keeps doing what they’ve been doing, but they’re looking for ways to a make a contribution. They feel they’ve been given a lot and they’re looking for a chance to give back. They’re not satisfied with just writing checks; they want to be involved, to help other people in a more positive way.”

And they’re the ones, Drucker said, who finish well.

Lets finish well people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You Are An Original

Galatians 5:24 - 6:1 The Message

Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone calls necessities is killed off for good - crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.

That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Live creatively, friends.

God did not die so that we would become clones.

Eric Lidell, the Olympic runner made famous in the movie 'Chariots of Fire' said, "When I run I feel God's pleasure." He went on to say, "God made me fast."

How has God made you as an original, and how many opportunities does He get to smile at you being creative in your own way?

Could pleasing Jesus Christ be as simple as giving your best in the unique areas of God-giftedness of your life?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Commitment vs Surrender

The word ‘commitment’ has been used for the last number of years when we describe a healthy relationship with Christ. However, as this word came into more and more favor as a descriptor, another word fell into disuse. That word is ‘surrender’. Until more recently we talked about surrender to Christ. Surrender means giving up control, turning over all to the Master of Our Life, Jesus Christ. By changing to the word ‘commitment’ our relationship with Christ has become something we do, therefore we are able to keep control. Surrender means giving up all rights to one’s self. We don’t like to do that so, instead, we make a commitment.

Have you truly surrendered—not just committed—your life to Jesus Christ? Surrender is not taking control of ourselves to be better Christians. Rather, it is utterly giving up all rights to ourselves in humble reliance on the grace, love, and mercy of our good God. This is the foundation of real joy and happiness, regardless of the circumstances we face. Surrendering to God is an act of faith. It allows God to direct us wherever we go. The prayer below is from Michael Slaughter’s book “Real Followers, Beyond Virtual Christianity”. May it guide you in full surrender today.

Lord, I [we] want to be a real follower of Jesus under your command.
I will no longer be my own. I will give myself up to you in all areas.
Lord, make me all that you can. I put myself fully into your hands.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart give all to your pleasure and disposal. Amen.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Keep Hope Alive

One of the most important roles we carry as Christ-followers is to be a purveyor of hope wherever we go. Hope is the force that can help us make it through life's darkest times. There are also times when our hope is what makes us able to face the gravest of situations with grace and dignity, regardless of the outcome. What is your own personal hope-meter reading right now?

The following Bible verses can help buoy your hope. Read them out loud today.

Acts 17:27
"In Him, we live, move, and have our being."

1 Corinthians 13:13
"But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love."

2 Timothy 2:2
"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others."

Lamentations 3:21-24
"But there's one thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over). He's all I've got left."

Ecclesiastes 12:11
"The words of the wise prod us to live well. They're like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd"

Psalm 34:17-19
"Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time."

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
"So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever."

Colossians 3:14-17
"Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ - the Mesage - have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives - words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way."

1 Peter 1:3-5
"What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven - and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you'll have it all - life healed and whole."

1 Corinthians 13:12
"We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!"

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Emotional Fitness For Men

This morning we had our regular Men's Breakfast at Community of Hope. Terry Leblanc shared his story of how he became a Christ follower. Jesse and Robert cooked up some good food and even Winston got into the act bringing his world famous porridge.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the big chili cookoff coming to CoHo on Grey Cup Sunday. Danny is the reigning champ but Shanley, Chris, and Jeff among others are taking aim at the title. It reminds me of the old church bulletin blooper that read "A chili supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow." Perhaps not the kind of music we're used to enjoying at Community of Hope!

All of the frivolity aside, I love the cameraderie and honest relationships that the men of CoHo are working towards. A great resource I've recently come accross concerning men is the book and accompanying website for "Sweating From Your Eyes" by Dave Loney. The book focus's on the concept of "emotional fitness for men".

The website contains the following explanatory material on what “emotional fitness” is and why it's important for men:

"Emotional fitness is the ability to deal with life’s challenges in a positive way. It means taking control over your choices and actions, having the inner strength to be who you want to be. Becoming emotionally fit is important, because it enables you to live at peace with yourself and those around you. By becoming emotionally fit, you will be able to resolve conflicts faster and avoid the sand traps of self-condemnation, anger, and resentment."

It isn’t easy being a “real man” in today’s super fast, high pressure world and we need to rethink how that looks and feels. The principles found in Dave Loney’s wonderful new book Sweating From Your Eyes help us do that. They provide men with a road map to balance their lives both at home and at work through developing emotional strength, endurance and agility.
Dr. Bob Woodburn

If you're interested in becoming a better man I encourage you to pick up the book. If you're strapped for time try the online survey at

You won't regret the small amount of time that can get you well on your way on the journey to emotional fitness. Your wife, your friends, your kids and even coworkers will all appreciate the effort. More than that though, you'll experience the satisfaction of knowing that you're doing everything in your power to become the man God wants you to be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Becoming a Spiritually Transformed Person

What does it mean to you to be or become a spiritually transformed person? What would it take for you to become Positively Alive? Author Larry Crabb challenges us to aim for a "Spirit-alive Christianity", not a "good-enough Christianity."

"Good-enough Christianity" is marked by

(1) people believing the right things (right teaching);

(2) staying moral – staying away from visible sins (accountability); and

(3) keeping busy (opportunity).

These things, in and of themselves, are not wrong, of course, but they present a false view of the essence of Christianity. Crabb defines "Spirit-alive Christianity" by three pursuits:

(1) God-Hunger – desiring to know God consumes you;

(2) Kingdom Hunger – longing to reveal God no matter how people might treat you; and

(3) Holiness Hunger – hating sin more than its pleasures.

Crabb says something we have probably all heard before but need to consider again and again – "for us to have real community, we must get real in our small groups." We need authenticity. Group authenticity requires two important objectives:

(1) to deepen desire so that every member is desiring what only grace can provide; and

(2) to weaken deception because relational sin requires open exposure in an atmosphere where we are accepted for who we are.

This is so true. Perhaps we do not see as much transformation in our small groups as we would like to see because so many groups stay so surface-level in community, which really is only pseudo-community. When we joyfully see real transformation taking place, we often see it happening in real, dynamic, authentic, accepting, grace-giving, life-sharing, open community that looks a lot like the community in the book of Acts.

When we surrender what we really want for what God really wants, it brings us to a place where we can acknowledge our brokenness – our complete inability to be good and do good on our own. Larry Crabb states, "On one level, brokenness is simply the release of spiritual power, the Spirit doing his thing and power coming out. It only happens through brokenness, which I think is the most underrated virtue in the Christian community today. But beyond the release of power, there’s this deep understanding of our weakness."

Sharing stories is one of the best ways to come to grips with our own personal journey of brokenness. Grace can flow freely through us to others as we encounter and accept their stories, and speak truth into their lives. Grace flows to us in the same way.

The past cannot be changed but the meaning of our stories can be changed. The Bible is full of devastating stories resulting from personal sin. And yet God's grace brought new life in the midst of such pain and suffering. When Jesus went to the cross the disciples were completely and utterly crushed. Thankfully for them and for us the story didn't end there. Each of the disiples, and us included, must choose to let God bring healing from our suffering and pain. This personal change brought on by God's grace is at the heart of becoming a spiritually transformed person.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Making Room For Life

Randy Frazee, in his book "Making Room for Life", shares some great insights into the pace of everyday life that we take for granted:

"Simply put, many of us have squeezed living out of life. We don't have time to soak in life and deep friendships. We're always running around trying to get to the next event. This presents at least two major problems. First, our busy lifestyles stimulate a toxic disease called crowded loneliness. But there's an even deeper problem. In our original design we were created with a connection requirement. If this requirement is not met, we will die."

We often fool ourselves by accepting our torrid pace because:

- Everyone lives this way.

- This is a priviledged life that can only be maintained with hard work and discretionary money.

- Things will even out soon. This is just a temporary season of busyness.

Crowded Loneliness is caused by managing too many worlds, and results in:
• Overexposure
• Linear relationships
• More commuting
• Health problems

How are your relationships doing? Do you find yourself lonely, wanting to connect deeply with people despite the fact that you have many friends? Are you forever driving around in your car, your 'cocoon on wheels', aka your 'mobile penitentiary cell'?

Resolve to make the needed changes in your lifestyle before circumstances force you to. God created us with a need for community and relationships.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Live The Revolution!

The following is a manifesto from George Barna's new book, Revolution. In this book Barna challenges us to live fully for God and in doing so we'll see personal, corporate and societal changes that will astound us. Take the revolution of God's love to the streets.

I am a Revolutionary in the service of God Almighty. My life is not my own; I exist as a free person but have voluntarily become a slave to God. My role on earth is to live as a Revolutionary, committed to love, holiness, and advancing God’s kingdom. My life is not about me and my natural desires; it is all about knowing, loving, and serving God with all my heart, mind, strength, and soul. Therefore, I acknowledge the following: •

· I am a sinner, broken by my disobedience but restored by Jesus Christ in order to participate in good works that please God. I am not perfect; but Jesus Christ makes me righteous in God’s eyes, and the Holy Spirit leads me toward greater holiness. •

· God created me for His purposes. My desire as a Revolutionary is to fulfill those ends, and those ends alone. When I get out of bed each day, I do so for one purpose: to love, obey, and serve God and His people. •

· Every breath I take is a declaration of war against Satan and a commitment to opposing him. •

· God does not need me to fight His fight, but He invites me to allow Him to fight through me. It is my privilege to serve Him in that manner. I anticipate and will gladly endure various hardships as I serve God; for this is the price of participation in winning the spiritual war. •

· I do not need to save the world; Jesus Christ has already done that. I cannot transform the world, but I can allow God to use me to transform some part of it. •

· My commitment to the Revolution of faith is sealed by my complete surrender to God’s ways and His will. I will gratefully do what He asks of me simply because He loves me enough to ask. I gain my security, success, and significance through my surrender to Him. •

· I am not called to attend or join a church. I am called to be the Church. •

· Worship is not an event I attend or a process I observe; it is the lifestyle I lead. •

· I do not give away 10 percent of my resources. I surrender 100 percent. •

· God has given me natural abilities and supernatural abilities, all intended to advance His kingdom. I will deploy those abilities for that purpose. •

· The proof of my status as a Revolutionary is the love I show to God and people. •

· There is strength in relationships; I am bound at a heart and soul level to other Revolutionaries, and I will bless believers whenever I have the chance. •

· To achieve victory in the spiritual war in which we are immersed, there is nothing I must accomplish; I must simply follow Christ with everything I have. •

· There is no greater calling than to know and serve God. •

· The world is desperately seeking meaning and purpose. I will respond to that need with the Good News and meaningful service. •

· Absolute moral and spiritual truth exists, is knowable, and is intended for my life; it is accessible through the Bible. •

· I want nothing more than to hear God say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Thank you, Lord God, for loving me, for saving me, for refining me, for blessing me, and for including me in the work of your kingdom. My life is yours to use as you please. I love you.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Positively Alive!

On Sunday, October 30th, 33 year old Pastor Kyle Lake of University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas was electrocuted while performing a baptism. Below is an excerpt of his last talk. The new David Crowder CD begins with this quote: "Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die". Kyle Lake was very involved with that project. I found his words very profound and personally challenging. Pursue a sincere and vibrant faith.

"Live. And Live Well. BREATHE. Breathe in and Breathe deeply. Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now. On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.
If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool Autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE. Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.
If you bike, pedal HARD... and if you crash then crash well.
Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done-a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed. If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year old's nose, don't be disgusted if the Kleenex didn't catch it all... because soon he'll be wiping his own.
If you've recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And Grieve well. At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you're eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke. And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven.
And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life. Because-it-is-most-definitely-a-Gift."

I came that they (you) may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). (John 10:10 AMP)

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