Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's Resolutions and Change

As you contemplate the thought of changing things in your life, be it behaviors or appearances, what thoughts and feelings go through your mind?
  • I'm hopeless. I can't change.
  • I'm not that bad.
  • So-and-so is far worse than I am.
  • God must hate me and be so frustrated with me for being like this. I don't even want to think about him.
  • I should be able to stop this and be a better person.
  • This is so much a part of me that I can't imagine being different. This is who I am.
  • I'm worthless. Why does God even bother with me?
  • I can't bear looking at a list of my sins. It's overwhelming.
  • I am so sad when I think about my sin.
  • This has to change--I'll do whatever it takes.
  • I don't feel much about anything.

Resolve to make this next year one that will see you overcome your obstacles with God's help!

Psalm 65:11

You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy Birthday!

Guess who's turning 40? (I'll give you a hint, it's not the younger man on the left). Drop a comment on the blog, or an email our way, or even call and wish the birthday girl well.

She is an unbelievable mom, a great friend to many, a wonderful daughter, committed sister, a prayer warrior, woman of faith, caring doctor, always willing to lend a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear, an advocate of education and a purveyor of hope, tender-hearted, slow to anger, patient, kind, gentle, compassionate and the list really could go on for pages. On top of all that she's beautiful and my best friend!

I can truly echo the words of the blessed husband in Proverbs 31:29-31,
"There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!" Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


if the church was to fully live out the life that Paul instructs us to do in Romans 12. In this picture, as Dallas Willard outlines for us, each one of us would exhibit these characteristics:

  • Letting love be completely real
  • Abhorring what is evil
  • Clinging to what is good
  • Being devoted to one another in familial love
  • Outdoing one another in giving honor
  • Serving the Lord with ardent spirit and diligence
  • Rejoicing in hope
  • Being patient in troubles
  • Being devoted constantly to prayer
  • Contributing to the needs of the saints
  • Pursuing (running after) hospitality
  • Blessing persecutors and not cursing them
  • Rejoicing with those who rejoice and sorrowing with those in sorrow
  • Living in harmony with one another
  • Not being haughty but fitting right in with the 'lowly'
  • Not seeing themselves as wise
  • Having due regard for what everyone understands to be right
  • Being at peace with everyone, so far as it depends on them
  • Never taking revenge, but leaving that to God
  • Providing for needy enemies
  • Not being overwhelmed by evil, but returning good instead

We would turn the world on its ear! Don't you want to be a part of a church that looks like this? I sure do! Let's continue to allow God to shape CoHo into this kind of community. It would totally transform our marriages and families. And it all starts with us hearing and accepting God's grace and death on the cross on our behalf. We must revel in His acceptance of us and stand safe and solid in His kingdom. Dallas Willard

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

How To Measure The Church

"I believe that the goal of every church must be to so grow in Christ, so mature in faithfulness, so increase in love and wisdom and justice and peace that if any person was to ask you what you think heaven will be like you could someday actually say, "Do you want to know what heaven is like? Come and see. Come to my church and hang out with my friends and see the way we live, worship and serve together. Come and see." Tod Bolsinger

"Often we hear the remark that we have live in the world without being of the world. But it may be more difficult to be in the Church without being of the Church. Being of the Church means being so preoccupied by and involved in the many ecclesial affairs and clerical "ins and outs" that we are no longer focused on Jesus.

The Church then blinds us from what we came to see and deafens us to what we came to hear. Still, it is in the Church that Christ dwells, invites us to his table, and speaks to us words of eternal love. Being in the Church without being of it is a great spiritual challenge." Henri Nouwen

Whenever we look at church and talk about success, different ideas and comparisons arise. The three big measurements that get on the radar screen have been the A, B, C's: attendance, buildings, cash and systems. While these can be helpful, I've found that the best and most biblical way is to look at what the church produces- disciples.

As we are changed by the message of Jesus and live out the new reality in the midst of others, we allow God to tranform us from the inside. We become more and more like Jesus Christ himself. Our attitude will then reflect Philippians chapter 2 and our life will reveal the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

In this environment love will reign, not judgment and self-rightousness. After all, the first measurement of the church begins with ourselves: have we been growing in love and faith? Have we allowed our old self to be crucified each day? Are we clothing ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? (Colossians 3:12)

Are we reflecting the glory and love of God when we're together as a church? Do people want to pinch us in order to see if we're real because of the way we love each other?

Let's not get stuck in the workings of the church as Henri Nouwen cautions us, but get passionate about the mission of our church. Allow yourself to become a disciple and take Hope to the world!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Year in Review

When we look back in the rearviw mirror at the journey that we've been on here at CoHo in 2005, we see a lot of God's handiwork.

This past year has been one of growth and stretching; one of trust and obedience; a year of drawing closer to God and to others.

Some of the highlights are the Women's Retreat in July. Although I personally wasn't there, I hear the toenail painting was really amazing! In all seriousnes, many women commented how much closer they became after that weekend.

Not to be outdone, the Men's Retreat was a roaring success on the upper Red Deer River in July. We ate like kings, courtesy of our camp cook Brian, and had great logistics thanks to Dave B. and all of his hard work. The weather was unbelievable, and the rapids were enormous! Never have I seen such a display of heroism put on by such neophyte paddlers. If the guys had of only known how challenging the paddling was to be then they wouldn't have come!

Chris looked like Spiderman patrolling the banks of the river. Charles looked as stiff as a 2x4 on Sunday morning after the paddling. Sore Charles? My own cuts and bruises from the swim at Gooseberry Ledge kept me humble throughout the weekend.

We had a wonderful 'Welcome Back' party in September. It was great to see old faces and new ones have the opportunity to call Community of Hope their home for the first time. Early October had the Ministry Fair and in November came the first installment of Ignite!

Christmas With Style touched us deeply in November, and ther Grey Cup Party was a roaring success, except I still think we crowned the wrong champion. Sorry Robert!

There were of course so many other great happenings. The arrival from Taylor of Tubby Cow and gang, and so many other events that took place. More than just pointing to events, though, are the changed lives that dot the landscape. So many people who came back to follow Jesus after being away for a time, or reconnected with church after wandering disconnected for so long.

It has been a truly inspiring start for us as a family at CoHo. From that first visit when my kids had a blast just running around to the overwhelming generosity at Christmas of everyone, we have been so blessed to call CoHo home.

I believe that next year is going to be a great ride, too. God wants us follow Him wherever He asks, and while it is thrilling to do that it's not always comfortable. God wants us to continue to grow into being the place where others can be freed to experience life to the fullest. As my friend Paul says, a place where we can decompress from the mold of the world or the 'cookie-cutter Christianity' mold!

Roll up your sleeves and grab on because the roller coaster is headed up!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Coming Home

What a beautiful Christmes Eve service, wasn't it? A packed house, the the sight and sound of excited kids in the air, candles dancing in the darkness as we sang and celebrated the birth of Jesus together like a family. Wow.

Paul shared about 'coming home in his heart', and as that happened CoHo began to feel like his home. I too, appreciated the song that he'd written giving voice to the pilgrimmage idea of 'coming home'.

The worship in song and verse was powerful. Marcia brought Mary's struggle to life with 'Breath of Heaven'. Glen, Ryan, Daryl and Bryan lead us masterfully into the presence of God. Thanks for everyone who served to make it a special night.

On Christmas Day we gathered as a smaller family, but the spirit was no less present. From Bev V.'s great story of travelling home to their family reunion in Abottsford at Thanksgiving, to Kristie's fabulous story in song of Mary, to ending with Deborah playing Feliz Navidad, it was a great morning.

I was touched on Christmas morning when I spoke with Mona, who shared how much she loves to come to church every Sunday. It's been nearly seven years since they came to Canada as a family, and CoHo is like 'coming home' every Sunday. Yeah God!

For me that is a great metaphor of love and acceptance. Since perception is 9/10 of our reality, it's difficult to find peace when we're not at home in our own heart. Coming home has more to do with finding peace in our own heart than being in any specific geographical location. As Christ followers we know that Jesus offers the peace we so much desire. Follow the scriptures home:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!" Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. "Don't be frightened, Mary," the angel told her, "for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"
Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left.

Luke 2:26-32
The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, "Lord, now I can die in peace! As you promised me, I have seen the Savior you have given to all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!"

Isaiah 9:6-7
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the LORD Almighty will guarantee this!

John 1:14
So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father.

Years ago Brian Adams penned a tune that echoes some of these sentiments. You can almost hear the words as a prayer to God,

All those nights I've spent alone,
Uninspired, so tired and wasted.
There's lots of times I'd have telephoned,
I couldn't find the words to say,

I'm coming home,
Lord I'm coming home
I'll make it short,
I'll make it sweet,
Make it up to you and me.
I'm not the same guy I used to be,
What can I do to make you believe,

I'm coming home,
Oh I'm coming home.
I'm coming home,
Yeah I'm coming home.
Only seems like yesterday,
You and I were sayin' goodbye,
Now I'm just a few miles away
Gonna see you tonight.

I've been alone and I live the pain,
Reach for you in desperation.
I was wrong, I'll take the blame,
I need you back now I just can't wait,

I'm coming home
Yeah I'm coming home.
Coming home,
I'm just coming, coming,
Waiting it out.
I'm just coming home.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Have A Toadally Awesome Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Stories of Coming Home

Earlier this week I became acquainted with the life and death of Pastor Chuck Obremski of Kindred Community Church in Anaheim, California.

He was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2003 and died on September 18, 2005. Chuck was the chapel leader for the California Angels and other southern California sports teams throughout the years.

Chuck spoke at the Angels chapel as well as in church right up until his death, and he delivered some challenging messages. The quote below is from a parishioner in August of this year concerning Chuck's faith during the cancer,

"I can honestly say...I've never heard, "Why God?". But instead, "What?" What are you going to do through this cancer Lord? How will you use this to further your kingdom? What would you have me to do next Lord? And most importantly, "Not my will, but thine be done Lord.""

The link will take you to Chuck's last messages before his death. If you look at the list you can see that God was teaching his people how to die gracefully through Chuck's example. I listened to KM 119, A Lesson On How To Die, and was blown away by Chuck's attitude at such a difficult time.

Chuck had the heart of Mary when she said to the angel in Luke 1:38,
"I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true." And then the angel left.

To journey home is to make space in our heart in order to want what God wants, to go where He would have us go, to do what He would have us do. When we can see with God's perspective the situation we face begins to take on a new form.

"Appreciation is a powerful tool to shift perspective. Finding something to appreciate during a difficult situation quickly moves the perspective to the big picture from the little picture. " Doc Childre and Bruce Cryer

Listen carefully for the mesage of God in your life. Open your heart like Mary and say, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants."

Friday, December 23, 2005

Stories of Coming Home

Otto Scharmer was sixteen, when one day he left for school in the morning, and by the time he got home, everything had changed.

"About halfway through the day, the principal called me out of my class and told me to go home. She didn’t tell me why, but I noticed that her eyes were slightly red, as if she had been crying. I walked as quickly as I could to the train station, and from there I called home, but no one answered—the line was dead. I had no idea what might have happened, but by then, I knew it probably wasn’t good...

Long before we arrived, I saw it. Huge gray-black clouds of smoke were rising into the air. The long chestnut lined driveway that led to the farm was choked with hundreds of neighbors, firefighters, and gawkers. I jumped from the cab and ran the last half-mile.

When I reached the courtyard, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The huge 350 year old farmhouse, where my family had lived for the past two hundred years and where I’d lived all my life, was gone. As we stood there, I saw that there was nothing –absolutely nothing—left but the smoldering ruins. As the reality of what was before my eyes sank in, I felt as if somebody had removed the ground from under my feet. The place of my birth, childhood, and youth was gone. Everything that I had, was gone.

But then, as my gaze sank deeper into the flames, the flames also seemed to sink into me. I felt time slowing down. Only in that moment did I realize how attached I had been to all the things destroyed by the fire. Everything I was and had been intimately connected to, had dissolved into nothing. But no—I realized not everything was gone; there was still a tiny little element of myself that wasn’t gone… I suddenly realized that there was another whole dimension of my self that I hadn’t been aware of, a dimension that didn’t relate to my past, to the world that had just dissolved.

At that moment, time slowed to complete stillness and I felt drawn in a direction…I realized that I was not the person I thought I was. My real self was not attached to the tons of stuff now smoldering inside the ruins. I suddenly knew that I, my true Self, was still alive—more alive, more awake, more acutely present than ever before. I now realized how much all the material things that I’d become attached to over the years, without ever noticing it, had weighed me down. With everything gone, I felt released and free to encounter another part of my self, the part that drew me into the future—and into a world that I might bring into reality with my life.

The next day my grandfather arrived. He was eighty seven years old and had lived on the farm all his life. He had left the house a week before to go to the hospital for medical treatments.

Summoning all the energy he had left, my grandfather got out of the car and walked straight to where my father was still working on the cleanup. He didn’t even turn his head toward the smoking ruins of the place where he’d spent his entire life. He simply went straight up to my father, took his hands and said, “Keep your head up, my boy. Look forward.”

Turning around he walked directly back to the waiting car and left. A few days later, he died quietly.

This still moves me, my grandfather’s walking by, ignoring the ruins of his home, and focusing all his remaining life energy on shifting my father’s attention from reacting to the past, to opening up to what might emerge from the future.”

I have been moved by Otto's story since first reading of it in the book Presence: Human Purpose and The Field of The Future. I see many parallel's to the idea of 'coming home in our heart'.

Making space for Jesus Christ is to let go of the past and reach for an unknown future with an all-knowing God. Releasing temporal concerns, however strong they may have once been, is a hallmark of coming home. If we are to make space, inevitably it must occur in our own heart.

As strange as it may be, it often takes times of trial and testing to be able to cry out and release the past. Very often we have to have hit rock-bottom to be able to release control of life and the patterns that cause us such deep pain.

Do you have any 'burning farmhouses' in your life? Is God raising your awareness of His activity in the events and circumstances surrounding you this Christmas? Look forward because Jesus is in our midst.

Celebrate His arrival on Christmas Eve at 700 PM at Community of Hope.

John 1:9
The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Connect The Dots

Many people throughout the last 20 centuries have wondered how the life and death of one Galilean peasant has changed the course of human history.

I can personalize that question and wonder how it is that my own life intersected with the man from Galilee, and how radically diferent it is because of that meeting.

Our life can often appear as a series of dots on a page. The dots seem to have no real flow or connection. We often give up trying to make them form a pattern because it takes too much mental energy. And then we encounter the God-man named Jesus, and it all starts to make sense. All because of one solitary life.

Join us on Christmas Eve @ 700 PM and renew the journey with Him.

One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in still another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.

He never held an office.

He never had a family or owned a house.

He didn't go to college.

He never visited a big city.

He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness.He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him.

His friends ran away.

He was turned over to His enemies and went through a mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had on earth.

When he was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together,

Have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.
James A. Francis

"Place a little faith in a big God." Rick Warren

John 21:25
And I suppose that if all the other things Jesus did were written down, the whole world could not contain the books.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

It All Starts In The Mirror

Tracy Chapman has a great song about change. I couldn't help but think of the song and someone pondering the reality of Christmas:

What if it's true that God came and tented with us on Earth in the form of Jesus? What does that mean for me? Do I like the reflection I see in the mirror, or do I really want to reach out and change?

If you knew that you would die today,
Saw the face of God and love,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that love can break your heart
When you're down so low you cannot fall
Would you change?
Would you change?

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses? How much regret?
What chain reaction would cause an effect?
Makes you turn around,
Makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change?
Makes you change?

If you knew that you would be alone,
Knowing right, being wrong,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings up pain that can't be soothed
Would you change?
Would you change?

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses? How much regret?
What chain reaction would cause an effect?
Makes you turn around,
Makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change?
Makes you change?

Are you so upright you can't be bent?
If it comes to blows are you so sure you won't be crawling?
If not for the good, why risk falling?
Why risk falling?
If everything you think you know,
Makes your life unbearable,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you'd broken every rule and vow,
And hard times come to bring you down,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would die today,
If you saw the face of God and love,
Would you change?
Would you change?
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you saw the face of God and love
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

Romans 1:20
From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Start the Bzzz...

Several very influential books have appeared on the horizon in the past years dealing with the idea of "word-of-mouth" marketing. Among them are Seth Godin's books, including Unleashing The Ideavirus, Malcolm Gladwell's books including the The Tipping Point, and the Anatomy of Buzz by Emanuel Rosen.

The general theses of these works is that a new form of marketing and brand loyalty is forming apart from traditional mass marketing: word-of-mouth recommendations that have the potential to spread like wildfire and create intense loyalty.

Several years back Snapple literally took New York City by storm, but it all happened under the radar due to a clever word of mouth campaign. The idea is simple, get people excited about a product and help them spread the word using their own social networks. Network marketing is built upon the same principles.

I have long felt that the follower of Jesus has been encouraged by God to do much the same thing about the message of Christmas: God has come to humanity in the form of Jesus in order to give us a picture of and the power for life to the fullest. Word of mouth in this sense is called evangelism in the Bible. It simply means to spread the good news.

An evangelist is a sneezer, someone who spreads the ideavirus about Jesus into their social network. We really don't like the word evangelist because it has so many negative stereotypes. In the business sense one of the negative steroetype forms associated with evangelism is called shill marketing.

Shill marketing is where companies pay people to pretend that they're having a real conversation with you when you have no idea they're being paid. But that deception tags the brand.

You're interfering, trying to deceive, and people ask themselves, "How could they do that to me?" When people think that a Christ follower is only befriending them or talking to them in order to have a spiritual conversation, people feel used.

Jesus always encountered and accepted people where they were, but in his listening he created a pathway to share the most important news about the coming of the kingdom of God. The authenticity of Jesus Christ is our example in anything that we do by word-of-mouth, regardless of if it's a recommendation of a good movie or sharing what Jesus means to us.

I've often found it sad that Christ followers will use their social networks to sell products and make some money for themselves, but won't speak of the value of seeking God above all else with their friends. Let's change all of that and join Jesus in creating a real Bzzz this Christmas about what really matters in life.

He who has this disease called Jesus shall never be cured. Russian Proverb

See you Christmas Eve, 700 PM @ CoHo!

Romans 10:9-15
For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, "Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed." Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They all have the same Lord, who generously gives his riches to all who ask for them. For "Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas is Forgiving III: learning how to receive forgiveness

The last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at forgiveness. Last week we talked about stopping & acknowledging the hurt we’ve inflicted upon someone else; dropping everything to make it right; & then giving our gift to God after we’ve been reconciled. Nothing maters to God like relationships. I’ve likened the forgiveness idea to taking a swig of Buckley’s Cough medicine; it tastes bad but is good for you in the long run.

Sometimes it seems the only lesson in life that's harder than learning how to forgive is learning how to receive forgiveness.

Theoretically, we all learned to say, "I'm sorry" in kindergarten, but those words may not come easy to an adult.

Question: a moment of honesty: have you ever made a mistake, done something wrong, & you knew it was wrong at the time or you found out soon-thereafter that it was wrong. And yet you didn’t correct it. You bluffed your way through it, or you bullied your way through it, or you just ignored it and pretended that it never happened. Hands up.

We’ve all done it before. But we’re not happy with ourselves are we? Over time we sear our conscience, and the mistakes crop up again & again until we have a great big fall.

All the while God watches us, sad that we don’t follow the road map to reconciliation.

Much has been said about looking to Jesus as our role model for offering grace, but reconciliation can be short-circuited by a failure on the other end, the receiving end.

The "guilty" partner perhaps is unwilling to receive or sees no need to receive forgiveness. God offers forgiveness, but for us to be restored and reconciled, for the relationship to be healed, the guilty party must have the right spirit. The Bible calls it repentance. Fortunately, God gives us a model. We're to receive forgiveness the same way He tells us to receive His Love.

Hebrews 10:22
let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

2 Samuel 11 David, Bathsheba, and Uriah The Hittite
2 Samuel 12 Nathan confronts David, David turns from his wicked way

1. Accept what cannot be changed (chapter 12, vv. 22-23)

Before you apologize to someone, it helps to go before God, as the psalmist often did, and reflect on your mistake. Yes, I blew it, but why? Was I jealous? Was I afraid? Was I angry? In the safety of God's presence, you can admit your true but often repulsive motives. You then can ask for forgiveness and the strength to admit these faults to the person you hurt.

You must get past the “If Only” stage to move forward. It’s done. What’s done is done.

2. Give it up to God

We can turn 3 places:
-Inward in pity
-Outward in ‘validate me’ or numb the pain or
-Upward and see God alone as our strength and peace.

Isaiah 6:1
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.

In the year our whole world fell apart, the year my husband/wife died, the year I stepped into terrible sin, God was still on the throne.

Psalm 51
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.

For I recognize my shameful deeds--they haunt me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

For I was born a sinner--yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me--now let me rejoice.

Don't keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.

Do not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.

Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you.
You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them.
If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit.
A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise.

There seems to be very little remorse, little repentance, before God today, even in churches. That’s sad because it is only God who can deliver us from the radical evil in our heart, body and soul.

It is common for Christ-followers to talk about their ‘brokenness’, but when we listen closely we discover that they’re talking about their wounds, the things that they’ve suffered, not about the evil that is in them.

And yet genuine remorse is the first step back from our lostness in relationship, our alienation from others, be it from actions or ours. Sometimes when we’ve been hurt the other person has just beaten us to the punch.

Without our realization that we are utterly ruined and helpless before God, and without the genuine redirecting of our lives to dealing with this fact, there is no clear path to inner transformation.

“Brokenness isn’t so much about how bad we’ve been hurt but how we’ve sinned in dealing with it.” Larry Crabb

As a part of giving it to God is to make it right with others. Remember the greatest commandment we looked at last week: love God with all your heart, soul, and your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Here you have a guide for authentic restoration. It starts with attitude.

* The Humble Heart, seeking mercy, not grace.
* The Apologetic Heart, eager to change.
* The Faithful Heart, reaffirming the relationship.
* The Loving Heart, ready to work.

A. Come with a humble heart, seeking mercy, not grace. If I've wronged somebody, I deserve nothing from him/her. Certainly not grace. The only appropriate way to approach the person is the way I approach God when I'm seeking a restored relationship with Him.

Luke 18:13
"But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, `O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.

I should seek only mercy, which we know is to have the one I've offended not give me what I deserve.
Grace: getting what I don’t deserve
Justice is getting what I deserved; &
Mercy is not getting what I deserved.

"Be merciful to me, " says I'm bringing no expectations to the table. What I receive is entirely the other person’s call. I demand nothing, but humbly seek mercy.

What makes a difference in an apology is a sincere desire to mend the situation. If you only want to get yourself out of a sticky situation without owning up to what you've done, it won't work. That’s not humility. That’s arrogance!

B. Come with an apologetic heart, eager to change. So I come seeking only mercy. Can I at least hope for grace? Sure! But it rightfully hinges on my response to my own selfishness and sin. As the offender, I must have an eager heart to clean up my act.

I don't come simply appealing to the other person’s merciful nature. I come saying I'm aware of my error and am willing to walk away from it….to change my ways.

And I need to be willing to solicit help in figuring out what kind of changes need to take place. I need to let the person tell me what needs to change to improve our relationship.

The person you've hurt needs to hear from you how you plan to make things right. You're not only looking for pardon, but for restoration. The opposite of the apologetic heart is the shameless heart.

C. Come with a faithful heart, reaffirming the relationship.

Hebrews 10:23
Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

When I come to a friend requesting forgiveness, I need to say, "By the way, I want you to know that I'm committed to our relationship." I need to assure my friend that my misbehavior is a lapse in judgment, not a signal that I'm bailing on my commitment. The opposite of the faithful heart is the disloyal heart.

After enduring angry words or unkind remarks or extended insensitivity or worse, it would be perfectly normal for a person to wonder whether those offenses revealed cracks in the foundation of the relationship. You need to deal with that reaction quickly and clearly.

If the issue is marital related then you assure your spouse of your unconditional, lifelong commitment to your marriage. This is crucial to restoration when the relationship has been wounded by infidelity. Your spouse needs to look deeply into your eyes and see the reality expressed of your repentence and remorse and depth of your commitment.

D. Come with a loving heart, ready to work at the relationship.

There needs to be a recommitment to let your friend know you mean business when it comes to your relationship.

Whether you are on the giving end of grace or the one receiving it, you're engaged in one of life's most difficult assignments. When we've been wronged, forgiveness runs absolutely counter to our nature. And when we've injured someone we love, a battle rages within our heart as we try to rationalize our behavior and minimize our responsibility. The idea of coming clean and throwing ourselves at the mercy of the one we've offended, expecting nothing in return, flies in the face of our sense of pride and self-preservation. But according to God’s Plan, it's the only way to go. The opposite of the loving heart is the proud and selfish heart, only concerned with itself.

3. Focus on what is left, not lost

David messed up, Bathsheba is pregnant, Uriah is dead, and the baby dies, and years later his whole family is severely messed up. It’s worse than any soap opera!

David was bored and that lead to his situation with Bathsheba. Well later, he becomes way too passive with the sin raging in his family. Was he stuck in the past? I think so.

Our spiritual enemy wants us to look to the past, while God wants us to look to the future. As we talked about last month, we tend to remember the things we should forget and forget the things we should remember.

The past cannot be changed but the meaning of the past can be changed.

The Rose bowl is called the granddaddy of all college football games in the US. This year is USC vs. Texas. Sorry Shanley, but USC beats Texas for the title!

The most famous Rose Bowl was 1929:
In one of the odder moments in college football history, Roy “Wrong Way” Riegels fielded a fumble in the 1929 RB against Georgia Tech and ran 64 yards toward the wrong end zone before teammate Benny Lom was able to track down and convince Riegels of his error at Cal’s one yard line. The Bears’ ensuing punt was blocked and Georgia Tech recorded a safety for the difference in Cal’s 7-8 loss.

Coach says everyone who started the 1st half get in there for the 2nd. “Riegel’s you are my player. You made a mistake & now get out there & win!”

He was a) forgiven & then b) given a second chance.

Jesus means “the Lord saves”. He didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us! He’s the God of second chances.

Isaiah 43:18-19
"But forget all that--it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!

Screwed up in the past, join the club. Don’t die there!

"Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives." Mike Yaconelli

Matthew 1:5-6
Salmon was the father of Boaz (his mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (his mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (his mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).

Rahab the prostitute? The harlot? Which of you women present today would like to have a nickname like that? Any first century Jew would be saying "don't remind me about David's misake, either!"

Matthew 1:21-22
And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All of this happened to fulfill the Lord's message through his prophet

Our heart has to be ready for Jesus. There is no need to be saved if you’re not in trouble. Until we can admit our need, we’ll keep God at a distance. Is your heart ready?

Psalm 32:3-4
When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long.
Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

When was the last time you said, "I'm sorry" to God, or anyone else?

Sunday, December 18, 2005


"There are many times my life doesn't resemble much of God's desire for me." Lauren Winner

Do you ever think of your life in the same way Lauren Winner does? Many times we want more for our life but settle for less. One way we can step out of the shadows is to truly become ourselves.

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces. May Sarton

To be genuine without being inappropriate and authentic without grandstanding is to learn to live out of the person we are becoming rather than from the shadow of our substance.

Becoming more genuine and authentic is often paralled with moving from Performance to Expression.

Performance is action driven by a need to increase the size of our ego and sustain our never-ending obsession for recognition. We'll often adopt someone else's persona to aid us in the pursuit of performance.

Performance drives me to pursue action for the sole purpose of enlarging my image, whether it's through a job or relationship. Even though I know it's wrong for me, I still pursue it because it feeds the bottomless pit of my ego. Performance-driven living takes me to a selfish and ungrateful place. It leads us to lament "I am sometimes so obsessed about what could be that I lose the joy of what is."

Expression is different. Here the actions taken come from a genuine and authentic sense of self. This self reveals my originality and satisfies my desire to create. Recognition is no longer important because it means that I'm becoming everything that God wants me to become. I no longer need to grandstand and show-off; I have an audience of One and a community of support who also accepts and blesses my true self.

"The difference between performance and expression is the difference between living one's life radically centered in God versus living centered in the messages of the world. There's enormous freedom in that." Marcus Borg

Want to live a life of genuineness and creativity? Want to become all that God intended for you?
Move from performance to expression by following the words of the Prayer of St. Francis today,

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Why do you think there is so much waiting in life? We wait to be born, to talk and walk, to go to school, to get married and to advance in our careers.

We wait for our kids to be born, and then wait for them to leave. Many people even wait to die. What does all this waiting mean?

One of the keys to Advent, the season of anticipation of the coming of Jesus, is waiting. What was it like for a first century Jew living under the yoke of foreign oppression for so long? What did it feel like waiting for the savior to appear?

How about Anna, who had prayed and waited for over sixty years for the promised King to appear!

Luke 2:36-39
Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, and was very old. She was a widow, for her husband had died when they had been married only seven years. She was now eighty-four years old. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about Jesus to everyone who had been waiting for the promised King to come and deliver Jerusalem.

It can be said that God is more interested in the transformation of our lives than He is in our gifts. If we have eyes to see it, God has a purpose behind our waiting, whatever we are waiting for. No matter how irritating it is to wait, God can have something for us; a nudge, a whisper, a promise of a better way and day.

What is it you're waiting for? Are you upset that you have to wait for it?

Galatians 5:5
But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive everything promised to us who are right with God through faith.

Friday, December 16, 2005


We are, by nature, vulnerable. And it doesn't take much to reveal our vulnerability. An unwanted phone call from a doctor reveals our frailty. The painful words of a spouse's wayward intention will uncover it. There is no end to the ways we are vulnerable. A single moment can move our lives from confidence and competence to desperation and uneasiness, from calmness and certitude to pounding heart, shaking hands, and a soul crying out in pain.

These unwanted circumstances of life, which we could all reveal like scars from childhood, are not what makes us vulnerable. Rather, they simply reveal that we are vulnerable. The troubles that assail us pull back the covers of our illusions of safety and sufficiency.

So writes Dave Fleming in The Seeker's Way, a great book for anyone seeking to ignite a sense of wonder in their life. Fleming goes on to explain that the latin word for vulnerability, vulnero, means 'to wound'.

As humans, we are 'woundable'. And yet we do not fear this fact. Rather we can embrace the truth that we do not know everything; we are not in control; if we were then we would be God!

Living as a follower of Christ is to assume grace and mercy all around us. When we do not receive the grace and mercy we need from others, we are called to 'draw near to God', in order to draw from His abundance. When we are able to allow for this to happen, we no longer fear being vulnerable. We can simply allow God to be God, and surrender the throne that we have clung to for so long.

If we will not embark on the journey of vulnerability, we commit to a life of desperate isolation.

In the movie The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the Pevensie children realize that they are in deep trouble without Aslan. Near the ned of the movie Peter calls for the troops to fall back when the battle appears all but lost. Retreat is the ultimate acknowledgement of vulnerability.

What happens next you say? You'll have to see the movie in order to experience the climax, but to quote an old Narnian rhyme:

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bears his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.

James 4:8,10
Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.
When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Punched Pastor and Forgiveness

A couple of weeks back Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was punched while leading a prayer time near the end of his church service.

Watch the video below and you'll get the whole story. It is a great testimony of forgiveness in action, forgiveness 'under the microscope' if you will. Living in a peace bubble is another way to describe Billy Joe's attitude.

What would you have done if you were in Billy Joe's shoes?

Romans 12:21
Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Write Your Courage Story

Bravery and valor are arguably among the most important of character strengths. And they fall within the virtue cluster of courage. Ben Dean challenges us to examine our life and reflect on our own story of courage.

"The secret of life is this: When you hear the sound of the cannons, walk toward them."

"What's the most courageous thing you've ever done?"

Write a succinct one page story about the most courageous thing you've ever done. The time period could range from minutes to days or months to years. Be sure to share your story with a close friend or group of friends. Elements to include might be:
* The context,
* What you feared,
* Why it required your courage,
* What your experience felt and looked like (details are good)
* How you acted despite the fear,
* And be sure to give your story a clear, crisp ending.

"...too many of us have lived with the name "church" or the name "Christian," but not with deep passion as Christ's revolutionary community of faith and mission. Christianity has been little more than a belief system for us, not a way of life. It has been an institution, not a mission for our lives. It has made us nice people with confidence of heaven after this life, but not world-changing revolutionaries with hope for justice and peace in this life. It has given us the identity of religious people, not the identity of courageous rescue workers." Brian McLaren

Where is God asking you to be strong and courageous today?

Joshua 1:9
I command you--be strong and courageous!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

As I mentioned in Sunday's talk and posted yesterday on the blog, the number one relational breakdown for grown-up children is that they don't feel close to their fathers.

Dads love their kids but haven't learned how to convey that love to their grown children. The dads judge their intentions of showing love, while the kids judge the actions themselves, and feel a disconnect with their fathers.

This is a timeless tension between fathers and sons especially. They love each other deeply but they can't always figure out how to express that love towards each other. Instead they cover things up with a lot of talk about 'things'.

U2 has a song that acknowledges that sometimes fathers and sons play the role of adversary to one another, the son desperately wanting to be like or to understand his father even as he seeks to form his own identity separate from the man. And all the while the father desires to bless the son he loves so much he could burst but struggles to separate his own fears and failures from his relationship with his child.

Are you stuck in this tension right now, either as a dad or as a child? Reach a hand out across the divide.

Tough, you think you've got the stuff
You're telling me and anyone
You're hard enough

You don't have to put up a fight
You don't have to always be right
Let me take some of the punches
For you tonight

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don't have to go it alone

And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you when I don't pick up the phone
Sometimes you can't make it on your own

We fight all the time
You and I...that's alright
We're the same soul
I don't need...I don't need to hear you say
That if we weren't so alike
You'd like me a whole lot more

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don't have to go it alone

And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you when I don't pick up the phone
Sometimes you can't make it on your own

I know that we don't talk
I'm sick of it all
Can - you - hear - me - when - I -
Sing, you're the reason I sing
You're the reason why the opera is in me...

Where are we now?
I've still got to let you know
A house still doesn't make a home
Don't leave me here alone...

And it's you when I look in the mirror
And it's you that makes it hard to let go
Sometimes you can't make it on your own
Sometimes you can't make it
The best you can do is to fake it
Sometimes you can't make it on your own

Malachi 4:6
His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas is Forgiving II: initiating forgiveness to overcome past hurts and bitterness

Last week we talked about dealing with those who’ve hurt us, in ‘Relational & Family Pain’. We addressed the idea that forgiving is like taking Buckley’s Cough Syrup; it can taste really bad & be hard to do but is good for us in the long run.

This week calls for taking a little more Buckley’s as we grapple with what could be an even tougher subject, our need to initiate forgiveness in order to overcome past hurts and bitterness.

A new holiday trend is literally turning a traditional Christmas celebration upside down.

Hammacher Schlemmer, a retail company based in New York, is currently offering a unique yuletide decoration: the Upside-Down Christmas Tree. Standing at 7-feet tall and pre-lit with over 800 commercial grade lights, this technological marvel can be yours for the low price of $599.95. But why would anyone want an upside-down Christmas tree?

According to Hammacher Schlemmer's website: "The inverted shape makes it easier to see ornaments, which hang away from the dense needles," while "allowing more room for the accumulation of presents underneath."

Other retail outlets are following suit, including, which offers 5-to-7.5-foot bizarro trees from $280 to $504. Even Target is getting in on the action, with upside-down trees ranging from $299 to $499 on its website. The retail giant claims that the trees "leave more room on the floor for gifts."

Because we all know that Christmas is for giving, right?

What would it take to turn your Christmas upside down?

Acts 17:6
Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. "Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here disturbing our city," they shouted.

If we will commit ourselves to the following ideas that speak to us right out of the Bible, we will turn Christmas upside down.

Let me ask you a question. How many of you have loaned something out and it hasn’t yet been returned? Hands up for all to see.

How many of you have borrowed something that you haven’t yet returned? Notice that it’s fewer than had their hands up previously. That’s because all the jerks that don’t return things go to other churches, right?

It’s easier for us to remember when we’ve been hurt as opposed to remembering when we’ve hurt others.

We’re a self-obsessed people. I am & so are you. Character growth means that we become God-obsessed, which is to be other-obsessed, too!

Let’s examine our own heart today. Let’s take inventory and ask ourselves have we wronged somebody?

Let’s let Jesus teach us how to deal with it today.

Matthew 5:23-25
"So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. Come to terms quickly with your enemy before it is too late and you are dragged into court, handed over to an officer, and thrown in jail.

There is a real sense of urgency in what Jesus has to say. Remember the old fire drill from school? Stop, drop & roll? They still teach it today. My two oldest children have had the spiel, and when you ask them what to do they'll tell you, 'stop, drop and roll!'

Today we’ll Stop, Drop and Give. We’ll learn to initiate forgiveness and turn Christmas upside down.

1. Stop and acknowledge those you have hurt. It’s always much easier to see your own pain.

I'm sorry.
Why should I say I'm sorry?
If I hurt you,
You know you've hurt me too.

But you get lost inside your tears,
And there is nothing I can do,
'cause I get lost inside my fear
That I am nothing without you.

You're angry.
Why shouldn't you be angry?
With what we've been through,
Well I get angry too.
Eric Clapton, "Get Lost"

Matthew 5:23-24a
So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar.

Have you ever been shopping at the Mall and you see someone that you recognize but want to avoid? You quickly head down another aisle to miss running into them. Anyone done this? Hands up. Well there’s a flip side. They’ve seen you too and are planning their getaway at the same time!

We avoid people. We avoid pain and issues in our families and our past. We pretend that the issue will go away if we ignore it long enough. Alcoholism, anger issues, anorexia, and the list could go on. Those are only the A’s in the A, B, C’s! We turn and go down the other aisle in our families and friendships.

We never go to a deeper level of insight in our relationships. Our pain stunts our maturity and we literally stop growing inside. Our character fails to match up to our chronological age.

We tend to judge others by their actions.
We judge ourselves by our intentions.

If you have a book of mine I judge you because you haven’t returned it: your actions are speaking, most notably their lack.

But if I have a book of yours I always mean to return it but just keep forgetting: I judge myself by my intentions.

Dads, we love our kids, but they often don’t know it. The number one broken down relationship is that grown children don’t feel close to their dad. As a dad, we know our hearts, filled with love for our kids; we just don’t know how to express it!

We judge our intentions as dads, our kids judge our actions and we have broken relationships.

Children do suffer for their parent’s sins,

Jeremiah 32:18
You are loving and kind to thousands, though children suffer for their parents’ sins.

All you have to do to verify this is watch an episode of Dr. Phil. Dysfunctional, sinful (sometimes evil) fathers and mothers do leave emotional scars that can hamstring a child for life.

Children, however, do not pay for their parent’s sins.

2 Kings 14:6 (2 Chronicles 25:4 originally given by God in Deuteronomy 24:16)
"Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins”

You are not being held accountable for the sins of your fathers, even if you are suffering because of those sins. A person who never felt his father’s love and approval is not responsible for their father’s sin, even though it hurts.

George Barna has polled the church and discovered that the divorce rate is as bad or even worse in Evangelical churches as with regular society.

I think that’s because in the church we can often be more concerned with outward appearances than inward substance. Let’s turn that upside down and get more interested in inward realities and character and less concerned with ‘looking good’ on the outside!

We do that by acknowledging those we’ve hurt. You know the game married couples play if you’re upset with each other at bedtime. Go to bed with your backs facing each other. Don’t let any flesh touch or you lose points. Play the silent game until sarcasm leaks out. You wonder who’ll give in and lose but the truth is you’re both losing big time.

We’re judging our intentions and they’re judging our actions.

Who is it that you’ve hurt? Who is it that I’ve hurt? A husband or a wife? A son or a daughter? A brother or a sister? A business partner or a friend? A coworker or a classmate?

Do you have strained family relationships? And you’re not even sure when it happened? An important question is to ask someone that you love ‘how have I hurt you?’

In preparation for this talk I had to apologize to an old friend because the last time we were together things didn’t go so well I had to say, ‘I’m sorry’.

2. Drop everything and make it right.
Matthew 5:24
Leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person.

Why the heck can’t we deal with this? Why can’t we plough through the pain and find healing on the other side?

Pray that God would give you a chance to initiate forgiveness, to make something right. As a sidebar, if you have something against somebody and they don’t know it, keep it to yourself. If you’ve been judging someone from a distance and internalized it, don’t tell him or her. Don’t go and create a wound! Deal with it internally between you and God.

But if you have wounded someone, stop and acknowledge the hurt and then drop everything and make it right!

Proverbs 6:2-5
If you have trapped yourself by your agreement and are caught by what you said-- quick, get out of it if you possibly can! You have placed yourself at your friend's mercy. Now swallow your pride; go and beg to have your name erased. Don't put it off. Do it now! Don't rest until you do. Save yourself like a deer escaping from a hunter, like a bird fleeing from a net.

Go and get it done. Nothing else matters like relationships.

Here are 2 thoughts.
A. Do it face to face if at all possible. Don’t fax or email an apology. When Paul had an issue with Peter in Galatians it says in Galatians 2:11, “I opposed him to his face.”

Keep in mind a very simple agenda: I’m sorry that I hurt you. Period. No qualifying. “I wouldn’t have done it if you weren’t such a jerk.” And then a simple “Will you forgive me?”

B. Do your part and trust god to do the rest. You’ll get one of three responses:
- “I didn’t know! Of course we’re okay”
- “I forgive you. It hurt but our relationship is more important than me wailing on my complaint bed.”
- “Forget it! Get lost.”

You cannot control somebody else. You can control yourself. If you’re still struggling at this point God may be meaning to teach you about control issues and boundaries. But that’s another talk at a later time.

Romans 12:18
Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.

As much as it depends on YOU, live in peace. There’s that darn peace bubble floating around again. We talked about that last week. Know what’s in your control, your boundaries, and what are another person’s boundaries.

3. Give our hearts and our gifts to God.

Matthew 5:24b
Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

Give to God after working out the relationship with the person.

Romans 12:1
And so, dear brothersand sisters I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?

What matters most to God is relationships. Your relationship with God and your relationship with others.

Matthew 22:36-40
Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?" Jesus replied, "`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments."

Want to turn your Christmas upside down? Remember that Christmas is forgiving.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Jerry Jenkins has written a terrific book on how to plant and grow protective hedges around our marriage. Whereas yesterday we looked at how we build walls around our heart that keep others out and that can ultimately lead to our downfall, a hedge is different.

A hedge is designed to keep others out of our primary love relationship. A hedge keeps temptation at bay and helps us to avoid compromising situations. These are protective barriers that keep us from hurting ourselves and those that we most care about.

For a hedge to grow it needs the proper nutrients at the proper time. A large hedge starts out very small. The gardener patiently nurtures it and tends to its needs in order to grow. Our relationships are the same way. We need to know the sensitivity of our spouse, as well as our own weaknesses.

Our respective hedges may differ from couple to couple, and from individual to individual. The important thing is to not argue over who's hedge is better, but to nurture the hedge so that it provides the best buffer from temptation for yourself and your spouse.

Consider these questions:

What triggers your interest in someone of the opposite sex?

What thrills and delights you?

What is your definition of flirting? Your spouse's definition?

What protective hedges do you currently have in your marriage?

What hedges do you need to cultivate to protect your own heart?

Ask your spouse the same questions and have a no-holds barred discussion of them. Find a close friend of the same gender and have another frank discussion of hedges. Ask them for feedback on your behavior and hedges or lack thereof. Listen and heed what God says to you in these conversations.

Without a protective hedge you will be like the king in Psalm 89,

Psalm 89:40-41
You have broken down the walls protecting him and laid in ruins every fort defending him. Everyone who comes along has robbed him while his neighbors mock.

1 John 5:21
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts.

Crossway Books has a great feature where you can read Jenkins's book online. Read it and nurture those hedges today.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Why Great Men (and others!) Fall

Wayde Goodall challenges us to "Ask yourself these questions as you build a protective fence around your life":

Do I feel a sense of entitlement? – "I deserve this because of who I am or what I do."

Am I a gifted entrepreneur, but my life is out of balance?

Do I have the ability to compartmentalize my moral choices?

Can I do something wrong and then mentally put it aside while I do something right?

Do I expect my employees and peers to keep quiet when I do questionable things?

Am I a "high risk" man who loves the adrenaline rush of danger or compromise?

Am I a magnet for women? Do they love my power, money, influence, and personality?

Is my integrity in check?

Am I surrounded with "yes men" with very little accountability?

Do I compromise my conscience?

Who is my mentor? Who am I a mentor to?

Do I play by my own rules? Do I have an ethical code?

Do I handle stress in a healthy way?

What do I do with my money? Integrity includes both my physical and my financial self.

Are my moods under control?

Have I found a balance with money, sex, and power?

People rarely mess up just in an instant or make a bad choice on a spur of the moment decision. Instead there is an evolution of thought over time that leads to the situation called 'a fall'. There are hints when behavior is looked back upon. Subtle 'speed bumps' give indication of a deteriorating process that has been underway for some time, maybe even years!

Life is full of hazards, temptations and situations where we can compromise. The freedom to choose is a gift but choice can also severely damage us.

What are you choosing today? Where are your thoughts taking you?

Tomorrow we'll look at planting and nurturing protective hedges around our key relationships, especially our marriage. These hedges are practical ways to avoid compromising situations and not giving temptation a foothold.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13
If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.

But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Papa Roach, Scum Of The Earth Church and the F-Bomb

Last Sunday I read the lyrics from Papa Roach's song, Last Resort. The words are a little colorful so I edited them as I read it aloud and also when I posted the message on Monday's blog.

While I was speaking to one of our students from church on Wednesday night, he remarked, "I have that CD from Papa Roach at home. I was surprised to hear it in church. My CD isn't edited though."

He was quiet for a moment and then added, "Pretty much all teenage music has some of those (questionable) words in it."

Those events reminded me of a situation that raised some eyebrows awhile back at one of my favorite churches, Scum Of The Earth Church in Denver. A young woman asked to share a poem that she'd written for the Christmas Eve service last year. It was quite flowery in tone and the pastor wrestled with it for a time as to allow it or not.

Ultimately Mike Sares realized that he would take some heat for permitting it in the service, but that reading Lost & Found unedited was the best way to go. A caution was given just before the poem was read aloud in the service. People flocked for the exit! (Just kidding about that part!). Below is a link to the reading.

SOTE Church is a unique church to say the least. Read their own description of the church:


Their sister church is The Refuse. I like that one, too! It seems to me that we at Community of Hope could be a part of the same network, right? Listen to what Len Sweet says about a pile of refuse, otherwise known as a compost:
A compost heap- this stewing, shredding, steaming, smelly caldron of leaves, garbage, earthworms, insects, sawbugs, fungi and bacteria- is a thing of beauty. The gospel of grace is a waste aesthetic: there are treasure chests buried in trash cans. Grace moves us from buried trash to buried treasure.

How do you feel about the meshing of youth culture in the church? How do we communicate timeless truths about a God who loves us within a culture of cynicism and raw emotion that spawns Last Resort and Lost & Found?

1 Corinthians 4:11-13
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Renovation Of The Heart

On Monday construction finally started on replacing our upstairs shower that had been leaking and caused the damage below in our living room. Who would have thought that the problem we detected on August 25 would take this long to begin to be rectified.

As usual, nothing with the project has gone as planned. The demolition work quickly discovered that the shower was more like a second story bunker, full of cement all the way up the walls and held together by industrial strength chicken wire.

The crazy part is that despite all of the resources and materials used in the construction of the shower, it had a faulty design that ultimately lead to our problem. It looked good on the outside but wasn't right on the inside. Sounds like our spiritual condition when we live with a mask on.

It also reminded me that the proper materials, when not used correctly, can cause damage. I often see churches doing the same thing. They stress the right materials, as in reading the Bible and praying and the like, but when they aren't modeled out of a deep love relationship with Jesus, damage results.

Philippians 3:17
Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.

Since the two floods of July 2004, our house has been in need of and in the process of continual repair. Renovations have been ongoing. It certainly has brought new meaning to one of my favorite books, Dallas Willard's Renovation Of The Heart.

We are all a work in process, and it does no good to resist the very thing that leads to spiritual growth. God has a sense of humor, too. This last year one of my favorite movies has been Life As A House. Kevin Kline plays a man who's just been fired and discovers that he has cancer at the same time. He's divorced and lives with his estranged son for the summer in order to rebuild his rickety old house.

The house becomes a metaphor for a renovation of the heart for Kline and his son. The heart change then becomes the legacy that Kline passes down after his death. Who would have thought that I'd find another house construction dilemma to really get ahold of that truth?

So what is God renovating in your life? How is the project coming? Grab a hammer and surrender to His work in your life today!

James 1:2
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.

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.

Romans 12:12
Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Art of Living Blessedly

Ever get bogged down with life? Feel like a failure? Get stuck in a rut? Where do you turn? What do you do? Seek wisdom and redefine what success means.

Wisdom is being able to make good choices, often in spite of challenging circumstances or temptations. Ever wonder how we grow the wisdom in order to make good choices?

Learning from bad choices.

"The essence of wisdom is skill in extracting meaning from everyday experience."

If we'll learn from our bad choices we won't become an escapee from life.

It's a bonus if we can learn from the mistakes of others, getting by on their 'dumb tax', if you will. One of the reasons we study the Bible so closely is to see our own life story in the pages of scripture. If we'll adopt a learning posture as we read God's story, many bad choices can be avoided. We'll be well on our way to success when we can learn from others.

Tommy Denton teaches us that Biblical success comes when you:

1. Understand that God wants you to find true success (Josh. 1:8),

2. Learn to live under the blessing and favor of God,

3. Walk in fear and reverence for God,

4. Become desperately dependent on the presence of God,

5. Acquire wisdom by studying and devouring the Word of God.

A Prayer for True Success
God, though our hearts wander and are distracted by many things, we want to revere and fear You. Will You give us the grace to think rightly about who You are and what You have done? Help us to love Your Word the Bible and to absorb its truth. Help us to depend on You for every moment and every breath, knowing that it is only in You we can find true success. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

How Loving Are You?

Can love be measured? Ted Haggard thinks so. In his book Foolish No More he asks, "On a scale of 1-10, how loving have you been towards the following people in your life?"
  • spouse
  • parents
  • extended family
  • close friends
  • school or work associates
  • neighbors
  • children
  • fellow Christ followers
  • pastor

You can measure your 'loving quotient', and then you can think about how to improve it. More importantly than that, you can pray about how to increase it by being a conduit of God's grace for others.

Can you imagine what raising the level of love in your home, at church, or at work could mean?

Perhaps it could save a mariage and avoid the ugly scars of divorce.

Perhaps a son or daughter would grow up knowing that they have the blessing of their parents, and wouldn't need to seek it in other forms.

Perhaps someone who would never darken the doors of a church would begin to wonder about God's love because of you.

The person you'd find yourself becoming would undoubtedly be more peaceful and happy, which may be a mini-miracle for you. Kind of like rocks becoming seeds. And these seeds that may start out very small can grow mighty Redwoods. And the shade of those Redwoods nurtures other life.

Take the same list above and measure from 1-10 on how hard or easy it is for you to say "I love you" to them and really mean it. What is God saying to you through these exercises?

1 Thessalonians 3:12

And may the Lord make your love grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love overflows toward you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas Is Forgiving Part 1: Relational and Family Pain

"Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future." Gail Lumet Buckley

Christmas is an awesome time: the snow, skating, skiing & tobogganing. Things like Bright Lights, Candy Cane Lane, Christmas lights in the neighborhood, and kids eyes as big as saucers. The giving and receiving of presents.

Christmas is for giving, right?

But for some of us Christmas holds some bad memories. There are painful shadows in the closet of Decembers past. Instead of loving the holiday season we try just to tolerate and survive it.

If you want to introduce some pain to Christmas try these things:

a) Add a divorce or two to create scheduling difficulties that are out of this world. Then there are the new relational headaches, the heartaches and bitterness whenever we get together represented by who is or who isn’t present. It can be like taking a beautiful family portrait and ripping someone out of it, then placing it back together and pretending the picture was taken this way in the first place.

b) Someone dies an untimely death. There becomes an apparent void, like a missing chair because someone who’s supposed to be a part of the family celebrations isn’t there this year. And they’re not coming back. And that really hurts.

c) Harsh words, spoken throughout the year, burst forth like a volcano. Or they simmer under the surface while the careful geophysicist’s monitor the relational stress & move parties away from each other, lest there should be an eruption.

It’s easy to see why some just want to get through the holiday in one piece. Surviving becomes the goal.

Some people choose to survive in very harsh ways.

Last Resort by Papa Roach

Cut my life into pieces
This is my last resort
No breathing
Don’t give a bleep if I cut my arm bleeding

This is my last resort
Cut my life into pieces
I’ve reached my last resort
No breathing
Don’t give a bleep if I cut my arm bleeding

Do you even care if I die bleeding
Would it be wrong
Would it be right
If I took my life tonight
Chances are that I might
Mutilation outta sight
And I’m contemplating suicide

Cuz I’m losing my sight
Losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I’m fine
Losing my sight
Losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I’m fine

I never realized I was spread too thin
Till it was too late
And I was empty within
Feeding on chaos
And living in sin
Downward spiral where do I begin

It all started when I lost my mother
No love for myself
And no love for another
Searching to find a love up on a higher level
Finding nothing but questions and devils
Cuz I’m losing my sight
Losing my mind

Wish somebody would tell me in fine
Losing my sight
Losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I’m fine
Nothing’s alright
Nothing is fine

I’m running and I’m crying
I’m crying
I’m crying
I’m crying
I’m crying
I can’t go on living this way

Cut my life into pieces
This is my last resort
No breathing
Don’t give a bleep if I cut my arm bleeding

Would it be wrong
Would it be right
If I took my life tonight
Chances are that I might
Mutilation outta sight
And I’m contemplating suicide

Cuz I’m losing my sight
Losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I’m fine
Losing my sight
Losing my mind
Wish somebody would tell me I’m fine
Nothing’s alright
Nothing is fine

I’m running and I’m crying
I can’t go on living this way
Can’t go on
Living this way
Nothing’s alright

I could tell stories of some dysfunctional Christmas’s from the past. As little kid I drew a picture indicating that Jesus was crucified because they wouldn’t let him exchange presents. As I grew older it was an expectation that we’d have brunch after opening presents, my brothers would go downstairs and drink while my step dad retreated to the TV room to watch football. I usually followed the TV route. It was a lot less chaotic. After awhile my brothers would get out of hand and have to leave. Sometimes I was called later in the evening to drive one of them home because they were in a bad place.

Some of you are just hoping for a cordial Christmas. Let’s just get along until we can get away from each other and start the quarrelling, gossiping, sniping, stealing and whatever else might be going on when we’re not together.

Today we’ll look at an Old Testament story of a brutal cycle of pain. Joseph from the book of Genesis. As a youngster Joseph was a little cocky, perhaps arrogant, favored by his dad and always pontificating on how his brothers would serve him in the later years. The resentment built until the brothers wanted to kill him. Instead of following through with that they chose to sell him into slavery instead, from their standpoint he was as good as dead.

Sound like any family stories here? Joseph ended up going to Egypt where he did well but kept getting into more and more trouble, always being unjustly dealt with. Potipher’s wife accused him of making a pass at her and it landed Joseph in prison. He had done nothing wrong. Instead of playing the victim he made the most of a tough situation. Even though his life outwardly had spun out of control, inwardly God had been molding and shaping Joseph.

Genesis 45:1-3
Joseph could stand it no longer. "Out, all of you!" he cried out to his attendants. He wanted to be alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept aloud. His sobs could be heard throughout the palace, and the news was quickly carried to Pharaoh's palace. "I am Joseph!" he said to his brothers. "Is my father still alive?" But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.

Joseph comes face to face with his brothers after all of those years and look at his reaction. Those that we love the most, those that love us the most; they’re the one that inflict the worst pain upon us.

Be honest. Let’s look at our relationships. Is there an estranged dad in your past? A mom? A sister or brother? Former business partner? Old friend?

Hurt people hurt people.

Instead of breaking the chain we recycle the pain.

Ever watch young kids fight? Just come over to our house! Seriously our kids are great and love each other but they also have their battles. First the voices are raised, then the scratching starts, the wrestling & slugging is never too far behind. If someone is caught doing something wrong they tell on the other sibling because they’re not going down alone!

Some families behave the same way as kids.

Let’s look at three choices that we can make. Notice that I said ‘choices’ and not ‘feelings’. Three choices.

You’re never going to wake up and feel happy towards your sister who stole your boyfriend. Or your dad who pushed you. Or the husband that feels emotionally distant. You’re more than likely to one-day wake up emotionally spent or in a rage and will leave never to come back.

1. Choose to pray

For those who have hurt you. Jesus is the greatest example Herod tried to kill him as a baby. He wasn’t honored as he grew up. Ultimately he’s betrayed by one of his 12 friends. Leading to his crucifixion one of his 3 best friends denies him. Pontius Pilate says ’nothing wrong with him’ and yet lets him be killed because of his own weak backbone. Remember the brutal scene from the Passion? How was he treated at the end? What did Jesus do? He prayed

Luke 23:34a
"Father, forgive these people, because they don't know what they are doing."

Father forgive them. So we do the same. What do we pray for?

Three things:
Pray for God to heal their hurts.
Pray for God to forgive them.
Pray for God to bless them.

It’s difficult to bless them but it is biblical. Your prayers may not affect the person but they’ll for sure affect you!

You can’t pray for someone else without God doing a work in your heart. Husbands, pray for your wives. Wives, pray for your husbands. Young people pray for your parents.

Jesus did not shout at them, "I forgive you." He prayed, Father you forgive them.

Luke 6:28
Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.

If we wait for those who have hurt us to repent first, we will almost certainly wait for a long, long time. We also give ourselves a justification to stay bitter the rest of our lives.

The first thing is to choose to pray. The second thing is more difficult to do. We’re going to

2. Choose to forgive

Invite someone up to have a drink of Buckley’s cough syrup

The challenge of forgiveness is the emotional equivalent of “Everest without oxygen, Wimbledon without a racket, La Scala without a score.” Stephanie Dowrick

Matthew 6:14-15
"If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Forgiveness is not optional for Christ followers. If you’re like most people you’ll forgive the first time but the next time it happens you start to write that person off.

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to him and asked, "Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No!" Jesus replied, "seventy times seven!

You can almost hear the spiritual pride in Peter when he says ‘forgive someone seven times’. Jesus says ‘uh-uh'. Unlimited forgiveness.

It is curious how some of us read the Gospels over and again and miss this. We may get the theology, but not the graciousness that Jesus taught and exemplified.

Who is it in your life that you haven’t forgiven?

As a church we recognize that many who are here at CoHo have been ‘de-churched’ or ‘over-churched’ in the past. Usually that involves the pain of abandonment and betrayal.

And almost always there are people who are involved in the root cause of that situation.

Who is it in your life that you haven’t forgiven?

How in the world do you forgive?

I focus on how God has forgiven me. Focus on how God has forgiven you.

Colossians 3:13
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.

Forgive as the Lord forgave us.

Broken marriages are as common in the church as outside of it. There is a lack of forgiveness. Some of you may be living in a cordial marriage, perhaps for the kids sake. You say to yourselves, “Just get along with each other, but for God’s sake I can’t forgive that man. Or woman.”

We make a choice. We choose to pray. We choose to forgive and then , as crazy as it sounds, we

3. Choose to bless

We choose to bless those who hurt us.

Romans 12:19-21
Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you." Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Look at what Jesus said in Luke 6:27-28
"But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.

We choose to pray, forgive and then bless. Now some of you may think that’s easy for you in your pastor bubble. Let me assure you I live in the same world as everyone else. I may not have faced the same story, but the setting is the same. It’s no easier for me than you.

Chances are high that those who hurt us don't even think they have done anything wrong. Nine out of ten people that I have to forgive don't think they have done anything wrong to me (which suggests that I, too, have probably hurt people without knowing).

When he showed up after his resurrection behind their closed doors, he did not say to them, "How could you do this to me?" He merely said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). He affirmed them as if nothing had happened; he let them save face.

What’s on the other side of forgiveness?

Most of us need to deal with whatever is on our plate. Cry. Let it out. Pour it out to God like we talked about last week. Mourn the lost years because they truly are lost. Grab the moment because Christmas is Forgiving!

What was on the other side of forgiveness for Joseph?

The birth of a nation.

Genesis 45:1, 14-15
Joseph could stand it no longer. "Out, all of you!" he cried out to his attendants. He wanted to be alone with his brothers when he told them who he was.
Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin also began to weep. Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and then they began talking freely with him.

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.

The signs to know you have totally forgiven can be summarized this way:
a. You do not tell anybody what they did to you (this would be trying to punish the one who hurt you);
b. You do not try to intimidate them;
c. You do not let them feel guilty;
d. You let them save face;
e. You accept the matter of total forgiveness as a "life sentence"—you have to keep doing it, indefinitely;
f. You pray that they will be blessed and let off the hook.

What’s on the other side of forgiveness for you? For us as a church?

For Joseph it was a miracle. I pray the same for you.