Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Drive A Legacy

Our staple vehicle over the last 9 years is an awesome Subaru. While the 165 horsepower boxer engine lacks power, the all-wheel drive more than makes up for that shortfall. I think every car in Canada should have AWD. There is a second feature that I think every Canadian car ought to have-heated seats! Nothing like that on a cold Canadian morning.

What I like best about our car is it's model name- the Legacy. I'm driving a Legacy. There is some deep meaning to that. Every day I get up and begin a day full of tasks, relationships and all of the other stuff that creates a Legacy.

Each day I also drive my Legacy a little bit further to the grave. What will my Legacy be when its all said and done? I want to finish well-investing in my family, especially my three children. I want to leave people further along the journey of faith than they were when I first met them. I want to know that I'm giving God my best each and every day. I want to feel his pleasure in who I am.

You can drive your life in any direction you want to, but you can only drive it once. I'm driving my Legacy after God. What are you driving, and which way are you going?

There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make makes you.

2 Timothy 2:2
Paul told Timothy, "Pass on what you have heard from me to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others."

how careful then I ought to be
a little one now follows me
i do not dare to go astray
for fear she'll go the self same way
i cannot once escape her eyes
for what she sees me do - she tries
she thinks that i am good and fine
believes in every word of mine.
i must remember as i go
through summers sun and winters snow
i'm building for the years to be

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Blogger Fear

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Peacemaking

Church is about participating in what God is doing in the present, about being his Body, spreading the kingdom, allowing him to heal us, transform us, and use us to his glory.

At Community of Hope we are a family committed to each other and to Jesus, the Head of our household. When we assemble for worship, the message is spoken, his Spirit is present, and his people are restored, healed, and gradually conformed into his likeness. We invite you to participate, test the spirits, and allow the Holy Spirit to form your life into the Jesus Habits.

Last Monday Anola ‘forced’ me to go through old clothes to give away: there was a sweater from Tim for kayaking 18 years ago; my old favorite mustard color sweater; that brought back memories of my green shoes-long ago gone; what about my clip on tie from Co-Op twenty two years ago, and the list could go on-it did, trust me! I can’t throw old clothes away. Here are my swim trunks for the past 13 years & they just got a rip last Thursday!

That’s the way of change in our life. Throw open the long closed closets and obscure areas of life, take out the ‘old ways and habits’ and begin the process of unlearning them, and then clothing ourselves in new ways: The Jesus Habits. Giving up olds habits doesn't mean we lose!

We are the only animals that can peer deeply into our futures—the only animal that can travel mentally through time, preview a variety of futures, and choose the one that will bring us the greatest pleasure, the least pain or the greatest meaning. This is a remarkable adaptation—which, incidentally, is directly tied to the evolution of the frontal lobe—because it means that we can learn from mistakes before we make them. We don't have to actually have gallbladder surgery or lounge around on a Caribbean beach to know that one of these is better than another. We may do this better than any other animal, but our research suggests that we don't do it perfectly. Our ability to simulate the future and to forecast our hedonic reactions to it is seriously flawed, and that people are rarely as happy or unhappy as they expect to be. Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist

The story of peacemaking and reconciliation is the centerpiece throughout the entire Bible. Peacemaking is the dramatic plotline in all of creation. How we treat one another matters because we are constructing and building an authentic church--a church where reconciliation shines throughout the whole community! Our goal is that people will look at our church and say that it is a lighthouse of reconciliation.

The Jesus Habits narrow the distance between you and Jesus.

They also narrow the distance between the person you are and the person God desires you to be.

That can make us squirm a little bit because it probably requires some changes in our life-style and we get a little nervous when we realize we need to make some changes in our life
"Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?
Mary Manin Morrissey

Leviticus 19:18
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Peacemakers don’t seek revenge or bear a grudge.

A Dilbert cartoon read: “To err is human; to forgive is not our policy.”

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The fighting is over! There is no more hostility! We have peace with God!

I wish I could say that were true in churches today: ‘The fighting is over!’ we can, however, make it true for Community of Hope. There will still be hurts and wounds that come our way, but we can learn from Henry Cloud, who says,

“I cannot blame them for what I do with what they do to me. I am responsible for how I respond.” Henry Cloud

Unresolved conflict in churches plagues us like landmines plague so many countries around the world. Just as millions of young boys and girls can no longer walk in certain fields (and many are maimed for life from exploding devices), millions of Christians have to walk cautiously in certain 'areas' of their churches because conflicts are ready to explode. Apart from prayerful, skilled, biblical peacemaking, those conflicts destroy unity, families, and fellowship. We are literally torn apart by our unbiblical responses to conflict.

This isn’t new; just read the standard New Testament sins lists and you will not find many internal sins included. Instead, we are constantly warned against relational sins like gossip, factions, divisions, malice, and bitterness.

How we treat one another matters because the reputation of Christ and His Church is at stake. It's not enough to just have the 'tool' of peacemaking at our disposal to fix a 'problem' or bring a 'solution.' Jesus is calling us not merely to make peace but to be peacemakers-to live in peace. That’s to have a flow of peace from our heart that goes wherever we go.

We don't just make peace here and there. We move and have the habit of being peacemakers. We don't just 'discipline' or 'disciple' for corrective purposes. We respond to all of our relational issues in a biblically faithful manner because, in so doing, we are constructing and building an authentic church--a church were reconciliation resounds throughout the whole community! Our goal is that people in our communities will look at CoHo and say that there is a lighthouse of reconciliation.

You might ask ‘Why?’ ‘ Why should we be so committed to forming peacemaking habits? What are the biblical, redemptive, and historical justifications for that goal?

Open your Bible and look at Genesis 1 and 2 and then flip to Revelation chapters 21 and 22 ... we start with creation and end with reconciliation, and everything in between is about conflict. Every time you pick up a Bible, look for the plotline. It is on every page: creation, conflict, and reconciliation. It's not a 'peacemaking verse' here and there. Peacemaking and reconciliation move and drive the story of the one true God who is a covenant-making God--a reconciling God.

We usually think, though, that we pretty much have it all figured out, and so we make judgment calls on everything from political policy to personal motives. We never pause to consider the limits on our perspective; we just go right on in, where angels fear to tread.

But to walk humbly with God as a peacemaker means realizing that we don't know everything and we don't even want to; figuring everything out means the story is over. It also means approaching each living, breathing soul in our lives with wonder, for they have been fashioned by the hands of God himself. It means stopping and looking and listening, but maybe listening even more than looking.

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Trouble teaches us to trust God.

Romans 5:3-4
…troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.”

That’s a hard lesson to learn. And we are summarily tested on our knowledge and application of its truth in our life each and every day!

John 14.27
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Through Jesus you can also experience genuine peace within yourself. Internal peace is a sense of wholeness, contentment, tranquility, order, rest, and security. Although nearly everyone longs for this kind of peace, it eludes most people. Genuine internal peace cannot be directly obtained through our own efforts; it is a gift that God gives only to those who believe in Jesus and follow his ways and habits. In other words, internal peace is a by-product internal heart change.

When it comes to peace, who's definition are you using?
The world defines peace as the absence of conflict. No more war, no more injustice, no more _____ -- you fill in the blank. Jesus defines peace as the presence of the Holy Spirit in the middle of wars and rumors of wars.

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love... perfect love drives out fear...

That truth helps us realize that every problem has a purpose! A transforming purpose in our own lives and an opportunity to bring the kingdom of God to earth. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, how does it go?

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. (Peacemakers)
Save us from the time of trial,
And deliver us from evil.
[For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
Now and forever. Amen.]

Why do some men and women choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow?

One of the reasons we engage in the manufacture of sorrow is that we’ve come to a place where we have a hard time trusting.

"A good education is not so much one which prepares a man to succeed in the world, as one which enables him to sustain a failure." Bernard Iddings Bell, Chaplain, University of Chicago

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that along with forgiving, enduring, and bearing all things, love believes all things. We must reconcile the scriptural charge to believe all things with the fact that it is not always easy to do. If we believe it is possible for us to choose to love, or be kind, or be patient, then we must also believe we can choose to trust. But the gap between what we expect of people and what they actually deliver makes it hard to trust. We can either fill that gap with trust or with suspicion.

Choose to trust.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

The person who has more to hide has more to fear. Peacemakers have learned to trust, or better yet are ‘learning to trust’. Perfect love, God, casts out all fear. ‘Fear, you’re not welcome here anymore-out you go!’

“The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” Rick Warren

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7

The command: No exceptions!

These Jesus Habits lead to the fulfillment of the image of God in us: some commentators & theologians throughout the years have postulated that our obedience to Jesus Christ leads to our heart transformation that fulfills the image of God in us. “in order to bring praise to God”.

Look at your circle of concern and use your circle of influence for peacemaking. 'I can be more trusting...' 'I can be a better employee...' 'I can be a peacemaker...'

"We see that he leaves us in a world of sin to be tried, tested, belabored by troubles that threaten to crush us--in order that we may glorify him by our patience under suffering, and in order that he may display the riches of his grace and call forth new praises from us as he constantly upholds and delivers us." J.I. Packer

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Words Written In Red...


Old man Wrigley lived in that white house
Down the street where I grew up
Momma used to send me over with things
We struck a friendship up
I spent a few long summers out on his old porch swing
Says he was in the war when in the navy
Lost his wife, lost his baby
Broke down and asked him one time
How ya keep from going crazy
He said I'll see my wife and son in just a little while
I asked him what he meant
He looked at me and smiled, said

I raise my hands, bow my head
I'm finding more and more truth in the words written in red
They tell me that there's more to life than just what I can see
Oh I believe

Few years later I was off at college
Talkin' to mom on the phone one night
Getting all caught up on the gossip
The ins and outs of the small town life
She said oh by the way son, old man Wrigley's died.
Later on that night, I laid there thinkin' back
Thought 'bout a couple long-lost summers
I didn't know whether to cry or laugh
If there was ever anybody deserved a ticket to the other side
It'd be that sweet old man who looked me in the eye, said

I raise my hands, bow my head
I'm finding more and more truth in the words written in red
They tell me that there's more to life than just what I can see

I can't quote the book
The chapter or the verse
You can't tell me it all ends
In a slow ride in a hearse
You know I'm more and more convinced
The longer that I live
Yeah, this can't be
No, this can't be
No, this can't be all there is

When I raise my hands, bow my head
I'm finding more and more truth in the words written in red
They tell me that there's more to life than just what I can see

I believe
Oh, I
I believe
I believe
I believe
I believe
I believe Brooks and Dunn

Do You?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I Asked For...

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey...

I asked for health, that I might do greater things
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things....

I asked for riches that I might be happy
I was given poverty, that I might be wise...

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God...

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life
I was given life that I might enjoy all things...

I got nothing that I asked for - but everything I had hoped for
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered, I am, among all, most richly blessed!

What an upside down Kingdom, Jesus Habits kind of prayer. Bob Stenhouse

Friday, May 26, 2006


I first heard the following words in a movie theatre in 1987 while watching The Mission. I told my pastor at the time that I wanted to go back and see the movie again, this time with a pad and pencil to write down "the most amazing words about love I'd ever heard."

He gracefully told me that it wouldn't be necessary to do that; those words were found in the Bible in a section called 1 Corinthians 13. That was on a Saturday night and the following Monday I bought my first Bible at The Bible Bookstore- a very large Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Soak up these words today...

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way.

Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.

Love is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love will last forever, but prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will all disappear.

Thank You, God, for teaching me that now we know only a little, and even the gift of prophecy reveals little, especially without love!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Between Denial and Despair

Many people today swing back and forth between denial and despair.

Events along the journey of life leaves scars and wounds and questions like, "Why did God allow this to happen? If God is so good, couldn’t this event that has caused me so much pain have been stopped?"

These questions and troubling events in our lives force us to choose between a life of debilitaing fear and suspicion or a life of trust.

Authentic trust in God often takes time to develop and people need faithful friends to walk that difficult road with them. One of the first steps for you on the journey to authentic trust is to share your spiritual struggles in a safe environment among firends who believe in you. In allowing others to share their painful journey with us we help create an environment for healing.

Is God asking you to open up to some trusted friends? Are you able to create some listening space for a person in pain?

We have the opportunity to offer the hope of Christ and his reorienting power that helps us move out of the paralysis caused by denial and despair and walk—or sometimes crawl—in the full and abundant life God promises.

Lamentations 3:19-23
The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

To Rescue Me
When I can’t hold on much longer
To a rope weathered and frayed
When I can’t find hope and I’m losing faith

The savior reaches in
To still the howling wind
To calm the storm within
To rescue me

When I think I might surrender
To the vengeance of the tide
When I’m lost in sin and I don’t see light

The savior reaches low
Under the torrid flow
To save my sinking soul
And rescue me

The savior calls my name
When I feel most ashamed
He comes to take the blame
And rescue me
To rescue me

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Listen To The Quiet

You'll find it located between the noise in your head and the noise in your life and right now it might be screaming out to to be heard.

Close your eyes and breathe slowly and after a little bit you’ll usually begin to hear it.

That peace you become awakened to is what most people look for all of their life.

Peace emanates from our heart and not from our external surroundings.

What are you doing to cultivate that peace within your own heart?

Romans 14:17
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Arvind Singhal, who watched others fruitlessly fight the devastating impact of the caste system in India, became inspired by the work of Everett Rogers to create a radio soap opera as a means of changing long-held norms.

Every week people would tune in to the adventures of a handful of engaging characters that faced many of the same problems the listeners themselves faced every day. However, the writers behind these radio programs were interested in more than mere ratings even though their ratings were already high. They wanted to encourage people to talk about the debilitating caste system. It was high time it was abolished, but as long as there were people who had been cast as "untouchables," and as long as untouchables were largely a taboo topic, the system would continue.

Nobody preached anything on the show; the characters simply lived through problems the writers wanted to address. At the end of each program a renowned figure from the region would recap the events by asking pointed questions such as, "What will they do next?" "How should they handle this tough problem?"

After each episode, people would gather at work or at a pub or around a well and talk about what was taking place in the show. Everyone wanted to discuss the latest goings-on. The impact was nothing short of sensational. Singhal tells of a family who routinely listened to the show and was inspired to make a bold move:

The oldest daughter from the family was about to be married. They decided to use the wedding celebration (which lasts for several days) to take a stand on the caste system by inviting untouchables.

To avoid a total family scandal, they encouraged their unlikely guests to clean up for the celebration and even bought them some new but inexpensive clothing. The first day of the celebration, the father, surrounded by friends and family, asked one of his unexpected guests to bring him a glass of water. (These are people who are not allowed to cast a shadow on others.) The guest did so and the father then "ingested" something poured by an untouchable.

The server then offered water to the rest of the guests. Several took it, others said they weren't thirsty, and still others got up and left. As the celebration continued, the family took more and more steps to involve these "untouchables" until they achieved a more widespread acceptance. Multiply these powerful events by thousands of people across hundreds of communities and eventually values change. In fact, this radio drama alone eliminated many of the oppressive practices in the region in less than a year.

Why did these creative change agents succeed where others had failed? Because they found a way to get thousands of people to openly talk about what previously had been an un-discussable issue.

At the heart this effort is a key principle: "You can't change something you can't talk about".

If you want to see long-held but debilitating traditions go away, you have to find a way to hold what had once been "un-discussable" conversations.

Is there anything in your life or family that is un-discussable? How about at your work or school? What is God asking you to do about that?

Acts 4:13-20
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.

"What should we do with these men?" they asked each other. "We can't deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus' name again."

So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, "Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard."

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Table

From an email last week, "Last Sunday, Mothers Day, there was an insert in our bulletin listing 31 things we could pray for our children. After church, I happened to bump into someone I hadn't seen for a while at Tim Horton's.... she shared with me some of her concerns about her grown up children and her grandchildren.... well, I shared with her the list of prayers and ended up giving it to her..."

From another email last week concerning the DaVinci Code presentation we'll have on Saturday, May 27 @ CoHo,
"Hi Stew, thank you for the invitation. I don't know the first thing about the Davinci Code, other than it is a fictional book creating quite the spiritual-stir around the globe. Personally, my faith is unwavering. I could care less about their facts - the only fact I need lives within my heart & spirit. Circumstantial fluff conjured up by the media is hardly enough to sway my faith. However, I think it's great that you are offering this, as I am sure there are individuals who could be troubled with questions, and even doubts. "

I love what God is doing in our midst. This week in The Jesus Habits we look at 'Table'.

Jesus used the metaphor of a table to create an inclusive society as opposed to the divisive & separate nature of the Pharisees.

Cultivating the Habits of Jesus is important for our spiritual and emotional well being. There is a song called Who I Am Hates Who I've Been,

I watched the proverbial sunrise
Coming up over the Pacific and
You might think I'm losing my mind,
But I will shy away from the specifics...
'cause I don't want you to know where I am
'cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life.

Stop right there. That's exactly where I lost it.
See that line. Well I never should have crossed it.
Stop right there. Well I never should have said
That it's the very moment that
I wish that I could take back.

I'm sorry for the person I became.
I'm sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again
'cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

I talk to absolutely no one.
Couldn't keep to myself enough.
And the things bottled inside have finally begun
To create so much pressure that I'll soon blow up.
I heard the reverberating footsteps
Synching up to the beating of my heart,

And I was positive that unless I got myself together,
I would watch me fall apart.

And I can't let that happen again
'cause then you'll see my heart
In the saddest state it's ever been.
This is no place to try and live my life.
Who I am hates who I've been
And who I am will take the second chance you gave me.
Who I am hates who I've been
'cause who I've been only ever made me...
So sorry for the person I became.
So sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I'm ready to be sure I never become that way again'
cause who I am hates who I've been.
Who I am hates who I've been.

"What will you do to mend past failures? How will you turn about the negative events that you caused in the first place?"

For us, we have God's grace embodied in each other... we don't have to hate who we've been because we're becoming more like Jesus.

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. Doug Larson

Jesus wants to 'domesticate' us weeds to His ways and Habits and turn our life into the most radical expression of living possible!

Luke 6:47-49
"I will show you what it's like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn't obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins."

That passage is all about Habit formation to the way of Jesus. When we do things our own way we're just like weeds.

Tony Campolo said that when his wife, Peggy, was at home full-time with their children and someone would ask, "And what is it that you do, my dear?" she would respond, "I am socializing two Homo sapiens into the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the kind of eschatological utopia that God willed from the beginning of creation."Then Peggy would ask the other person, "And what do you do?"

Some of our contexts differ from each other, but our essential need to form Jesus Habits is the same. We do this in our homes, in our relationships, at school and at work. We commonly do this around tables.

Tables create societies-they can also divide societies. Jesus used the image of a table to create an inclusive society. He wanted to include people, especially the lame, the sick, those that needed a doctor, while the Pharisees wanted to uphold purity laws & exclude people.
At the time of Jesus Jews were to eat with those who were pure. You were also to eat kosher foods. There were many injunctions in the Old Testament & followed up by other practices detailing how to stay ‘pure’.

What the religious authorities said about Jesus illuminated some of his table manners: The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, `He's a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!' Matthew 11:19

What else was Jesus doing for table manners?

Luke 2:14-17
As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector's booth. "Follow me and be my disciple," Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus' followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum?" When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

For Jesus the table was to be a place of fellowship and inclusion and acceptance. It was a place to practice the greatest commandment, God For Dummies if you will, ‘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.'

What Jesus was showing us, the Pharisees were rejecting as a practice, a habit that indicates our heart condition.

The Pharisees said that ‘you can eat with me if you are clean.’ If you are unclean, take a bath and come back tomorrow.

Jesus says that clean or unclean, you can eat with me, & I will make you clean. Instead of his table requiring purity, his table creates purity. Jesus chose the table to be a place of grace.

When the table becomes a place of grace, it begins to act: it heals, it dreams, and it hopes.

The table heals those who are spiritually and socially sick, because Jesus can heal. At the table a person can find God’s love and the love of others.

The table enables dreams because it shows us a new vision for who we are & what we are to become. When we sit at the table we see a new and living society, the kingdom of God at work. The table is a boundary breaker and a grace giver- a place where we can see what God can do when people are restored to fellowship with our father God, Abba. The table is a place where doors are open, invitations are offered and people are included. It creates a society, a counter cultural place-an upside down kingdom.

The table is also a place of hope because it anticipates what is yet to come. Sharing the table is a foretaste of what lies ahead in the kingdom: ethnic boundaries won’t matter- no Jew nor Greek, no slave or free, no male or female. Those who sit with Jesus at the table are getting a little taste of paradise.

Is there room at the table for me? YES!

We welcome to the table everyone, whether you have sexuality issues, need career guidance, lack purpose, struggle with your health, suffer from addictions, are experiencing marital or family problems, are broken and have no hope. Especially if you’re broken and have no hope.

Come to the table…

The Table assumes and requires face-to-face interaction and communication, whether in NT times or an Internet age. Three things marked the early Christ followers expression of the table: It was centered in Jesus Christ—believers met together as Jesus' followers, constituting his body; this fellowship was a gift of the Holy Spirit; and the table was missional. That is, the table Habit was directed toward a purpose outside itself—actually being a living witness to Christ and the gospel's power in the world.

Jesus never promised us that our life in this world and journey of faith with Him would be without pain, uncertainty, the unexpected, the incomprehensible and hardship. Perhaps there’s another dimension of truth to the Gospel message that people are yearning to hear that is outside the confines of a well-ordered, trouble-free, formula-based, prosperity laden, purpose-driven life.

"The life-death-life" cycle: "saying grace" before meals first arose from the deep understanding that, in order for life to be sustained, something had to die … which, of course, is the cornerstone of God's Grace, as well. Death bringing life, death following life, life after death … and so it goes. Our old self dies-our old habits are unlearned and we form Jesus Habits in their place.

Drinking the cup is not a heroic act with a nice reward! It is not part of a tit-for-tat agreement. Drinking the cup is an act of selfless love, an act of immense trust, an act of surrender to a God who will give what we need when we need it.

Jesus’ inviting us to drink the cup without offering the reward we expect is the great challenge of the spiritual life. It breaks through all human calculations and expectations. It defies all our wishes to be sure in advance. It turns our hope for a predictable future upside down and pulls down our self-invented safety devices. It asks for the most radical trust in God, the same trust that made Jesus drink the cup to the bottom.

Drinking the cup that Jesus drank is living a life in and with the spirit of Jesus, which is the spirit of unconditional love. The intimacy between Jesus and Abba, his Father, is an intimacy of complete trust, in which there are no power games, no mutually agreed upon promises, no advance guarantees. It is only love—pure, unrestrained, and unlimited love. Completely open, completely free. That intimacy gave Jesus the strength to drink his cup. That intimacy has a Name, a Divine Name. It is called Holy Spirit. Living a spiritual life is living a life in which the Holy Spirit will guide us and give us the strength and courage to keep saying yes to the great question. Henri Nouwen

Want to become a Christ follower? Trust Jesus and his ways and surrender to them.

Communion around the Table

…Christ followers must consistently invite our neighbors into our homes for dinner, sitting around laughing, talking, listening and asking questions of each other. The home is where we live, where we converse and settle conflict, where we raise children. We arrange our furniture and set forth our priorities in the home. We pray for each other there. We share hospitality out of His blessings there. In our homes then, strangers get full view of the message of our life. Inviting someone into our home for dinner says “here, take a look, I am taking a risk and inviting you into my life.” By inviting strangers over for dinner, we resist the fragmenting isolating forces of late capitalism in North America. It is so exceedingly rare, that just doing it speaks volumes as to what it means to be a Christ follower in a world of strangers.

Definition of Friendship:
Part 1 - Someone who is safe enough for me too be who I am
Part 2 - Someone who is honest enough to help me be who I can be
Ask, “What do I do that Limits Our Relationship?”

That sounds like the definition of a good church, too: people who will be safe enough that we can be who we are and honest enough to help us become all of who we can be!

Can you enjoy friendship celebrating an Oilers win on Whyte Avenue but miss it through the people you journey with in faith, what we call a church?

Practice getting around a table this week.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cracking The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code is a worldwide bestselling novel by Dan Brown that has now been made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Directed by Ron Howard. The book is an intricately woven fictional work which tells a story of conspiracy and cover up by the early and present day church relating to the life of Christ.

The book presents many speculations and opinions, denying the deity and distorting the humanity of Christ, as fact. With the release of the movie on May 19th, it can be expected that there will be many conversations generated between Christ followers and others.

Community of Hope will be hosting an informative presentation on the Da Vinci Code. The professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary, Dr. Randal Rauser, has graciously accepted an invitation to present an evidentiary rebuttal to the information in the book which has been interpreted as factual by many readers. This is a great opportunity to equip ourselves with valuable information, which in turn may generate informative conversation with those within your circle of influence.

Bring a friend, neighbour, family member, co-worker or anyone else who may be interested. Randal is an excellent presenter who is low key and relaxed in his presentations which makes for a sensitive environment for those who don't follow Christ but are asking questions. Feel free to invite anyone who may be interested.

What: The Davinci Code - Informative Presentation
When: Saturday, May 27, 2006 at 8:45 A.M.
Who: Dr. Randal Rauser, Professor of Historical Theology - Taylor Seminary, Edmonton.
Where: Community of Hope - 3935 114 St. Edmonton, Ab.
Cost: $ 5.00 - Coffee and Muffins to be served.

CBS '60 Minutes' Story

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Carpe Weekendum!

Seize The Weekend!

Seize the weekend to live as a citizen of the upside-down kingdom. Some people view success by the car they drive, but greatness is better thought of as the capacity to bless people, to leave them better off than they were before.

Greatness isn't something that you do once, it's a lifelong pursuit of helping others. Seize the weekend not for your own but as a time to bless others. You won't regret it!

"The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons." Aristotle

Philippians 2:3-4
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Make A Difference

You make a difference. I make a difference.

Everyone makes a difference. The choice you and I have is to whether we want to make a positive difference or a negative one.

The question isn’t, “Did you make a difference today?”

But rather, “What kind of difference are you making?”

Have you made a positive or a negative difference at home, at school or at work?

Are you writing a resume or authoring a legacy?

What You’ve Accomplished
The Money You’ve Made
The Impression You Leave
Self Improvement

What You’ve Contributed
The Difference You’ve Made
The Impact You Have
Helping to Improve Others

What would you rather leave behind? What fits better on a headstone? Do you ever ask yourself, "What will be my legacy?"

Again, it isn't whether you'll leave a legacy — you undoubtedly will — it is "What will the legacy be?"

Commit to adding value to others every day and living a legacy worth leaving. The power of a life well-lived, a life devoted to Christ, is that the returns keep coming and coming even after we're gone. That's the life I want to live, the legacy I want to leave. How about you?

Galatians 6:2-3
Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

31 Ways To Pray For Children (From Mother's Day)

1. salvation "Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory" (Isaiah 45:8, 2 Timothy 2:10).

2 . growth in grace "I pray that they may 'grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'" (2 Peter 3:18).

3. love "Grant, Lord, that my children may learn to 'live a life of love,' through the Spirit who dwells in them" (Ephesians 5:2, Galatians 5:22).

4. honesty and integrity " May integrity and honesty be their virtue and their protection" (Psalm 25:21, NLT).

5. self-control " Father, help my children not to be like many others around them, but let them be 'alert and self-controlled' in all they do" (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

6. a love for God's Word " May my children grow to find your Word 'more precious than gold, than much pure gold; [and] sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb'" (Psalm 19:10).

7. justice " God, help my children to love justice as you do and to 'act justly' in all they do" (Psalm 11:7, Micah 6:8).

8. mercy " May my children always 'be merciful, as [their] Father is merciful'" (Luke 6:36).

9. respect (for self, others, authority) " Father, grant that my children may 'show proper respect to everyone,' as your Word commands" (1 Peter 2:17a).

10. strong, Biblical self-esteem " Help my children develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are 'God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus'" (Ephesians 2:10).

11. faithfulness "' Let love and faithfulness never leave [my children],' but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts" (Proverbs 3:3).

12. courage "May my children always 'Be strong and courageous' in their character and in their actions" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

13. purity "'Create in [them] a pure heart, O God,' and let their purity of heart be shown in their actions" (Psalm 51:10).

14. kindness "Lord, may my children 'always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else'" (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

15. generosity "Grant that my children may 'be generous and willing to share [and so] lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age'" (1 Timothy 6:18-19).

16. peace, peaceability "Father, let my children 'make every effort to do what leads to peace'" (Romans 14:19).

17. joy " May my children be filled 'with the joy given by the Holy Spirit'" (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

18. perseverance " Lord, teach my children perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to 'run with perseverance the race marked out for [them]'" (Hebrews 12:1).

19. humility " God, please cultivate in my children the ability to 'show true humility toward all'" (Titus 3:2).

20. compassion " Lord, please clothe my children with the virtue of compassion" (Colossians 3:12).

21. responsibility " Grant that my children may learn responsibility, 'for each one should carry his own load'" (Galatians 6:5).

22. contentment " Father, teach my children 'the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . through him who gives [them] strength'" (Philippians 4:12-13).

23. faith " I pray that faith will find root and grow in my children's hearts, that by faith they may gain what has been promised to them" (Luke 17:5-6, Hebrews 11:1-40).

24. a servant heart " God, please help my children develop servant hearts, that they may serve wholeheartedly, 'as to the Lord, and not to men'" (Ephesians 6:7, KJV).

25. hope " May the God of hope grant that my children may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

26. the willingness and ability to work hard " Teach my children, Lord, to value work and to work hard at everything they do, 'as working for the Lord, not for men'" (Colossians 3:23).

27. a passion for God " Lord, please instill in my children a soul that "followeth hard after thee," a heart that clings passionately to you (Psalm 63:8, KJV).

28. self-discipline " Father, I pray that my children may develop self-discipline, that they may acquire 'a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair'" (Proverbs 1:3).

29. prayerfulness " Grant, Lord, that my children's lives may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to 'pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Ephesians 6:18).

30. gratitude " Help my children to live lives that are always 'overflowing with thankfulness,' 'always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'" (Colossians 2:7, Ephesians 5:20).

31. a heart for missions " Lord, please help my children to develop a heart for missions, a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all peoples" (Psalm 96:3).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Community Building

"The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you've done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people's lives than you will from the times that you outdid them and defeated them." Rabbi Harold Kushner

We are in the midst of several efforts at community building, here in Lendrum, CoHo and our other circles of influence. While they occasionally come into conflict with other tasks and relationships, they are not interruptions-they are the active work of God as he builds his kingdom.

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. Kenyan Proverb

Steve Ayers writes, "We're his bride. We're his treasure. We're his church. We're his instruments of peace. We're his voice. We're his revelation. We're the reality of the gospel."

Release yourself fully to the life God has laid before you. God says, "You're It for others to see!"

Demonstrate God's love so dramatically that others can't miss it.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. John Donne

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?

Because he didn't have the guts!

What's holding you back from embracing the change you so desperately desire in your own life? What road is God calling you to cross?

Fortunately for us as Christ followers, we get to have the character of Jesus, if we'll allow Him to change us. Say goodbye to your slimy guts and cultivate habits that will lead you to His heart.

Fear not!

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance. Bruce Barton

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. Ralph Waldo Emerson

1 Thessalonians 5:23-23
Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Church as Mother: There is a community of people called church and they are the community of mothering.

It's 'MOMSense'- and in its simplest definition it means love.

Obviously God and His attributes are both male and female, as is the expression of the church. Today we’re not really looking at the masculine form of church and God, but more the feminine form via mothering. I have to admit, I’m a schmaltzy kind of guy.

Just last week Anola & I had a night where the kids were away at the farm so we decided to watch a movie. As a big fan of ‘chick flicks’, my first suggestion was Saving Private Ryan. Nope. Then I said, ‘how about Band of Brothers, the story of Easy Company in WWII?’ Nope.

Then I thought a little Mel Gibson would get Anola’s approval. We Were Soldiers? Nope. Braveheart? Nope. Gladiator? Nope.

So I switched genres & suggested Cinderella Man, after all it has a fairy in the title. Nope. A Perfect Storm? Nope. Castaway. Nope. After exhausting virtually every movie imaginable she finally came to agree on one: Signs.

So you can see I’m really biased to the feminine side. Well, for all of us who grew up with mothers, here’s to their great wisdom and insight.

I used to have answers now I just have kids…Phil Callaway

Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in which Calvin approaches his mom and his asks, "Mom, can I go outside?" His mom says, "No."
"Why not?" Calvin asks.
"You'll get soaked."
"What's wrong with that?"
His mom says, "You could catch pneumonia, run up a terrible hospital bill, linger a few months, and die."
Calvin takes a look outside the window and says to his companion, "I always forget, you ask a mom, you get a worse case scenario."

That's MOMSense!

Then there’s the guy who calls his mom and asks how she's doing.
She says, "I'm weak."
"Why are you weak?"
She says, "Because I haven't eaten in 32 days."
"Mom, why haven't you eaten in 32 days?"
She says, "Because I didn't want my mouth to be full of food in case you should call."

You couldn't fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine. Homer Simpson

That's MOMSense! Many times I thought I'd fooled my mom, like buying a mouse when I was in Grade 10 only to have it chew through every box I could put it in before releasing it to the cruel world of outdoor cats. Mom's usually know what we're up to but give us the space to 'save face', knowing they'll be there to pick up the pieces.

Mother's love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved. Erich Fromm

That's MOMSense.

My mother loved children - she would have given anything if I had been one. Groucho Marx

A mother takes twenty years to make a man of her boy, and another woman makes a fool of him in twenty minutes. Robert Frost

That's just what women do to men.

Mother is the bank where we deposit all our hurts and worries. Unknown

That's MOMSense.

Galatians 4:19
My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you...

That's MOMSense in action in the early church.

Mothering is a characteristic of God Himself. Because MOMSense is ultimately about love...

A chIld’s capacity to love is generally formed within their first 2 years of birth, & more often than not, a mother is what nurtures that capacity. They form the ability to add language and meaning to actions that show the divine nature so clearly: taking care of and loving a helpless baby, getting nothing in return, simply because the baby is created in their image-created in the image of God.

Children are a blessing: they can transform you. They teach us what love, devotion and sacrifice mean in a way that no other experience can. They help us to distinguish what's important from what's not and what's lasting from what's temporary. In other words, they make us better people.

We can also reverse that idea: mothers are a blessing: they teach us what unconditional love, devotion and sacrifice mean in a way almost no other can. They help us form the very capability to love, to distinguish what’s important and what’s not. They make us able to even become better people. That’s a God trait, because it’s what God does and its based on and through love.

Would love be all you needed as a mother? Or as a Christ follower?

Or would you think that you needed something else? Would you think that you needed forgiveness? Would you think that you needed medication just to make it through another day? Would you think that you needed to run? Would you need a reason, an answer to the question “why”? What would it take to get to the point in your life that love was all you needed?

One of the interesting things we see about Jesus’ encounters with people is that he moved their hearts away from preconceived notions of how life was supposed to be. He would frequently start conversations with “Now, you have heard it said, but I tell you.” He would tell stories where the heroes were a surprise to everyone. He made it clear that in the Kingdom of God things were opposite, “the first will be last and the last will be first.” He would look into the eyes of the crowd and rip away their preconceived notions of how life was to be.

And then in the void he would place love; “don’t retaliate, take a step closer and turn the other cheek”, “sure she could have given that to the poor but pouring it on my feet is beautiful”, and ultimately in his own life; “not my will Father but yours.”

It seems that in the economy of love you must leave your picture of what life is supposed to be behind. The question is: “What in your picture of life do you believe must be there for life to be okay?” Or to put it another way: “What preconceived notion of the “perfect” life is robbing you of the chance to experience and share unconditional love?”

It seems that for love to be all you need you must believe you need nothing. That's MOMSense.

It took a magazine story in 2002 to completely change the trajectory of Kay Warren's comfortable suburban life. Then 48 and the wife of Rick Warren, author of the bestselling book The Purpose-Driven Life and pastor of Southern California's megachurch, Saddleback, Kay was a busy "soccer mom" of three who dreamed, once their nest was empty, of sharing a platform with Rick and ministering to pastors' wives.

Then one day Kay picked up a news magazine and was arrested by an article on AIDS. When she read that 12 million children were orphaned in Africa due to AIDS, "I realized I didn't know even one orphan. I couldn't imagine millions of them anywhere," she admits. "That number haunted me. My life's never been the same."

Thast's MOMSense: being wrecked by love for others, especially those less fortunate or the needy.

Since that "divine appointment," Kay, now 52, has become a woman on a mission. Despite being treated for breast cancer in 2003, in the last four years Kay has visited Africa five times plus six other countries.

A question was asked to Kay, "When you were diagnosed with breast cancer, did you ever wonder why?"

"I struggled with the "why now," with God's timing and call on my life. I struggled with my faith, too. Although I had the best medical care available and a loving, supportive family, I thought of all the suffering people who didn't have any of those things. 'God, your system stinks,' I told him. 'Why would you create a universe in which people suffer such horrible things from the day they're born till the day they die?'

Fortunately, I had great people around me who listened to me and cried with me. They didn't give me pat answers; they let me wrestle that one to the ground with God.

Kay had a comunity of mothering helping her through the journey of cancer.

So when people ask, "What's the answer?" I don't have one. What I do know is that I'd rather walk with God in the dark than walk one step in the light without him. In many ways, I understand less about God—but trust him even more. It's a paradox.

That's MOMSense.

My own mom is a loving person; she hasn’t learned a great deal of the Bible but has a PhD in loving others.

Last week I mentioned the four-part article on Graham Andrews struggle with depression. In the final article his mom shared these insights,

One of the most anguishing times of my life was when you were curled up in a fetal position and I had my arms around you and you were saying that you didn’t want to live anymore. There’s no way that I can put my thoughts into words about that because it was all emotions at those times. I knew you had to do it on your own, but I also knew that I had to be there for you. I often come back to the idea that I should have been able to protect you. I know now that that wasn’t the case, but it doesn’t stop me from going there.”

The first thing you deal with as a parent is in some way you feel responsible. For the most part, though, you have to realize that you did the best you could with what you had. And it was big challenge to get to that point.” Graham Andrews dad

I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently. Because I felt my presence there at that time kept you alive at your lowest.” Graham Andrews mom

That's MOMSense.

Why leave your child's life to chance when you can give it to God?

Being a perfect parent doesn't matter. Being a praying parent does.

Whether your child is three or thirty-three, it's never too late to discover the joy that comes from being a part of God's work in your child's life.

Praying not only affects us, it also reaches out and touches those for whom we pray. When we pray for our children, we are asking God to make His presence a part of their lives and work powerfully in their behalf. That doesn't mean there will always be an immediate response. Sometimes it can take days, weeks, months, or even years. But our prayers are never lost or meaningless. If we are praying, something is happening, whether we can see it or not. The bible says, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. All that needs to happen in our lives and in the lives of our children cannot happen without the presence and power of God. Prayer invites and ignites both.

Lamentations 2:19
Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.

Ultimately we must all realize that our hope is in Christ alone, and that's the ultimate MOMSense.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Habit of Trusting

I couldn't improve on what Andy Stanley recently wrote about trust, so here are his thoughts:

Trust is the currency of relationships. Great leaders cultivate a culture of trust, and thus a culture where relationships thrive. But how do you foster trust between members of your team?
For some, trust is not the intuitive choice. However, I believe it is just that. A choice. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says that along with forgiving, enduring, and bearing all things, love believes all things. We must reconcile the scriptural charge to believe all things with the fact that it is not always easy to do. If we believe it is possible for us to choose to love, or be kind, or be patient, then we must also believe we can choose to trust.

But the gap between what we expect of people and what they actually deliver makes it hard to trust. We can either fill that gap with trust or with suspicion. How we handle these opportunities is the greatest determining factor in the success or failure of the relationships in our organizations.

Trust as the currency of relationships implies an exchange of one thing for another. Relationally, we give trust, and we expect trustworthiness in return. But trustworthiness is not a synonym for perfection. Trust is not built on flawless character, but on authenticity. I will extend trust to people who will admit their imperfections. It is people who defend their infallibility who make me suspicious.

There are situations that merit suspicion. What's important is how we handle them. When over time a person's actions erode our trust, and we believe those actions leave the organization vulnerable to harm, we have a responsibility to talk to that person about it, (not the rest of the team), to address the gap, and give that person the opportunity to re-establish their trustworthiness. Trustworthy people will address the suspicion they've created.

I wish this principle were easy to implement. It's not. But it is crucial for building a strong team. Here are three things to keep in mind when a trust versus suspicion issue surfaces:

1. When there is a gap, choose to trust.
2. When you see others filling the gap with suspicion, come to the defense of the suspect.
3. If what you see continues to erode your trust, go to the person directly.

Great leaders create a culture in which people have learned how to trust. Modeling biblical trust as outlined in 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest leadership strategies you can employ. Biblical trust is not denial - pretending that you don't see behavior that erodes your trust. It's not withdrawal - refusing to confront. The key is to choose to trust. When it becomes impossible to fill the gap between expectation and behavior with trust, ask for clarification.

Trust is the currency of relationships. Trust is a dynamic your team cannot afford to be without. Model it. Extend it. Choose to trust.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Habit of Daily Sacrifices

Hosea 6:6
I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

Malachi 1:8
When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn't that wrong? And isn't it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor, and see how pleased he is!" says the LORD of Heaven's Armies. "Go ahead, beg God to be merciful to you! But when you bring that kind of offering, why should he show you any favor at all?" asks the LORD of Heaven's Armies.

Philippians 4:18
At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:15
Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

1 John 2:2
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.

1 John 4:10
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Proverbs 15:8
The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright.

Proverbs 21:3
The LORD is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices.

Psalm 141:2
Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.

Psalm 116:17
I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.

Psalm 51:15-17
Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

'Nuff said about this one.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Habit of Building People Up

Christians ought to be in the business of building people up because there are so many people already in the people-demolition business. Norman Vincent Peale

The real bodybuilder spends his or her time encouraging and uplifting others in the body of Christ, rather than excercising their own pride. If you'll live as a child of God you can live a life of love; a love that gives and isn't obsessed with always receiving.

"God made you so he could love you." Rick Warren

Even in psychology, researchers have found evidence that it takes 3 positive comments to overcome one negative comment (the Losada Line). People who flourish live in an environment above the Losada line, while those who languish live below the line.

What is your contribution to the relational environment all around you? Do you contribute to an atmosphere of love and understanding, or do you create a pit where everyone languishes?

Philippians 4:8
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Paul then says, "To put it into practice." Let love rule...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Habit of A Great Marriage

Dr. Scott Stanley and Dr. Howard Markman have discovered three essential forms of commitment that enable a great marriage. They are:

1. Safety in the connection. Feeling emotionally safe, feeling that you will be supported and accepted. It allows you, for example, to talk openly and well about key issues.

2. Personal safety. Feeling safe from physical or emotional harm or intimidation.

3. Safety in commitment. Feeling secure that you mutually support each other, work as a team, and have a clear future together.

Exercise Your Commitment
How safe do you feel in your marriage or relationship regarding the commitment you and your partner have made to each other?

If you feel anxious about the commitment, think about what makes you feel that way and ask your partner to do the same. Then discuss what you would both need to do to strengthen the feeling of safety in your relationship.

Commitment is expressed primarily in two forms in a marriage. One is 'dedication', and it implies an internal state of devotion to a person or project. It signals the sense of a forward-moving, motivating force, one based on thoughtful decisions you have made to give your best effort.

The second form is 'constraint', and it entails a sense of obligation. It refers to factors that would be costs if the present course were abandoned. Whereas dedication is a force drawing you forward, constraint is a force pushing you from behind.

When both factors are present, the relationship experiences synergy, adventure and excitement. When only constraint is present, the couple can be said to 'married, but not engaged'. This is the 'passionless' marriage that plagues many couples, even those who are Christ followers.

Are you dedicated in your marriage? Or just constained? Decide to deepen your dedication in marriage and ask your partner to do the same. Give your relationship your all!

Your Marriage Makeover Begins with You!

There is nothing more admirable than two people who see eye-to-eyekeeping house as man and wife, confounding their enemies, and delightingtheir friends. Homer, 9th century BC

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Habit of Serving

There's an old saying that goes, "He who is rowing doesn't have time to rock the boat."

On Monday night a group of 17 from CoHo converged down at the Mustard Seed and served up supper for 400 inner-city residents. They went through 12 hams, and 200 pounds of potatoes, not to mention fruits and other goodies.

Brian & Danny, two guys with real big hearts, got the effort rolling and a whole lot of others joined in to help. What a great, selfless effort. There's no reward for serving, except knowing that with God's help our actions line up with our beliefs. Sounds like the definition of integrity right there.

The Man Who Delivers the Goods
There is a man in the world who never gets turned down,
Wherever he chances to stray.
He gets the glad hand in the populous town,
Or out where the farmers make hay;
He is greeted with pleasure on deserts of sands,
And deep in the isles of the woods;
Wherever he goes there is a welcoming hand—
He's the man who delivers the goods.

Danny and Brian and the other 15 from Monday night fit that bill for sure.

"I never knew a man that was good at making excuses who was good at anything else." Benjamin Franklin

Thanks for everyone at CoHo and the constructive spirit of discontent that leads us to the forefront of serving others because Jesus would do it, too!

That's faith that works in real life.

Lord, as I grow older, I think I would rather be known as …
-thoughtful, rather than gifted,
-loving, versus quick or bright,
-gentle, over being powerful,
-a listener, more than a great communicator,
-available, rather than a hard worker,
-sacrificial, instead of successful,
-reliable, not famous,
-content, more than driven,-
self-controlled, rather than exciting,
-generous, instead of rich,
-and compassionate, more than competent,
I want to be a foot-washer.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

God Winks

It's been a week since I followed God's leading & gave up buying my beloved extra-large 2 cream 1 sugar coffee from Timmy's in order to support a child in need. Read about this in the post "Goodbye Coffee".

Interestingly I had mentioned the idea of giving coffee up in the Sunday morning talk & after the servce someone gave me a 'Roll Up The Rim To Win' prize for a coffee. Talk about God moving His people!

Then on last Monday I met someone for coffee & they bought me my favorite mix at Timmy's. Unknown to this person was the fact that I had already prepared my blog entry on the giving up coffee idea, but I wasn't quite sure I wanted to follow through with it.

That coffee was an amazing brew; if I was being sent to the firing squad & was to have one last coffee that was to be it. I savored every drop and sensed God's hand, or aroma in it, if you will.

Well, this morning I had been reading Gideon's story, and as I was passing by my favorite Timmy's I asked God to give me a sign that I was to get a coffee: He was to provide a parking stall in front of the store if I was to get a coffee. Well, to make a long story short, it happened.

On my seventh pass around the store there was still no parking stall, but I know that when one door closes a window often opens up: there in front of me was the entrance to the 'Drive Thru'. What an amazing sign from God-so I entered. Okay so I made this last part up. Read on, though, it gets good (or is that god)?

When I pulled up to the window the attendent politely told me that my coffee was paid for by the woman in the car before me. She had said that she was thankful I hadn't cut her off in the line, as we had enetered from different directions. Wow. An angel in a Dodge sedan bought my coffee. Yeah God!

One of our tasks is to discern God in the midst of life. This is the way to discover God's agenda.

The magic of believing is a manifestation of one of the greatest powers in the universe, the power of thought. By our thoughts we either create or destroy. You can build up your life by thinking constructively…or tear it down by thinking destructively. Norman Vincent Peale

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Jesus Habits: Joy

Habits are about integrity: Integrity means doing the right thing even when the price is painful or your personal interest is at risk. It means doing the right thing even when you are certain that no one is looking and you couldn’t possibly get caught. It also means doing the right thing even when you are sure there won’t be a reward or you won’t receive any credit for your actions.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, and live ineffectively. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. Goethe

Jesus Habits are Habits of Relational Integrity

Living with integrity is hard. The world tries to coerce you to adopt its values. Don't forget your spiritual enemy loves to distract you from God's best.

Don’t be surprised that while you are working on forming & reforming Jesus Habits you get discouraged or are tempted to ask yourself, “What’s the point?” The enemy of your soul doesn’t want you to be more like Jesus.

Consider yourself as a ‘wounded person who wants to be well.’ The Jesus Habits are a part of the healing.

Life for most of us is built on a constellation of habits and the need for measurable results is one of the most deeply ingrained habits for successful people. Bob Buford

Measure the Jesus Habits with your joy factor.

Philippians 1
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.

God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

Joy is the love of growing up!

"Medicine today focuses primarily on drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. Yet love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well. If a new medication had the same impact, failure to prescribe it would be malpractice. Connections with other people affect not only the quality of our lives but also our survival. Study after study finds that people who are lonely are many times more likely to get cardiovascular disease than those who have a strong sense of connection and community."

"I'm not aware of any other factor in medicine—not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery—that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death. In part, this is because people who are lonely are more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Getting through the day becomes more important than living a long life when you have no one else to live for." Dr. Dean Ornish, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California

The results of several studies indicate that people who reflect each day upon situations for which they were grateful, those times where they experienced joy, reported "more sleep, better quality of sleep, greater optimism about the future, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. There was also a reduction in negative affect."

One study concludes, "Gratitude and the joyous actions stimulated by it, build and strengthen social bonds and friendships. . . . It leads them to feel loved and cared for by others. . . . it is also likely to build and strengthen a sense of spirituality. . . . It broadens the scope of cognition and enables flexible and creative thinking; it also facilitates coping with stress and adversity. Gratitude (and joy) not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future."

Men lust, but they know not what for. They fight and compete, but they forget the prize; they spread seed, but spurn the seasons of growth; they chase power and glory, but miss the meaning of life. George Gilder

They miss the joy.

“…let them remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments. And above all, let them remember…to build a life as if it were a work of art. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy”. Rabbi Abraham Heschel, addressing youth shortly before his death

At a certain point in the spiritual journey God will draw a person from the beginning stage to a more advanced stage. At this stage the person will begin to engage in religious exercises and grow deeper in the spiritual life. Such souls will likely experience what is called “the dark night of the soul.” The “dark night” is when those persons lose all the pleasure that they once experienced in their devotional life. This happens because God wants to purify them and move them on to greater heights. . . Through the dark night pride becomes humility, greed becomes simplicity, wrath becomes contentment, luxury becomes peace, gluttony becomes moderation, envy becomes joy, and sloth becomes strength. No soul will ever grow deep in the spiritual life unless God works passively in that soul by means of the dark night. St. John of the Cross

The Jesus Habits are all about a ‘downward ascent’; our character becomes more like that of Jesus; our desires become those of Jesus. We learn to commit to the unnoticed life.

An enemy of that downward ascent is pride. Now, having a degree of self-confidence and pride in one’s accomplishments and one’s identity is important. The idea here is that we are a conduit of God’s blessings, through our particular strengths and gifting. This gives us ‘joy’; we can sense God’s pleasure.

We can, though, exaggerate our own "joy." In sinful pride, or entitlement, our pleasure often comes from receiving recognition from others for our accomplishments or personal strengths.

In this sense, we seek self-improvement, perhaps even from being at church. But we miss the call to become more like Christ, and therefore miss fully discovering who we are.

I recall a pastor speaking with a woman after the service. She had come to speak with him and he asked her, “How was church today?”

She replied, “I just can’t come back.”

So he said, “Really? Help me to help others. Why can’t you come back?”

“I’m not looking for a church that gets this serious. I’m looking for a church that I can just go to.” Yikes!

Revelation 3:14-16
"Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's new creation: "I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

This church was neither hot nor cold and that was a problem. It was a ‘kinda’ church, filled with ‘kinda’ people. I don’t see a whole lot of people attracted to kinda people. Some days they’re kinda with God, and some days they’re not. They kinda believe, and then they don’t.

It’s easy for a church to lose focus of Jesus. Do you remember the days when you were deeply intrigued by someone? Love does odd things to us. It makes us do unusual things. Is love for Jesus making us do some unusual things here at CoHo?

George Strait sings, “You look so good in love.”

We are all searching for the eternal joy that comes from knowing God.

Jesus says to us, “Come and discover. Come and be connected. Come and be renewed. Come and be changed. Come and be spiritually healed. Come and be remade. This is the language of love, of joy, of passion.”

In his book Yearning, Craig Barnes writes, “The deep yearnings of the spirit are part of what makes us human. The confession that we are unable to get the life of our dreams is the first step toward authentic spirituality. What distinguishes humanity in creation is not moral superiority but the mark of a need—a craving to have meaning that is eternal and thus able to sustain us through the shifting tides of our years…This godlike mark, then, serves two functions. The first is that it is the source of our hunger for life’s meaning, and the second is that it refuses to be satisfied with any meaning other than the eternal.”

Graham Andrews, reflecting on his struggles with mental illness writes, “During my best times I feel at one with the universe as a person who has a part to play that he doesn’t yet understand, but doesn’t need to.” Can you hear the joy?

He goes on to add, “when people ask me how I’m doing, I will say, ‘It’s a great day to be alive'.”

Graham was urged to try prayer and meditation by people in his support group, so he did. This comes from a young man who calls himself, “a lapsed and angry Catholic, I had preferred to send my fears and hopes not to any traditional concept of God, but towards coffee cups, hospital walls and the medications.”

He closes by saying; “Today I would almost sooner go without shelter than without my times of quiet reflection.” That’s a good habit. Recall what Dr. Ornish was quoted as saying earlier, “people who reflect each day upon situations for which they were grateful, those times where they experienced joy, reported "more sleep, better quality of sleep, greater optimism about the future, and a greater sense of connectedness to others. There was also a reduction in negative affect."”

Graham Andrews has discovered joy in his life. He is moving towards understanding his yearnings.

There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy. Joyce Grenfel

There are no secrets and there are no shortcuts that will lead us to wisdom and joy. They still have to be earned the hard way. That’s what makes them so rewarding. Erwin Hall

That quote reminds me of the metaphor Paul uses in Ephesians 5 about the relationship of the church & Jesus Christ: that of a marriage. Where is it more evident that there are no shortcuts to joy than in a marriage?

We see that in a marriage that is successful, the couple has learned the difference between joy and happiness. Happiness as a definition can be “good fortune”. Joy, on the other hand is “emotion evoked by well-being.” Regardless of the circumstances or good fortune.

Remember the first miracle of Jesus? He was at a wedding and they ran out of wine. His mom asks him to make some more wine. His mom obviously knew of his power and His mission. What kind of God turns water into wine at a wedding?! A God full of love and joy!

John 2:17
"Passion for God's house will consume me."

That is passion for his Habits!

Joy is like a muscle, and the more you exercise it, the stronger it grows.” Mike Mason Celebrating God’s Gift of Joy: Champagne for the Soul

In Galatians 4:15, Paul writes “Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then?” Christians should be living a life of joy, but obviously, that’s not always true. If we’re not joyful, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What happened? How has joy eluded you?’

Many of us today know our Bibles, but we don’t grasp the concept of joy. We can believe all the right things; yet walk around with long faces.

“Joy knows it’s on the winning side. That’s why it can rejoice even in the midst of suffering. If any of life’s horrors were permanent or unconquerable, joy would be impossible. Yet how easily we’re cowed into a defeatist attitude! It doesn’t take a major calamity to get us down; a petty annoyance will do nicely. A day, an entire week, indeed a lifetime, can be spoiled by a series of light and momentary troubles. While one believer praises God in the midst of terminal illness, another grumbles because of a runny nose. What’s the difference between these two lives? Attitude.” Mike Mason

How has your attitude been? Have you let God pour joy into your life despite the ups and downs of your week?

Have you noticed some personal enemies that keep you from joy? (Examples might be negative self talk, bad circumstances, ungrateful spirit, busyness, difficult relationship, doubt, etc.)

Can you say that knowing and loving God is the #1 priority of your life, and that all of your ministry flows from your relationship with Christ?

“What if I were free of the need to be liked or respected? Would that change your level of joy in your life?”

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Reconciled Life

We all desire to have peace in our life, but very few people seem to actually find it. All too often we find find ourselves trying to not offend others or take offense at their actions, until finally we, or someone else, just blows up.

Then we get out our Canadian UN PeaceKeeper uniform and go and try to help make 'nicey-nicey', you know, the Canadian way. We find that at best we are walking in a field of land mines, just waiting for the next explosion. Once that happens, we get on our 'gear' again, maybe use a fire extinguisher to put the fire out, and move on until the next fracas.

What if we were to actually give up the idea of peacekeeping and instead lived as if our whole life was about peacemaking. Instead of pulling out tools and techniques to navigate conflict, we saw our life mission as restoring people to right relationship with each other and with God.

What if we started that by releasing our own fears and trusting God to create an internal peace that no event could shatter. Is it possible? Yes!

James 4:1-3
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Use the following questions to help bring peace to your own heart, and share them in your friendship/family circles. Commit to the Reconciling Life...

What am I preoccupied with? What is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night?

How would I complete this statement: "If only _____________, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure"?

What do I want to preserve or avoid?

Where do I put my trust?

What do I fear?

When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?

Is there something I desire so much that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?