Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chasing Our Thoughts

When Animals Could Talk

Long ago the humans and the animals got along fine. All the peoples, human and animal, could communicate with each other and were at peace. The animals of that long-ago time were much larger than the animals of today. Indeed, the animals of today are but shadows of those who once were.

There came a time when we humans forgot our place and broke the harmony. We humans began to reproduce at an alarming rate, and we gave ourselves to the production of all sorts of weapons meant for the destruction of the animals – spears, bows, arrows, blowguns and traps of all kinds. We began to hunt, not just for food, but simply for the fun of killing. We humans also killed many animals just by pure carelessness, never stopping to think of the results of our actions. Even as we walked from place to place, we were not careful where we stepped, so that many of the tiny many-legged and legless ones were crushed to death or maimed. Some humans went so far as to purposely kill little animals merely from a feeling of disgust or loathing, going out of their way to step on a bug or squash a harmless spider. It was clear that we humans believed ourselves to be the only ones who mattered in all of creation, and as we continued clearing land and building our cities, it looked as if there would soon be no more room for anyone else to live in the earth.

The animals decided something had to be done about this human problem. The bears met separately from the other animals. The Great White Bear, presiding at the council asked, "What's the problem?"

"It's these humans; they kill us indiscriminately."

"How do they kill us?"

"With bows and arrows."

"Of what are their bows made?"

"The bow of locust wood and the bowstring of our guts."

The bears decided they would make bows of their own with which to kill the humans. They got some good wood, and one of the bears sacrificed himself to give material for the bowstring. When the bow was finished and arrows were made, one of the bears stood up to shoot. He could pull the string, but releasing it was a problem. His long claws would get hung and throw him off target. The other bears, ducking his wild arrows, cried out, "Stop, stop. Something must be done. We'll cut your claws."

After the bear's claws were cut, he could shoot a bow as well as any man. "Now the humans have had it!" all the bears said. "We will hunt them, as they have hunted us! All we have to do is cut our claws."

"Wait!" said the Great White Bear. "How is it that we bears make our living?"

"By climbing trees to get honey and by ripping open rotten logs to find insects and by digging in the earth for rodents and by catching fish."

"How do we do all these things?"

"With our long claws."

The bears understood that if they cut their claws they could no longer make a living as bears and would starve to death. The idea to hunt the humans with bows and arrows was scrapped, and they never came up with another solution.

All the other animals came together in a joint council to discuss the human problem. The Grubworm presided at the council. After all, it was his people, the little creeping and crawling peoples of the earth, who had suffered most from the actions of the humans. The animals all sat in a circle. The talking stick was passed, giving each an opportunity to speak. The Toad said, "Something must be done. These humans despise me. They are forever kicking me or throwing things at me, because they think I am ugly. Just look at all the bumps they've put on my back!"

One of the little birds rose and said, "Although I'm too small to provide much meat, their little boys kill my people and roast us over the fire until our feathers and feet are burned off." One after the other, the animals spoke of atrocities committed by the humans. The only one with nothing to say against the humans was the little chipmunk, who was too small to be hunted for food and too quick to be stepped on. When he spoke in defence of the humans, the other animals jumped on him and gave him such a scratching down his back that the stripes are there to this day!

Once it was established that something must be done about the humans in order to save the rest of creation, the floor was open for discussion of what to do. It was finally decided that each of the animal peoples would come up with at least one disease with which to inflict the humans, in order to kill most of them and to teach the rest some respect. Various animals attending the council agreed to come up with every sort of ailment from cancer to p.m.s. When the Grubworm heard this last one, he laughed so hard he fell over backwards and has been crawling around like that ever since.

So all the animals went their separate ways to meet in council, each with their own kind, to work out the details of what they would do. The deer met in council, with their chief, Little Deer presiding. The deer understood the humans to be a pitiful and needy people who live only by the deaths of others. For this reason, the deer decided to allow the humans to continue killing some deer each year, but only what is needed for food, NEVER FOR SPORT. Furthermore, a human hunter, upon killing a deer, is required to show respect for the spirit of the deer by begging the deer's pardon and making a proper tobacco offering. And so, Little Deer, the chief and leader of all the deer will come. Swiftly and invisibly he will come to the place where the deer has died. Gently he will bend down over the blood. In a whisper, he will ask the spirit of the slain deer, "Did this hunter treat you with respect? Did he beg your pardon? Did he give thanks that you gave your life so he could eat?"

If the answer is, "Yes," all is well, and Little Deer will go on his way. But if the answer is, "No," Little Deer will track that hunter to his home. There, Little Deer will strike that hunter with rheumatism, so that he may never hunt again!

Word was sent to humans to our ancestors, and we Native people have not forgotten this treaty with the deer.

And so, many diseases came into the earth. Many people died. For awhile, it looked as though maybe no humans would survive in the earth. Great cities rose and fell and were forgotten.

The plant peoples who saw all of this, though, also elected to come together and meet in council. Deciding to take pity on us humans, each plant agreed to give of itself to provide medicine for at least one human disease or ailment. All we humans had to do was ask in a respectful way.

A Good Friend of mine, Robert Francis writes:

At home, I have a reference Bible. [ …]it can be handy for searching out certain themes in scripture. I was thinking about balance, and the importance of seeking balance in our lives. Balance is the basis of health and well-being, of peace and harmony too, I think. In all the cultures of the earth, balance, the very essence of goodness, is sought. At least that's what I thought.

I looked up a scripture that was unmistakably within this theme of balance. I looked up Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. You know, "For everything there is a season," and it follows that everything written in those verses is presented in balanced pairs of two. I looked in the margin for some reference to this obvious theme of balance in the study notes. There was none. I looked in the back of the Bible in the index but found no references to balance at all. There was no recognition of balance, as a biblical theme in the way people organized its powerful teachings. Yet this theme of balance runs throughout the Bible.

Books of the Old Testament are written in such a way as to reflect this overarching theme of balance. If you want to find the most important phrase in an Old Testament book, don't look at the beginning or the end, find the exact middle. There it is. Each book is balanced on its own midpoint.

As recorded in the Book of Leviticus, the Sabbatical years and the Year of Jubilee were for the restoration of balance. Each seventh year the crop land was laid to rest and slaves were set free (with pay). The fiftieth year was the Year of Jubilee, when freedom was proclaimed, land went back to its original owners and debts were forgiven (Exodus 21:2-4; Leviticus 25). It was a system which, if followed, would keep individual fortunes from accumulating indefinitely at the expense of the common people. From time to time, balance would be restored.

Look at the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are four separate stories of the life and teachings of Jesus. They don’t all [record the same] details. Matthew, Mark and Luke, in particular, agree on many points, yet there are many differences in what they write. There are even what some have called “outright contradictions,” especially between the first three Gospels and the last one. But they are all four included in the Bible, four stories of Jesus which serve to balance one another [and offer different perspectives].

Together they brings all things into perspective and balance.


People have been aware for centuries and centuries that thinking about a certain thing and any action we may take – doing something about what we are thinking – are closely related.

In fact, the bible makes the statement, “As a man thinks in his heart….so goes the man.” Prov 23:7 (KJV). Here, as elsewhere in scripture, a direct link is made between our thoughts and our actions. So according to scripture, thought and action are not just closely related, they are tightly tied together. This is particularly true when it comes to matters of faith and life. How we imagine God to be even more importantly, how we imagine God wants us to be – directly affects our behaviour!

Philip Hughes makes this point: what we believe – our “actual beliefs … are those beliefs which [we] hold[s] which influence [our] behaviour and actions.” Hughes research based conclusion is simply echoing the biblical author James in Chapter 2:17 who says, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

What we truly believe then, is not determined by what we say we believe but by what we do about it!

So, how do we ensure that our thoughts about God and what we do about them – our actions – take us in the right direction in life? How do we prevent our thoughts from leading us astray?

Let me offer something for us to use as a guide.

Though not as prominent as they once were in people’s language, two words still pop up time and again when people think about religion, beliefs, faith and God. They are Theology and Doctrine.

Theology is the thoughtful study of what God has done or is doing. It comes from the Greek words theos meaning God and logos meaning word or reason. Some might say correctly that theology is just plain thinking about God – what God is like; how God acts in the world and in our lives; what God expects of us. And, whether you think so or not, all of us are theologians. It doesn’t require that you go to seminary or a Bible College to be one. It simply requires that you have spent time – any amount of time whether one minute or a lifetime – thinking about the existence, character, activity and designs of God.

Doctrine on the other hand, is one of the ways we respond to what we know about God – about what God does and what God wants – some say doctrine is our thinking about God which is wearing shoe leather – our theology walking itself out in the way we live – our behaviour toward God. More often than not, when we think of it in a formal sense it means the way we understand such important things as: who Jesus is; how we think about the work of the Holy Spirit; what Jesus’ resurrection was all about; how Jesus saves us from an eternity of separation from God.

But doctrine also focuses us on what might seem to be more mundane things: what we think about and how we act in relation to money and belongings; what or who we treat as most important to us in our lives; our views of and behaviour toward sexuality or things like theft and corruption – even how we think about governing the churches we fellowship in.

Even a cursory read of the Bible makes it clear that not all actions we might take in our world – not all behaviour (we might say “doctrine”) is correct and pleasing to God – right thinking leading to right action is essential. In other words, well examined theology leading to sound doctrine – is essential.

I don’t want to bore you to tears this morning with a treatise on theology or a long-winded description of doctrine. But, I do want us to think about behaviour – our behaviour – and how it may connect (or doesn’t connect) to the way you and I think about God.

If we follow wise teaching – good doctrine - it will lead us down a good path in life. If we ignore wise teaching or, more directly, follow the teachings of the unwise, we will be led astray, waste time chasing the wrong thoughts about God and damage our life and the lives of those around us.

And that is what sound doctrine is designed to do – bring stability to life – personal, community, and spiritual.

The Bible says we are not to be people who are unstable and changeable in what we believe about God, the scriptures or how life is to be lived. We are to be well-founded and well-grounded.

In fact, this was so important that the apostle Paul wrote Timothy to: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16

Paul went on to say that: “…the time will come when [people] will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3,4

It was the desire for and the need to have personal and community stability which led Native North American people to adopt a “doctrinal code” of conduct – a code which, when followed, ensured community health, well-being and ultimately survival. These are known, by those tribal groups who have embraced them, as the Seven Teachings.

The Seven Teachings

to learn truth, to live with truth and to walk with truth, to speak truth

humble yourself and recognize that no matter how much you think you know, you know
very little of all the universe.

to achieve honesty within yourself to recognize who and what you are do this and you can be honest with all others

to be courageous is to do something right even if you know it's going to hurt you.

Honour others and show respect to them and to yourself. If you cannot show respect you cannot expect respect to be given

unconditional love to know that when people are weak they need your love the most, that your love is given freely and you cannot put conditions on it or your love is not true

to have wisdom is to know – the difference between right and wrong, good and bad; to know the result of your actions and to make right decisions accordingly

Stated another way,

To cherish knowledge is to find wisdom.
To give and receive love is to find peace.
To honour all of creation is to have respect.
To be courageous is to face life with integrity.
Honesty in difficult situations is to be brave; being brave means being free.
Humility is to understand your place as a sacred part of creation.
To live the truth is to know all these things.
These basic doctrines allowed for life to be lived in a good way --- for people to experience life in healthy ways – for the people to survive and be who they were created to be – to bring stability to life.

As we think about the need for stability in our lives and in our church community in the face of shifting social standards, changing principals of morality, diverse understandings of godly spiritual life, our doctrine must once again become an important facet of our lives.

So, what is doctrine – and what isn’t it?

Doctrine flows out of what we think of God – or at least the doctrine we hold dear to us flows out of the experiences we have had with God – what we might call our theology.

This is why it is never a good idea to use only our own experiences to fashion theology – it can lead us down some seriously wrong trails. What’s more, left to ourselves, we can take a rigid and narrow view of doctrine and become cemented in our thinking. We need one another in community to work these things out well together. And, we need differing opinions and experiences of God to help us make correct choices about how to live life well how to listen well to God and act well for God.

Doctrine can be viewed in a number of different ways:

For some people it is The Hammer of the Law

Do what’s right always – or else. And, what’s right is what I or a small group of others have to say. The main thinking here is captured in the words, “Thus says the Lord!”

For other people the response to the need for doctrine is “Just me and You Lord”

I’m all alone with God – no one has the right to tell me anything. I am the sole arbiter of what is good and acceptable and true. God speaks to me and if he speaks to you it better agree with what God said to me! The catch phrase here is often, “God told me!”

Others believe doctrine is a matter of personal choice – that even if our doctrine differs so dramatically that it’s hard to imagine we think about the same God we are all going in the same direction. This is the Que Sera, sera! Approach. Whatever will be, will be! Albert Ellis popularized this as the “I’m okay, you’re okay” approach to psychology. Well, I’m not okay and neither are you!! The main thinking here is ….. whatever!!!

Alternately, sound doctrine may be seen as a more described way to think about God and about our actions toward God. Yes, there are options for behaviour but they are founded on basics which are stable and essentially unchangeable. Things like the way we think about the person, work, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. Or, the way we understand the bible and its teachings.

This way is the way of a trialogue, not a monologue with ourselves, nor a dialogue between ourselves and God alone; but a conversation between scripture, the Holy Spirit and ourselves – not as single individuals trying to plumb the mysteries of God, but as communities of people gathered in Jesus name to see what it means to be created in and live in his image. It’s about our traditions & experiences – in the community of God’s church being fit together into a more complete picture of God. It’s about thinking well and walking well – about Chasing our Thoughts with right actions.

The animals in our opening story knew what life should be like. They understood how life should be lived in response to the one who made us. And, when it went awry they took counsel together to see what must be done to bring life back to balance and harmony. Let us also counsel together so that we might walk well, walk in balance, walk in harmony.

by Terry LeBlanc, My People Canada

Monday, January 30, 2006

Into The Mystery

Galatians 3:26-28
So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians--you are one in Christ Jesus.

When I was growing up I’d watch PBS documentaries on the civil rights movement in the United States. Many of my friends were watching cartoons while I wrestled with Human Rights. I never could understand the hatred and cruelty between peoples.

Over the last number of years I have applauded what Bill Hybels and the others at Willow Creek have done in trying to help bridge the racial divide. Bill went so far as to buy a dilapidated car wash in order to help the operator make a living in Michigan. Bill is white, the operator is black. What struck me so profoundly is the example of seeking to live out of love for Jesus in relationships around you.

In Canada a deep divide has separated whites and Native North Americans in the past. It is akin to the black/white divide in the US in my opinion. The church has helped the Aboriginal community in many good ways throughout the years; at the same time horrible things were done to many Aboriginals through churches and their work with the indigenous peoples.

Yesterday was a great day in the life of CoHo. When we celebrated together as a community, being lead by many Native North American practices to worship God together, it was a beautiful thing to be a part of. Terry, Bev, Matt and Jenn, along with Paul, Glen, and Roland helped us see the rich significance of life and worship through earthly metaphors and experience.

Terry's teaching on Chasing Our Thoughts was challenging and illuminating. I hope to be able to post that soon.

I believe that God so desires for us to so live out His love for us that we can’t help but be changed. Thus concluding with a Dance of Transformation was so fitting.

I saw seventy year olds dancing alongside of small children. Black, white, Aboriginal, it didn’t matter. In fact, those categories no longer matter in Christ. I believe that the church is to be the multicultural expression of love that our nation desperately needs to see. Welcome Home, welcome home friends.

“Faith is not simply a decision that is made or a commitment that is promised… Rather, faith is a new life that we practice. And that life is practiced in the context of relationship.” Leonard Sweet

Ephesians 3:14-21
When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Advice Dispensing

Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

Have you ever shared a frustration or a concern with someone, only to have them tell you what you should do? Your thoughts immediately include “I have thought of that, you know. If you knew my life, you’d realize how naive and simplistic your counsel feels.”

Just last week Anola mentioned something to me while I was home for a few minutes in between meeting with different people. I quickly dispensed the correct dose of advice, hoping to free up my time to get on with the things I'd planned previously. She looked at me and said, "I didn't need your help with this. I can handle it."

Caught with my hand in the cookie jar (or rather the advice jar). Busted! As I retreated to my car it was painfully evident how quickly I fall into the advice giving pattern.

Did Jesus walk around giving advice wherever He went? I don't think so. He seemed so much more interested in really listening to people; really interested in their life and their story, like a Samaritan woman at a well in John 4. He had a way of accepting and loving people that made them seek His way for their own life.

The way of Jesus isn't dispensing advice to people, as if being a relational pharmacist that fixes people is our goal. God is so very interested in us that we ought to be profoundly interested and curious about each other, too. The divine, the image of God, is what we find walking around in others! That's amazing, don't you think?

What happens when people don't follow your advice?

The desire to help is the parent of judgment. Here, let me help you. What? You won’t do what I say? Well, why not? Do you think I’m wrong? Or are you just stubborn? Hidden beneath the most confident exterior is an insatiable desire to be liked, and its counterpart, the fear of rejection or criticism. Larry Crabb

Look at Rembrandt's picture of the Return of the Prodigal Son. Is it beautiful and moving because the son has returned home and now the father can tell him about everything that the son did wrong? Is the father about to embark on a litany of complaints of how difficult it's been because the son was so selfish as to leave?

Of course not. The father is overjoyed to once again live in relationship with His son. No advice here, only celebration.

Luke 15:20-24
"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.' "But his father said to the servants, `Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began.

My advice to you: Let the party begin.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Soul Friends

In the movie Because Of Winn-Dixie, a mangy mutt becomes the catalyst of friendship and connection in a very lonely small town. The dog befriends a young girl named Opal, and oddly enough accomplishes everything that Opal's preacher dad hopes to see happen at his little Open Arms Baptist Church.

Never forget what dog spelled backwards is. Opal starts out in the movie simply desiring to have a friend.

Do you have friends? Most people answer, "Of course I have friends."

Do you have really good friends, you know, a few special people with whom you can be yourself, folks with whom you feel meaningfully and comfortably and close? People start to squirm at that question.

Do you have at least one soul friend, one person whom you trust so deeply that their betrayal would devastate you, someone who knows you well enough to speak with life-arousing power into your inmost being?

Larry Crabb asks these questions regularly in his teaching, and by the time he gets to the third question very few people even understand it, never mind answering "Yes." And so he'll rephrase the question this way:

“Do you have friends with whom you have no secrets, people you love being with because somehow they stir your appetite for God no matter what’s going on in your life, people that make you feel as if you can be yourself, with no pretense or effort, people that respond more with curiosity than solutions when you share your struggles?”

Very few people have these friends that are this close. I've always felt that the church should be the place to cultivate soul friends, but sadly it's often one of the last places you find them.

A soul friend helps us to become more aware of our thirst for God. They help us to see where God is at work in the myriad of events of our life. This gift of spiritual direction nurtures the character changing love of God in our soul. Soul friends freely give to us what Jesus would; acceptance, love and grace despite knowing everything in the garbage dump of our lives.

"Our security will be … in the depths of our friendships." Jean Vanier

Pray for God to bring along a soul friend to help you with spiritual direction and ask God for the privilege of offering it to others. You may discover that your sought after soul friends have been with you all along.

Most people are self-conscious but not self-aware. Peter Scazzero

Colossians: 2:6-7
Live in Christ, rooted and built up in him.

Ephesians 4:32
Be tenderhearted, forgiving one another.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Want To Get Fed?

"If there is joy, there is learning." Guila Muir

"Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion." Aristotle

"Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts. The other breaks into pieces." Henry David Thoreau

If we want to see dramatic changes in our life we have to start in the right places. Too often we focus only on changing our behavior, and then, while we hope for a better outcome, we often only get frustrated when we repeat the same thing over and over again.

For lasting change to occur we must anchor the change in a renewed way of thinking. This new way of thinking leads the way to creating a new window of belief. The new window of belief leads us to educate ourselves into a new way of feeling that ultimately enables and empowers us to behave differently than before.

The information we receive isn't magical in changing us; rather it's the information coupled with the relational way of Jesus that moves us forward.

When we only focus on changing behavior instead of the underlying beliefs that cause behavior we fall into the legalism trap. Legalism says that "I shouldn't do this" or that "I should do that."

When we fail to change and fall, we get frustrated into thinking that following Jesus is only about "rules and regulations anyway."

When we allow our character the room to grow we will change our behavior because we want to, not because we have to!

By continually looking to the way of Jesus Christ, we allow Him to imprint His way upon us. Let Jesus quench the thirst of your soul today, as only He can.

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

Matthew 11:29-30
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Torches Together

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world--like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Ephesians 5:8-9
For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

1 Thessalonians 5:5
For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don't belong to darkness and night.

1 Peter 2:9
You are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God's holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Why burn poor and lonely? Join others on the journey at CoHo in opening their life to each other and building the kingdom of God together!

Torches Together video

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jesus at Church

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go to church with Jesus? He seemed to be into comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, didn't He?

Amos 5:23-24
Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.

A. W. Tozer once commented “if the Holy Spirit were removed from churches on Saturday, most would go on the next day as if nothing had changed.” Neil Cole has suggested that a lot of ministry in churches today is done for Jesus, but not by Jesus, and there is a big difference!

Are you sure you’d want Jesus to show up in your church?

John 2:14-16
Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; and he saw moneychangers behind their counters. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and oxen, scattered the moneychangers' coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, "Get these things out of here. Don't turn my Father's house into a marketplace!"

E. M. Bounds once said, “Men are looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”

God’s work in our midst is to transform us on the inside, and that’s not an easy process to endure. We often want to ‘shoot the messenger’ when our life issues are revealed.

Luke 4:16-30
When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come. " He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down.

Everyone in the synagogue stared at him intently.

Then he said, "This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!" All who were there spoke well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that fell from his lips.

"How can this be?" they asked. "Isn't this Joseph's son?"

Then he said, "Probably you will quote me that proverb, `Physician, heal yourself'--meaning, `Why don't you do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum?' But the truth is, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. "Certainly there were many widows in Israel who needed help in Elijah's time, when there was no rain for three and a half years and hunger stalked the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a widow of Zarephath--a foreigner in the land of Sidon. Or think of the prophet Elisha, who healed Naaman, a Syrian, rather than the many lepers in Israel who needed help."

When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and took him to the edge of the hill on which the city was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he slipped away through the crowd and left them.

Might God want to shake us up when we get together as a church? Just a thought….

Micah 6:8
O people, the LORD has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Ezekiel 15:49
Sodom's sins were pride, laziness, and gluttony, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

Ever want to push Jesus off of a cliff? We often like following Jesus when it's easy, but what about when He asks us the harder questions?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Growing Up

1 Corinthians 13:12
Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.

In the movie A Bronx Tale, Robert DeNiro plays Lorenzo Anello, a man who is trying to guide his son away from the influence of organized crime. At one point De Niro tells his son, "The saddest thing in the world is wasted talent." He may or may not realize that he's describing himself.

Many of us are guilty of the same thing in our own life. We leave our talents unused, or used for the wrong principles because we lack the necessary wisdom.

In essence our character fails our talents.

Wisdom is seeing that our virtues and our integrity become unconditional successes in our life. When we’re on this track our talents will be used to the highest end possible because they will be fully yielded to Jesus.

If we will commit to living this way we will leave a legacy; a legacy that is created when the impact of our life surpasses our death because it lives on in others.

"Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world."
-Hans Margolius

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those who sang best. —Henry Van Dyke

Romans 12:6-8
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Tuning In: Recalibrating Our Hearts

James 4:8a
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Assignment: If you want to "draw near", you must first move. Move your chair closer, or pick a closer chair.

Have you been in a soul-numbing rut? Is this really all there is to knowing God?

God is seeking worshippers not worship. He doesn't want a date, but to get married!

How do we recalibrate to that reality?

1. Bring a contrite and courageous heart

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

Ezekiel 36:26
And I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart.

Matthew 5:3
"God blesses those who realize their need for him, the poor in sprit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

Zaccheus was courageous in his efforts to see Jesus. In Luke 19 it says

Luke 19.3 Message
He wanted desperately to see Jesus.

So he climbed a sycamore tree. He was willing to look out of place, to be embarrassed in order to encounter Him. It takes a certain amount of courage to come to church if you’ve been away from it for a time, or if you’ve never grown up in a church. You don’t know what to expect, just that something is drawing you that may have big meaning in your life, and it is so hard to articulate that at the time.

Attitude: Humility and Gratitude and Desperation

These postures reflect inward attitudes:

Raised hands
Psalm 134:2
Lift your hands in holiness, and bless the LORD.

Raised hands are rich with meaning. Look at a big touchdown in a football game or a huge goal in an Oilers game.

How about when a criminal is caught by authorities. Raised hands are the universal sign of surrender.

A small child raises his hands when mom comes home. Pick me up and love me.

A rock concert- everyone raises their hands. How much more does Jesus have to offer than a music band?

Bow down
Psalm 95:6
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker.

John 4:23-24
But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

The word used for worship literally means to “Bow down and kiss the feet of the king”.

The truth puts us on our knees!

Be still before God
Ecclesiastes 5:2, 7
And don't make rash promises to God, for he is in heaven, and you are only here on earth. So let your words be few. Dreaming all the time instead of working is foolishness. And there is ruin in a flood of empty words. Fear God instead.

Shout for joy

2 Samuel 6:14-15
And David danced before the LORD with all his might, wearing a priestly tunic. So David and all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD with much shouting and blowing of trumpets

Nothing about worshipping Jesus is cool to the world. It takes courage to fully abandon themselves to God.


Not spiritually independent: when we open our hearts to God we must open our hearts to others. There are no ‘Lone Ranger’ Christ followers.

"The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour."

Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation! Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise. For the LORD is a great God, the great King above all gods.He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

2. Substance not style

Your inner life must define and direct your outer life.
We need a worship that transforms. It engages the mind-leads to encounter-and changes us.

We engage our minds. And if we engage our minds in the truth, the proper emotions will flow.

Believe- Perceive- Receive!

Hypocrisy is NOT when actions are inconsistent with feelings; it is when actions are inconsistent with convictions.

"When I discover who I am, I'll be free." Ralph Ellison

We are worshippers!

This doesn’t DIMINISH our role; it DEFINES it. C. S. Lewis

The divine dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit draws us into their energizing and invigorating movement. In our worship and in our mission we are participating in the intimate life of God. Pete Ward

The best worship to me is when all cultures are present in the same place giving their gifts back to God. That is the sound of Heaven.

Praise is not only the expression of but also the completion of the enjoyment (of God). C. S. Lewis

By commanding us to worship Him, to make Him famous if you will, He is commanding us to enjoy Him.

“Nor is it idolatrous to say our affections in worship are ends in themselves, because our affections for God glorify God, not us. Whoever thought he was glorifying himself and not the Grand Canyon when he stood at its edge for hours in silent awe? Whoever would accuse me of glorifying myself and not my wife when I tell her, ‘I delight to spend this evening with you’? Who would accuse a little child of self-centeredness on Christmas morning if he runs away from his new rocket to hug his mother and say thank you because he is bursting with joyful gratitude?” John Piper

“…All enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…lovers praising their [beloved], readers their favorite poet…I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment…fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” C. S. Lewis

It’s all about God! It’s not about us!

“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole three-fold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.” C. S. Lewis

Styles: The evolution of twentieth-century worship:
Hymn worship became Chorus worship: This was considered a wild concept when it first came on the scene.
Chorus worship became Blended worship: A blended service is one where no one is happy.
Blended worship became Contemporary worship: People starting looking for a new song to sing to God.
Contemporary worship became Cutting-edge worship: Delirious came on the scene.
Cutting-edge worship became Modern worship
Modern worship became Post-modern worship: Whatever that means.
Post-modern worship became Ancient-future worship: We rediscovered our hymns again.
Ancient-future worship became Neo-classical worship
Neo-classical worship became Emerging worship:

Is it possible that we have outsmarted ourselves and somewhere in the conversation we have lost the simplicity of what worship is all about?

As we now have God with us 24/7 we can be more flexible than ever on worship styles. That’s because you get to choose your own worship method for 166 hours of the week. That’s 99% of the time! The 1.5 hour window on Sunday morning is the time we engage as a community and therefore give up some of our preferences for others that are here, or in the hope that those far from God will be open to our church.

The burden of flexibility should rest with the older folks who may have different preferred styles than the younger people. It’s having the attitude that says, "This certainly isn't the way I worship... but don't even think about stopping this" as you look around whenever young people are gathered together.

Worship critiques:
Assess your own attitude, the motive of your heart. There are times when you or I are just consumers at heart and, really, all we really want is what ‘we’ want. We really don’t care about the rest of the body. We get stuck in “Me Worship”. We just want what we want, and if we don’t get it our way, we complain. That’s the heart of a grumbler; that’s the heart of a consumer.

Have you ever thought about the rhythm of your own personal worship? Does it start with Sunday worship and culminate throughout the week, or does it start Monday A.M. and culminate on Monday?

If Sunday is your only experience, with no Bible/devotional/music/quiet time or listening to God, you’re at best a swimmer going under and coming up in heavy waves. It’s only a matter of time until you go under for good.

Remember, it’s not about Sunday worship; it’s about making/creating/transforming you into a worshipper (a disciple).

Worship is your heart monitor. If it only beats on Sundays you’re at risk for a heart attack: temptation, sin, and eventually death.

Related to the rhythm of your own worship is the motivation:
Worship- participation- engagement-motivation
A motivational appraisal moves beyond participation to the attitude behind it. It asks if your heart was really engaged in worship or if you're merely going through the motions. As an example, when it comes to improving your marriage, your spouse will know if you are simply trying to complete an agenda rather than following the passion of your heart!

2 Timothy 3:5
They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.

It's not about 'apperaring religious'; it's about being genuine!

A word on gender differences. When I was kayaking as a way of life I was away from Edmonton for many weekends in a row. I found that I missed church, but not really the singing or the service, it was more the connecting with people part. I was ‘worshipping’ in God’s creation all weekend on the river and in the mountains. Occasionally I missed the singing, but there’s only so much singing I can do. Singing isn’t the entirety of worship. Perhaps you’re similar to myself.

Being in worship does mean that we engage with God. Men often engage differently than women.

The challenge for you men present today is to admit our need for a vital relationship with the true God. Men usually fall into one of two groups:

1. Weak men who may sense a need for God but lack the guts to do anything about it. Perhaps fear of the unknown keeps them from pursuing God. Or perhaps they don’t want to leave the comfort zone.

2. Macho men who say they don’t need anybody, God included. At least that’s what these guys tell themselves. But these terrified little boy’s need God desperately. They can’t admit it.

Worship changes people's lives. Ordinary people who get discouraged, frustrated and hurt, myself included, are the ones who come on Sundays. All of us present are in deep need of God's grace and forgiveness in our lives. Some of us may be on the verge of divorce, murder or suicide. Our worship experience may make a tremendous difference in the life situation that we currently face. In light of that men, don’t become a statistic.

Don’t get caught up in being afraid to worship with abandon, singing and dancing before God. But also realize, like the author of this poem, there are many ways to worship:

I wasted an hour one morning beside a mountain stream,
I seized a cloud from the sky above and fashioned myself a dream.
In the hush of early twilight, far from the haunts of men,
I wasted a summer evening, and fashioned my dream again.
Folks say so who never have walked with God,
When lanes are purple with lilacs or yellow with goldenrod.
But I have found strength for my labors in that one short hour.
I have found joy and contentment;
I have found peace and power.
My dreaming has left me a treasure, a hope that is strong and true.
From wasted hours I have built my life and found my faith anew.

Philippians 3:3
For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The PAPA Prayer

Someone has called the morning coffee “Christian crack’. I must admit that a well-mixed extra large double double from Tim Horton’s scratches my itch in the morning. That being said we all need more than an injection of caffeine to give us purpose and direction in the morning, don’t we?

Tony Campolo used to say that he would begin his day by sliding out of bed and onto his knees and slowing repeating the name, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” He said that this practice helped him to center his day on what was most important.

I picked up a practice from Dallas Willard where I’ll read slowly through Colossians 3 in the morning and ask God to help me live my day according to the powerful realities that Paul mentions in these verses. I also ask God to help me see the events of the day with the eyes of Jesus; pregnant with opportunities for spiritual growth and renewal for those I interact with and myself.

I’ve learned that the detours and interruptions of the day ARE the ministry and work of God laid before me, not obstacles that I need to overcome.

Larry Crabb has a practice that helps him move towards God in the morning. He calls it the Papa Prayer.
Present yourself as you are;
Attend to whatever is deepest within you, whether you are experiencing God’s absence or his presence;
Purge yourself, in brokenness and repentance, of the idolatry that becomes clear; then listen for the strains of divine music as you
Approach God, valuing him as your supreme treasure.

In this prayer it’s important to let God drive me down the path of my dissatisfactions, resentments, fears, guilts, and everything else I like to keep at arm’s length. It's also the opportunity to rediscover the sound of the Father's voice.

Do you have any special practices that help you draw closer to God in the morning, or stay connected throughout the day? If we don't have any we'll be left to live out G. K. Chesterton's prophecy...

“The Christian life has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton

Psalm 139:1-7
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as
light to you.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Detour Of Life

In his book, Better or Bitter, author Paul Haigazian chronicles his own personal journey of overcoming hardships. Haigazian's book provides us with hope regardless of the circumstances we may face. Enjoy some of the 'wisdom nuggets' from his writing:

Will we be remembered as those who have allowed the windstorms of life to shipwreck our lives? Will we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them and make us ineffectual in helping others? Will these windstorms cause us to accuse God of evil, or even deny His existence altogether? Or will we be remembered as accepting life's tests and temptations as "friends"? Yes, friends that teach us the importance of a selfless life, of godly character and of noble action.

Unless you have been in the lowest valley, you cannot appreciate the magnificence of the mountaintops.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. Helen Keller

What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight. Joseph Joubert

A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ. John Steinbeck

Take all the sorrow out of life and you take away all the richness, the depth, and tenderness. The capacity of sorrow belongs to our grandeur. It is the furnace that melts the hearts together in love.

I hold not with the pessimist that all things are ill, nor with the optimist that all things are well. All things are not well, but all things shall be well, because this is God's world. Browning

There is so much loneliness on this uncharted earth.
It seems each one's a prisoner within a cell from birth.
There is much need for union, such need for clasping hands.
Yet we deny the brotherhood the human heart demands.

What would you have left if everything you hadn't given thanks for was taken away?

God's most striking victories rise out of the graves of apparent defeats. Haddon W. Robinson

To hold a person accountable for his misdeeds without harboring resentment against him is the essence of forgiveness and love.

Resignation is to accept the course that God establishes for us. In other words, whatever God chooses to provide for us is sufficient. This puts an entire new emphasis on what we ask for in prayer.

There is no security on this earth. There is only opportunity. Douglas MacArthur

"Adversities are inevitable in life, but misery is a choice."

2 Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me--the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Going Under

Does your life feel like it’s out of control? Do you wonder where you’re going to turn next for help? Are you experiencing any of the following?

~You wake up feeling overwhelmed, unable to face the day.
~You’re touchy and on edge. You make mountains out of molehills.
~You’re hardened towards others’ needs or requests. You don’t want to hear about people’s problems.
~You seem to be developing a critical, faultfinding spirit. Nobody can do anything right.
~You feel the need to withdraw from people more than usual.
~Your inner dreams, passions and desires seem to be choked out. You have to work hard just to make it through the day.
~You really want to escape. There is a part of you that deeply wants to ‘run away from it all’.
~There is a troubling temptation in the back of your mind to do something, anything to add feeling in your life.
~You are afraid of what is lurking to pounce on you, even wondering if that’s what God is up to.
~You feel like you’re circling the drain, ready to finally go down any minute.

These feelings are often called ‘overload’ or ‘overwhelm’, and are a sign of deep concern in our spirit. They are a sign that we are being deconstructed, perhaps like an onion having our layers of protective skin peeled back.

One of the first realizations that helps us in our time of need is the fact that God is there in our pain seeing us with eyes of compassion. He is tending to us, trying to bring healing and wholeness, not inflicting pain and torture.

Matthew 9:36
When he saw the crowds, Jesus had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint Exupery

A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Overcoming overload also involves a process. That process will entail a series of births and deaths. We must die to the addictive concept of 24/7. When we do, we can be born into the sweet savor of enjoying a Sabbath. Steve & Mary Farrar

David Crowder has given poetic expression to this state in his song, “This Is All I Can Say Right Now”.

All I Can Say by The David Crowder Band
Lord I'm tired
So tired from walking
And Lord I'm so alone
And Lord the dark
Is creeping in
Creeping up
To swallow me
I think I'll stop
Rest here a while

And didn't You see me cry'n?
And didn't You hear me call Your name?
Wasn't it You I gave my heart to?
I wish You'd remember
Where you sat it down

And this is all that I can say right now
And this is all that I can give

I didn't notice You were standing here
I didn't know that
That was You holding me
I didn't notice You were cry'n too
I didn't know that
That was You washing my feet

Thursday, January 19, 2006


"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned the hard way that some poems don't rhyme and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what's going to happen next." Gilda Radner

"The Station" Robert J. Hastings

Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

"When we reach the station, that will be it!" we cry. Translated it means, "When I'm 18, that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it! When I win a promotion, that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!"

Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

I believe that the journey we’re on is an internal transformational trek that changes us on the inside, not fulfills us when we get something on the outside. Flowing with the spirit daily is what life is made of.

"Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized." Leo Buscaglia

Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Organic Church

Neil Cole has put a lot of what I've been thinking about church into printed format in his most recent work. It's full of great material to challenge the status quo "anesthetizing church" to stop euthanizing the passions and desires of Christ followers in North America.

The mission statement for his church planting endeavor states, "let's lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple."

Reggie McNeal has identified that "a growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason...they haven't lost their faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith." I meet people like that quite regularly. They've either been hammered by the church or anesthetized to be like "dead men walking", neither knowing or experiencing the fullness of life that Jesus speaks of in the Bible.

Reminds me of a sign in the hallway of the Children's Ministry of a church I visited that said, "Walk, don't run in God's house." And we wonder why teenagers leave the church when they're given the opportunity?

Cole's idea is to bring the church to people instead of dragging them to the church building. "If you want to win the world to Christ, you are going to have to sit in the smoking section." Otherwise if you ask them to butt out to hear the gospel they will only be thinking one thing: "When can I get another cigarette?"

That's one of the reasons I love the Church Under The Bridge (see the January 14 post). And Community of Hope. As Walter Moberly said to Christ followers, "If one-tenth of what you believe is true, you ought to be ten times as excited as you are." I love our church and I'm excited about where God is taking us.

To put it into Rob Bell's words, "We'd better smoke what we're selling." Otherwise we're inconsequential at best, and destructive at worst, holding up the passionate and creative movements of God to bring the love of Jesus to a lost and hurting world.

More and more people are awake to spiritual reality and are interested in Jesus but they just don't like His wife, the church. "We often tell people that they must take the bitter pill of "church" if they want to hear about Jesus. Most would rather die of the disease than consume that medicine!"

I can really identify with the journey Cole found himself on leading up to the writing of the book. He tells of a time of difficulty that brought him "a new sense of call to bring the hope of Christ to people who are broken, lost, and not wanting to live anymore." I almost thought that he'd been reading my journal from the past couple of years!

I fully believe that God has called the Neil Cole's and others like us at CoHo to help restore a sense of what the kingdom of God is all about. Follow Jesus wherever He leads and renew the passion...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Place Of Hope

"No man can stay alive when nobody is waiting for him," writes Henri Nouwen. "Everyone who returns from a long and difficult trip is looking for someone waiting for him at the airport. Everyone wants to tell his story and share his moments of pain and exhilaration with someone who stayed home, waiting for him to come back."

"Don't confuse God with life." Phil Yancey quoting 'Doug' in Disappointment With God

When Van Halen toured for “1984” they had a T-shirt with “Western Exterminators” on it. It was a picture of a man with a huge hammer held behind his back looking at an innocent little mouse. The mouse is in trouble. Some of us see God that way…especially if we’re struggling with difficult life circumstances. Especially if the church has wacked us before.

"If all this is true and the power of God is available to heal the sick, to care for the broken, to comfort the sad, to encourage the broken the defeated and so forth, then what else would one want to do between now and the return of Christ?" John Wimber

One day while standing on a bridge, Winnie the Pooh noticed Eeyore floating below in the river.

Pooh yells down, "Did you fall into the river, Eeyore?"
"Yes, silly of me, wasn't it?" replied Eeyore.

"Is the water cold today?" asked Pooh.
"Yes, the dampness, you know," said Eeyore.
"You really ought to be more careful!" warned Pooh.
"Thanks," responded Eyore.

After a moment of silence Eyeore asks, "Pooh, if it wouldn't be too much bother, would you mind rescuing me?"

The world is full of people crying out to be rescued from meaninglessness, brokenness, emptiness, low self-esteem, and so many other needs. They're waiting for someone who will love them enough to share a word of Hope and encouragement with them. They're looking for a church that will believe in them enough to reach out to them- a church willing to take whatever risks necessary to lead them into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tuning In: Worship As A Way Of Life

We skied at Rabbit Hill on Tuesday, & the cell phone reception was terrible. At the bottom of the hill you kind of had to hold the phone just right, otherwise you’d lose connection. I think Winston can identify with poor cell phone reception in an elevator where you have to hold it to the top of the car, right Winston? It was a bit better at the top of the hill. Perhaps you’ve experienced something like that.

Or have you ever used those 2-way radio walkie-talkie’s, well you need to be on the same channel to get reception. And have you ever tried to get a radio station and you turn the dial just right because otherwise you’d miss it. Well for the next couple of weeks we’ll talk about dialing into God’s frequency; tuning our lives into a life of worship. If we’re not dialed in, if we’re not tuned in, we’ll miss God and what He’s up to in our life and in the world around us.

You were created to worship. What does worship mean to you?

Sometimes someone will say, “Oh, worship was a little off today.” What do they mean? They mean that when we get together to sing, that’s worship. That’s only a small sliver of what it is to worship. You cannot not worship.

Think about that for a minute. You cannot not worship. It all boils down to what we’ll worship. From recorded human history, we have always worshipped, be it unknown or known Gods, celebrities or leaders, conquest and achievement, the beautiful and attractive, and the list could go on.

Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt with miraculous signs. The Red Sea was parted. He goes up to meet with God and less than 40 days later what have he people created to worship? A golden calf! They couldn’t go more than 40 days without worshiping something tangible in their lives. We’re probably not any different.

This series is about “Worship as a way of life.” Because “Worship is a way of life.”

Someone has said, “We worship our work, work at our play, and play at our worship!” Has this been true in your own life?

There are two ideas to keep in mind in order to live worship as a way of life:

1. You were created to worship.
That’s what we’ve already been talking about. Listen to what the Bible says,

Habakkuk 3:2
I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy.

Isaiah 26:8
LORD, we love to obey your laws; our heart's desire is to glorify your name.

That my friends is about as good a practical definition of worship that I can find. “Our heart's desire is to glorify God’s name.”

Some of you may remember from the Westminster Confession that our chief aim is “to glorify God.”

We need a "God's Eye View". We need to see life from His perspective.

We need an altitude adjustment. We need to experience Josh Groban's song, "You Raise Me Up..to be more than I can be (see January 1st post).

Worship is really 'worth-ship".

Because worship is worthwhile and God's highest desire for us, Jesus commands us to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37,) and calls us to worship only him, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Matthew 4:10).

Worship is acknowledging God's worth! The word "worship" is used over 250 times in the Bible and always describes actions acknowledging another of greater worth. Foundationally, worship is losing oneself during the encounter with God's greatness. This truth also contains the promise of new life. Jesus said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it." (Luke 9:24)

Community of Hope proclaims what the Bible tells us about God's worth: that he creates all things good; that when we sinned, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, that we might have life; and through the Holy Spirit God renews that life daily. This is true worth.

Biblical worship involves the whole person, the community of believers, an orderly structure, God's truth and his Spirit. It is more than simply ritual or outward activities. True biblical worship is a response to God's love emerging from our grateful hearts and the truth we experience in God's Word. Jesus tells us, "... true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23). Finally, worship deals with the whole of our lives. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Colossians 3:23).

Worship = Revelation of God + our Response. "All of me for all of You."

Because their brains are "hard-wired to connect" to people and to God, adolescents who attend church are healthier and happier than those who do not, a major American study has discovered.The study, first reported in 2003, was undertaken by the Commission on Children at Risk, a joint initiative of Dartmouth Medical School, the YMCA, and the Institute for American Values, comprising 33 children's doctors, research scientists, and mental health and youth service professionals.

As the American Family Association Journal reported, they found through the use of techniques such as brain-imaging that from birth the human brain seems to have a built-in capacity - or is "hard-wired" - for religious experience, and in particular a relationship with God.This need - in the commission's words - "to connect to ultimate meaning and to the transcendent," is a development process they believe to be most prevalent during adolescence."Their brains are changing, their relations with family, friends and the opposite sex are changing, and they're beginning to figure out what their purpose in the world will be," said commission member and University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox, as quoted recently in the Edmonton Journal.

"We know that people often turn to God in the midst of momentous changes. Adolescents are no different."And when this religious or spiritual yearning is addressed, the result, the researchers assert, is young people "who appear to have higher self-esteem and more positive attitudes about life.""Compared to their less religious peers," they said, "religious teenagers are safer drivers and are more likely to wear seatbelts. They are less likely to become either juvenile delinquents or adult criminals. They are less prone to substance abuse. In general, these young people are less likely to endorse engaging in high-risk conduct or to endorse the idea of enjoying danger."They are also "less likely" to be depressed, and "more likely" to eat well, be satisfied with their families and school, volunteer in the community, and be active in sports and in student government.

What adolescents need, they concluded, is "authoritative community" - relationships with adults, especially parents, that can offer them moral and spiritual nurturing.

In a speech last May to the graduating class of Dallas Theological Seminary, youth evangelist Josh McDowell said this study has two basic implications for Christians."First, you must develop loving, intimate relationships with anyone to whom you hope to impart information in a way that it will impact that person's life.

Second, you need to model the truth you want to see ingrained in another person's life," he said.

"You future parents and grandparents, please hear me. What this means is that you may be able to expound and exposit truth to your children, but unless your children know deep down in their heart that you love them, they may very well walk away from the truth."

We were created to worship, we will worship, it’s just a matter of what we’ll worship. In this sense worship isn’t just a church word.

Men and women are religious beings; our heart instinctively seeks for a God. Whether we worship on the banks of the Ganges, pray with our face upturned to the sun, kneel towards Mecca or, regarding all space as a temple, commune with the Heavenly Father according to the Christian creed, man is essentially devout.
William Jennings Bryan

Our second big idea about worship as a way of life is:

2. It’s not about you.

It's not about you. Rick Warren

Not only do we need an altitude adjustment, we also need an attitude adjustment. Worship is about our attitude to God.

There is a Consumer mindset in the church.

It shows itself first as a selfish orientation and second as a reflection of the consumer society around us.

There is a conference coming up called the PAPA Festival: it’s the “People Against Poverty and Apathy”. Consumerism in society and the church blinds us to poverty because we’re too into getting more for me. And when someone points this out we shrug our shoulders in apathy and say, “What could I ever do about it?”

When we tune into God we usually first try station WIIFM: What's In It For Me?

Have you ever sung these songs, if not out loud in your heart? Listen to our friends at K-Tel Worship Records present this great new collection, "Me Worship":

"It’s all about me Jesus"
It's all about me, Jesus
And all this is for me
For my glory and my fame
It's all about me,
You should do things my way
You alone are God
but you should surrender to my ways

"I Exalt Me"
For I, O Lord, am high above all the earth
I am exalted far above all gods
For I, O Lord, am high above all the earth
I am exalted far above all gods
I exalt me, I exalt me
I exalt me, O Lord
I exalt me, I exalt me
I exalt me, O Lord

“Lord I Lift My Name On High”
Lord I lift my name on high
Lord I love to sing my praises
I'm so glad I’m in your life
I'm so glad I came to save us
You came from Heaven to earth
To show the way
From the earth to the cross
My debt to pay
From the cross to the grave
From the grace to the sky
Lord I lift my name on high

“There Is None Like Me”
There is none like me,
No one else can touch my heart like I do,
I can search for all eternity Lord
And find, there is none like me.
There is none like me.
No one else can touch my heart like I do,
I can search for all eternity Lord
And find, there is none like me.
Your mercy flows like a river wide,
And healing comes from Your hand.
Suffering children are safe in Your arms,
There is none like You.
There is none like me, (There is none like me, Lord)
There is none like me.
I can search for all eternity Lord,
There is none like me.
I can search for all eternity Lord,
There is none, (there is none,)
There is none Lord,
There is none like me.

“I Am Why I Sing”
I live for me
All that I am
All that I do
My heart beats with me
And each day I wake
I think of me
I am why I sing
I am why I live
Everything of me
I release at your feet
I am why I love
I am why I give
Everything of me belongs to you
I live for me
I am my god
I am the truth
I’m all that I need
My soul it longs more of me
I am why I sing
I am why I live
Everything of me
I release at your feet
I am why I love
I am why I give

And finally that great Christmas classic,
"O Come Let Us Adore Me"
O come let us adore me
O come let us adore me
O come let us adore me
I am the Lord
you've come to give me glory
you've come to give me glory
you've come to give me glory
I am the Lord
For I alone am worthy
For I alone am worthy
For I alone am worthy
For I alone am worthy
For I alone am worthy

Rick Warren says, "The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience, rather than seeking God. They look for a feeling, and if it happens, they conclude that they have worshiped. Wrong. In fact, God often removes our feelings so we wont depend on them. Seeking a feeling, even the feeling of closeness to Christ, is not worship."

We become infatuated with the EXPERIENCE of worship when it's supposed to be me in Your Hands.

"Me in Your Hands" = God's nail-scarred, trusting, dependable Hands. He's not the Wounder; He's the Wounded. He's also an all-consuming fire and our worship should reflect both awe and wonder.

"Whatever YOU'RE thinking, I want it."

This just in from LarkNews.com:

FRANKFORT - Jerry Clark can slap the bass with the best players in town. And as a member of First Assembly of God's worship band, he's convinced he's better than anyone else on the platform. "I'm way ahead of the other guys in terms of talent," he says during a break at Saturday worship band practice. Clark has played in a local rock band for 18 years, honing his bass-playing gift. The band has made several CDs and tours widely in the southwestern tip of Kentucky.

Clark began lending his musical expertise to First Assembly 11 years ago, but at times gets fed up with the amateurs in the worship band. "The piano lady can only play notes you put in front of her," he says. "She can't jam. I'll be over there slapping and grooving, and these other guys look at me like, 'What? What?' They get so caught up in what I'm doing, they lose their place. I'm like, 'Dudes, play the worship music!'"

Clark says he often feels he's "carrying the band," but he's committed to it as his ministry. "Everyone's got their cross," he says.

Worship is "You in His hands and your life in His plans." It's not something we consume... it's something that consumes us.

People who sit around and muse about their likes and dislikes of church services are wasting their time on beautifying an insider's club instead of fighting the war for lost people outside the building.

Consumer Worship vs. Consume-Me Worship:
Consumer: What I get - Comsume-me: What I give
Consumer: What I buy - Consume-me: I have been bought
Consumer: Downloading - Consume-me: Bowing down
Consumer: Style - Consume-me: Surrender
Consumer: Enjoyable - Consume-me: Costly
Consumer: My preferences - Consume-me: Concern about what God requires
Consumer: Feel good - Consume-me: Hurts good
Consumer: We use up the songs - Consume-me: God uses up the singer
Consumer: My choice - Consume-me: His will
Consumer: Can't get enough - Consume-me: Always want to give more
Consumer: About trends - Consume-me: About eternity
Consumer: my happiness - Consume-me: Desire to bring happiness to God
Consumer: About me - Consume-me: Me about God

We must never forget that it's an amazingly terrifying thing to be in the hands of God. And what we sign up for is a scary thing, too, to say, "Whatever you want, Lord."

If you want to make God laugh tell Him your plans.

Peter Drucker always told his audiences at lectures, "Don't tell me you enjoyed this. Tell me what you'll do differently on Monday morning."

Tell me how you're going to live a life of worship. Tuning into a life of worship will also make a life of prayer possible as you can't depend on God unless you're talking to Him constantly.

Tuning into worship as a way of life means that the frequency you're on is Humility.

We can talk about life with God, life as worship all we want but it needs to be lived!

John Keats said, "Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced...even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it."

One of the things I love about CoHo is that all of us don't just want to stand around and talk about God, we want actually to live life with God. Make worship a way of life!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Would Jesus Go To Your Church?

The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning. Emil Brunner

Look at what Jesus demonstrates through His life, look at the people that Jesus hung out with. Jesus was the holiest person who ever lived, yet it was the prostitutes, the thieves, and the diseased who loved him and the religious folks who hated him. The Son of God visited planet Earth and the chief complaint about him was that he wasn't religious enough!

Would They Love Him Down In Shreveport Today? by B. J. Thomas

If they saw Him riding in,
long hair flying in the wind,
Would they love Him down in Shreveport today?
If they heard He was a Jew and a Palestinian too,
Would they love Him down in Nashville today?
If they saw Him talk with ease
To the junkies, whores, and thieves,
Would they love Him out in Wichita today?
Would the rich men think it funny
If He said give up your money?
Would they love Him up on Wall Street today?
If He made the wine from water,
Gave it to their sons and daughters,
What would the folks in Salt Lake City say?
If He talked of brotherhood
As He walked their neighborhoods,
Would they love Him up in Boston today?
Oh, If He said love those who use you,
And forgive those who abuse you,
If He turned the other cheek,
what would you say?
Would you laugh and call Him crazy,
And just send Him on his way,
If He walked right into your town today?
Would you laugh and call Him crazy,
And just send Him on his way,
If He walked right into your town today?

A church is really a series of relationships, a family. Robert Frost says family (the church), "is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

Ohana: Nobody gets left behind. Be on the lookout for stragglers. Jesus is.

1 Peter 4:8
Love covers over a multitude of sins.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Why the Church Needs To Be "The Church"

Hood Kids by Meme Webb

hood kids
but good kids
not bad kids
just misunderstood kids
watch mom shoot up
and dad shoot bullets
and combat the words
that scream that I'm useless
I'm not
just hot
and mad at dad who split
and mom who took him back
even though he split
her lip the third time
I watch from the sidelines
and grow full of hate
from parents' guidelines
and you, pastor
push me faster
to hate
taking our crumbs to fill
your already full plate
your frock is stained
you mock the name
of He who commissioned
cuz you're more concerned

with titles and pensions
than the mission to save me
don't forget the babies
don't be so lazy
cuz I need you greatly
it's not about parking spots
and who pays a lot
but who gives a lot
and who prays a lot
for me
the lost sheep
but nobody's looked for me
don't you know God made
the Good Book for me?
but I need direction
some protection
much affection
not rejection
man of God
woman of God
be of God
and keep your eyes peeled
for real
we're crying
and dying
but still trying
though momma ignores us
and daddy abuses us
I'm sure that God still
wants to use us
when momma doesn't hug us
and daddy slugs us
I'm confident that God
still loves us
cuz I'm a hood kid
but a good kid
not a bad kid
just misunderstood kid
and I need your help
before it's too late
and I walk the same path
that my parents made
look at us
behind the chain linked fence
pain wrenched kids
such tainted kids
who were struck
but never fainted kids
we live hellish lives
but can be saintly kids
if you just try TRY!
until then
we'll continue to die
continue to cry
the hood kids
that no one really cares about
it's so obvious that no one
really cares about 'em...

Church Under the Bridge, Waco, Texas

“There are no God-forsaken places in the world...
... just church-forsaken."

Ezekiel 48:35
"The Lord Is There."

1 Thessalonians 2:8
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.

Friday, January 13, 2006

What is the Church?

Dallas Willard has said that most North American churches do business along the following lines:

1. Worship as performance.
2. Leadership as celebrity.
3. Greatness measured by numbers.
4. Salvation by agreement with religious facts.
5. Evangelism without incarnation.
6. Discipleship as optional.
7. Catering to a consumer mentality.

And then we wonder why there doesn't seem to be much change in either the church or the greater society. What if we moved to doing life along these lines:

1. Worship as a heartfelt answer to God.
2. Leadership as humble service.
3. Greatness measured by character.
4. Salvation by a decision to follow Jesus.
5. Evangelism as love.
6. Discipleship as normative.
7. Catering to the committed.

Church doesn't consist of a building. Indeed, you could say church starts when the Sunday service is over and people head out into life! What if we saw our life mission to be a people who were light bearers, grace mongers and peddlers of hope to a dark and screwed up world?

Would things be different? I think so. I believe that we would begin to see the change we so desperately long for, and that change would begin in our very own hearts. Wherever you go, there is the church.


Matthew 28:18-20
"I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Do The People You Love Know You Love Them?

QUESTION #1: Do I like the person I am becoming?

QUESTION #2: Is the work of God I’m doing destroying the work of God in me?

QUESTION #3: Am I giving my family only my emotional scraps?

As you reflect on these questions keep in mind these five love languages:

1. Words of Affirmation and Encouragement.
2. Quality Time.
3. Receiving Gifts.
4. Acts of Service.
5. Physical Touch.

The Changed Man by Robert Phillips

If you were to hear me imitating Pavarotti
in the shower every morning, you would know
how much you have changed my life.

If you were to see me stride across the park,
waving to strangers, then you would know
I am a changed man - like Scrooge.

awakened from his bad dreams feeling feather-light,
angel-happy, laughing the father
of a long line of bright laughs

"It is still not too late to change my life!"
It is changed. Me, who felt short-changed.
Because of you I no longer hate my body.
Because of you I buy new clothes.
Because of you I'm a warrior of joy.
Because of you and me. Drop by.

This Saturday morning and discover me
fiercely pulling weeds gladly, dedicated
as a born-again gardener.

Drop by on Sunday - I'll Turtlewax
your sky-blue sports car, no sweat. I'll greet
enemies with a handshake, forgive debtors.

with a papal largesse. It's all because
of you. Because of you and me,
I've become one changed man.

"If you have something that you believe in, then it is worth saying boldly."

Go ahead. Tell them that you love them.

"God sends children for another purpose than merely to keep up the race – to enlarge our hearts and to make us unselfish and full of kindly sympathies and affections; to give our souls higher aims; to call out all our faculties to extended enterprise and exertion; and to bring round our firesides bright faces, happy smiles, and loving tender hearts. My soul blesses the great Father every day, that he has gladdened the earth with little children." - Mary Howitt