Sunday, December 31, 2006

When I’m riding in my limo I won’t look out the window
Might make me homesick for humanity
There’s nowhere that I can’t go and there’s nobody I don’t know
And there’s an emptiness that’s eating me

These days, everyone wants John Lennon’s sunglasses, accent and swagger, but no one is prepared to take their clothes off and stand naked like he did in his songs. BONO

Eleanor Rigby The Beatles
Lives in a dream, waits at the window,
Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door ...
Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear ...
Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there ...
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Psalm 68:6
God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Is That Really You God?

What do you do when God speaks?

Friday, December 29, 2006

Any time is a good time for Reflection...

Quiet by Paul Simon
I am heading for a time of quiet
When my restlessness is past
And I can lie down on my blanket
And release my fists at last

I am heading for a time of solitude
Of peace without illusions
When the perfect circle
Marries all beginnings and conclusions

And when they say
That you're not good enough
Well the answer is
You're not
But who are they
Or what is it
That eats at what you've got
With the hunger of ambition
For the change inside the purse
They are handcuffs on the soul, my friends
Handcuffs on the soul
And worse

I am heading for a place of quiet
Where the sage and sweetgrass grow
By a lake of sacred water
From the mountain's melted snow

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Chunk of Coal on the Way to Becoming a Diamond

1 Peter 1:14-15
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy." (The Message)

As we love God and surender all of our heart to Him, the Holy Spirit will make us pure and set us apart form the darkness of this world.

Only God can reprogram those deeply ingrained habit patterns of sin that constantly predispose us toward evil, and transform them into even more deeply ingrained habitual patterns ala Romans 14:17:

God's kingdom isn't a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness' sake. It's what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you'll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.

Instead of always wearing the 'sin police' badge, where we constantly find fault in others, we can instead turn to our real fulltime job: submitting to the Spirit's work in our own life.

This is the definition of becoming holy.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is God real?

Or is He just something we make up?

If He is real, is He good?

When life ceases to be all about me, it begins to be all about God.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve: Skipping Christmas

John Grisham's short novel Skipping Christmas touched a nerve with many people when it was published a little while back. He told the story of a couple, tired of all the hustle and bustle, who chose to avoid the holiday altogether after their daughter went away for a year to serve in the Peace Corp.

“How nice it would be to avoid Christmas, he began to think. A snap of the fingers and its January 2. No tree, no shopping, no meaningless gifts, no tipping, no clutter and wrappings, no traffic and crowds, no fruitcakes, no liquor and hams that no one needed, no "Rudolph" and "Frosty, " no office party, no wasted money. His list grew long. He huddled over the wheel, smiling now, waiting for heat down below, and dreaming pleasantly of escape.”

‘Tis the Season to be cynical’ for many of us.

Someone once said that a cynic is a passionate person who doesn’t want to be disappointed again. There have been many disappointments in our past Christmas’s, haven’t there?

Who of us hasn’t contemplated skipping Christmas?

As a parent of young children we have constantly battled the materialism, consumerism and clutter of gifts.

It's not just Christmas clutter that concerns me, though. Somehow TTMOC (The True Meaning of Christmas) eludes us all.

What is it all, about? When I was five, I drew a picture for school that had Jesus being crucified because the authorities wouldn’t allow him to exchange presents with others!

Is Christmas about gifts, office parties, crowded malls, getting drunk and feeling alone?

Are we literally home alone here on planet earth? Left to our own regard?

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Have we understood it?

Even the Grinch got it in the end right?

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?" How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Luke 2:1-20
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

What’s often missing is something called God’s glory. When you're missing the Glory of the Lord, you search for it in other ways- gifts, relationships, and alcohol, whatever.

"Kabod," is the Hebrew concept that means "the crushing, heaviness of God and His Character." He is other than we are, and whenever someone comes into communication with Him directly, they fall on their knees.

We are not usually falling on our knees at Christmas; we usually call Jesus "my best friend" or find Him to be a solution for some mundane problem, rather than having this overwhelming sense of His weighty character.

When Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the shepherds come running to tell the story of what had happened, and the Scriptures says that the Glory of the Lord shown around about them, and they were "terrified." They were so afraid.

The angel tells them to ‘fear not’. Good thing, because then a great company of the heavenly host appeared. These aren’t a bunch of flowery, wimpy angels. This is God’s army in some regards.

Those last verses are the responses that challenge us. Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we must make some space in our heart for the arrival of Jesus, of God in the flesh. We must create space to ponder what this requires of us. Like a clothes drier that gently tumbles again and again, we ponder the God of the universe coming to visit us, you and me.

We also take the route of the shepherds, being sent back to from where we came, our families, our neighborhoods, our jobs and place of recreation, in order that we might tell others of our encounter with God. In doing so we spread the message and grow to love and become more like this God who came to see us.

Where are you headed? The shepherds knew to follow the star, to undertake the journey.

Who are you journeying with?

Why are you here?

What are you working for?

Lets make sure that this Christmas if we skip anything at all we skip the peripheral stuff.

Let’s ensure for ourselves, and our families that we hold onto TTMOC. On a night so long ago, the God of the universe came. And He’s here on this night, too. O Holy night speaks of our time right now. Let’s sing it together…

O Holy Night

Monday, December 25, 2006

A FROG Christmas

Fully Rely On God

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Isaiah 9:6
For a child has been born—for us! The gift of a son—for us! He'll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Child In Our Hands

What if we steered clear of language that evaluated our children? What if we avoided language that judged a child's character or ability?

What if we avoided words like 'stupid', 'clumsy' and 'bad''? Instead we could use our words to describe what we see and feel, and in doing so give our children categories to do the same.

We would help ourselves articulate our own feelings, and mentor our children in that ability. We could help open up new worlds of possibility for them.

What if we never answered their questions or dilemmas with insult? What if we were more of an advocate for them? Don't they already face enough judges, jurors and prosecutors in their young lives?

Love is wealth.

Matthew 18
"I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me.

But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you if you do."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Go All In

Going all in is about spiritual formation, perhaps better titled 'spiritual transformation', and is, as Dallas Willard puts it, "the Spirit driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself."

We don't naturally just drift in that direction, though. Have you ever drifted toward the Father?

More likely your mind like mine drifts away to thoughts of hockey games 30 seconds into praying to God.

Does drifitng work in dating?

As grandma always said, 'God don't help no parked cars!'

Get intentional. Open up to God and some Kingdom Friends today.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No Need to Argue

Christmas and family arguments often seem to go hand in hand. Maybe this Christmas it can be different...

Proverbs 19:11
Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.

Proverbs 17:14
The start of a quarrel is like a leak in a dam, so stop it before it bursts.

1 Peter 4:8
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.

Ephesians 4:2-3
do everything with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Colossians 3:13
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What if God harbored a lot of love in his heart for this little planet? What is the closest that he could get?

Answer: become human.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Kingdom Friends: That’s How The Light Gets In

Week 5: Hide In Plain Sight- Nakedness

Intimacy. Nakedness. Openness. Transparency. What is it about those words that scare us so much?

For some of us we feel shame at the prospect of self-revelation. Others of us recall inapproprate expressions of nakedness and react by blaming.

Why do we feel like we can’t really turn to someone and open up? Turn to your neighbor and discuss this for a minute or 10.

Where is it that we can fulfill the desire of being accepted for who we are if we are not willing to express ourselves from where we are?

Are you, am I, willing to search after God and let him develop in you an intimate relationship that accepts you for who you are with your mask removed?

Are you willing to seek after someone and develop a similar relationship?

What stops us from expressing intimacy with those around us?

Are we afraid of rejection? Is it a fear of being exposed for not having it all together?

We don’t have it all together!

Genesis 2

Proverbs 28:9
Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

"A man leaves all kinds of footprints . . . Some you can see. . . others are invisible, like the prints he leaves across other people's lives." Margaret Runbeck

Mature love, mature friendship is better than young love or puppy love, any infatuation. It burns slower and longer. It’s deeper and less about the surface of things.

“Am I willing to start right now to do something I have been avoiding?”

Way too often, we slide into a black and white mindset of thinking and believing that we are either in control or out of control in our relationships, both with God and friends. It seems to require more integrated and internalized wisdom than you or I can muster to accept into our DNA that most of life occurs in the “not in control” zone.

The final score in a hockey game results from each team putting the puck in the net. Yet the entire game is played in the not in control space in between and behind the nets. It’s the game, not the score that makes it worth watching.

Are we willing to release control to God? Secretly we all want to live the movie ‘Click’. Instead we release our friends to become ‘surgeons of the soul’. When we give up control we enter into the humility and nakedness zone.

Relationships approached outside of humility can be comfortable, affirming, convenient, rewarding, even stimulating, but they can never be characterized by transparency and weakness --- the kind of weakness Paul said he embraced so that the power of Christ could dwell in him. (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:9) Outside of humility we judge ourselves. Outside of humility we judge others, filtering their words and mannerisms through our own understanding and even through the limitations we see in their lives. We deny ourselves depth of relationship --- access to the loaves and the fishes that others have, that the Father would multiply for us. When we approach relationships outside of humility and transparency, if we do see the loaves and fishes that others have we think them small and inadequate, insufficient, yet with such smallness Jesus fed more than 5,000 people. (Matt. 14)

Depth of relationship means speaking the truth in humility and love --- not just about God and about other people, but about ourselves. This relational transparency is what James was describing when he wrote:

James 5:16
Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.

James was not speaking of ceremonial confession or suggesting we should hang our heads and be self-deprecating when we sin. He was talking about living our lives in transparency and humility, before God, and before each other. It is from such soil that hearing hearts and depth of relationship spring. Kevin Avram

That’s what Adam and Eve had been in the Garden. Living in transparency and humility with the Father.

This is not a common practice, but I believe an active process in the lives of Kingdom friends.

Anybody here have any sexual issues? Difficulties with intimacy? Premarital sex or pornography issues? Any other temptations? We have two options in these cases: we surrender to the temptations and difficulties, becoming enslaved; or we go for just plain discipline, fleeing, gritting our teeth all the while saying, ‘yup, the abundant God life, for sure.’

God intends we find healing and relief from these and other crushing burdens in our life. God is the healer but He often uses people as the intermediaries.

Otherwise we’re left with stunted growth:
Have you ever had a season where you’re a mess, emotionally, spiritually, maybe immature, and impatient, perhaps doubtful of God, doubtful of your calling; literally a wreck.

If you look back at that period of your life, perhaps you’re embarrassed. you hope people forget what you wree like then and instead think of you in your finer moments. you hope that people understand that you’ve learned a lot and matured.

Sometimes people won’t do that for you- they keep you stuck in their own mind in your painful past because they were hurt. But when we’re honest, we realize we do the same things to others. we keep people "stuck" in our own mind, defining them by their worst moment, allowing little room for growth, and characterizing all their actions by their worst moments. it's easier that way; we can write people off, or say bad stuff about them, or mentally attack them based upon this ungracious, self-righteous labeling. We get a hardening of the categories as it were.

In truth, though, we never move past the recognition we are broken people in need of God’s grace- we just lose the hang-up over saying that!

We believe in God - such as it is, we have faith because certain things happened to us once and go on happening. We work and goof off, we love and dream, we have wonderful times and awful times, are cruelly hurt and hurt others cruelly, get scared stiff and ache with desire, do all such human things as these. And if our faith is not mainly window dressing or a rabbits foot or fire insurance, it is because it grows out of precisely this rich compost.

The God of biblical faith is the God who meets us at those moments in which for better or for worse we are being most human, most ourselves, and if we lose touch with these moments, if we don’t stop from time to time to notice what is happening to us and around us and inside us we run the tragic risk of losing touch with God too
”. Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Oswald Chambers helps remind us we will always need Jesus Christ and His grace:

Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus, is service for Him.” Oswald Chambers

When we’re not careful, a superior attitude can creep in. I’m not so dependant on Jesus, but He’s dependent on me!

Kingdom Friends help us realize that we come as you are- not stay as you are.

It’s like showing up at a fitness gym and saying, ‘no I don’t want to work out & get in better shape. Don’t hassle me, I’m paying my fees. Can’t you tell that I don’t need to work out?’

After awhile the gym would probably ask you to leave because you’re not doing what their mission is. ‘Sorry sir, this gym is called ‘Hardcore’ for a reason. Maybe you should work out at home on the couch with the TV on. Oh, I see that you’re already doing that!’

“Do I tell the truth to myself about me?”

It’s the sad part about the show, Seinfeld. The characters don’t see their own blind spots, and the only nakedness they pursue is physical!

It is corrosive to our souls to lie and deceive others. We weren’t designed to tell a lie or live one either.

Can you envision going to a restaurant & saying, ‘no I don’t really want to eat here.’

What do you think they’d say?

Jesus did life with his disciples. That’s the stuff of Kingdom Friends. Life in the open. No control, trusting in the way of the Father. Upper room growth encounter: URGE.

John White wrote Changing on the Inside. At a conference John talked about his life, and the fact that each morning he arises, puts on his robe over his pajamas, and makes his way to his den where he prays, reads, etc. One morning the Father spoke to him plainly, telling him to stand and remove all his clothes. To get naked. Then the Father had him stand before him naked. John spoke of his absolute embarrassment, fear, and desire to cover himself, even though he was the only one in the room.

I am quite sure that in deep relationships there is nakedness of the heart. It is a relationship denied to us when we rely on our own understanding, for when we rely on our understanding we judge the other person, what they are saying, what we presume their motives to be, and the limitations we see in their lives. We can't get to the loaves and the fishes that they have, that the Father would multiply for us, and if we do see them we think them small and inadequate. Kevin Avram

Sometimes in teaching it feels like walking out of the shower with the door open, as Erwin McManus likes to quip, only it’s the soul that’s out there. A naked exposed soul.

A last word about the idea of control:
Awhile back I was in a discussion with someone over the idea of Alpha males. Dominant, controlling, opinioned, talented, respected, there are so many adjective that can be used, but antithetical to Kingdom Friends. Are there Alpha females? The women I asked said, ‘yes’.

Years back in my friendship circle there were a couple of friends guys in particular that stood out. One time I was speaking with another common friend and the two others came up in conversation, and the third friend revealed the two in question didn’t get along. I was surprised. Why not? I liked them both. His comment was they were both Alphas, and too busy fighting for recognition, so they avoided each other. I had never noticed the conflict. They both wanted to be the life of the party.

One-upmanship kills Kingdom friendships. Competition, and this isn’t necessarily in athletics. Knowledge, expertise, performance, attention, even one-upping on our brokenness!

Several years’ back there was some conflict in the church staff I was a part of. In my men’s group, this was a subject that I avoided in order to not bias them. When it finally came up, I asked a younger man what he thought. His comment was, ‘two Alpha males going at it.’ And I was one of those two males. I hadn’t really seen it that way up until then. It was his Kingdom Friendship that helped me open my eyes to that reality. In hindsight this was definitely going on.

Enter into the dark waters of relationship. It requires emotional bravery. That’s why brokenness is such an invitation, because if we’ve reached the end of our rope we are too tired to fight an Alpha battle. We realize it’s not worth it.

Who are you in competition with? In your family? At work? In CoHo? In your past?

John Eldredge writes about this in his latest book, The Way of the Wild Heart. A stage of a man is a Warrior, and we can run the risk of fighting for the sake of fighting, as opposed to finding and fighting the battle God has set for us. Eldredge challenges those of us that are getting past this stage, or older, of the need to be healed of any wounds from this stage. If we don’t we’ll fight out potential friends to the death, or seek adventure in possessions and other silly things up until our death.

Some of you may not believe me about always needing God’s grace. Listen to this:

1 Timothy 1:8-17
We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Paul was near the end of his life when he wrote that. That’s nakedness. Paul’s’ life is a study in it. Will you allow God to put you through the same process? Let the Father speak to you now…

This morning i went to Tim Horton's and followed a silver car that had a pink hat in the back window. In large blue letters it had what a female dog is called printed on the hat. I wondered who drove the car and what were they like.

I ended up behind the car in the Drive-thru, and when I got to the window, the cashier said, 'Merry Christmas, your coffee was paid for by the last cuastomer.' The woman with the hat. What a God wink!

Grace comes in strange places, in strange packages...a little baby named Jesus...through broken people like you and me.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

You are the light of the world...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dare to follow Jesus...

Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Philippians 3:7-8
"whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

James 1:22
Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don't act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Matthew 23:23
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Isaiah 1:17
learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

2 Corinthians 2:15
In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

Luke 4:18
God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, "This is God's year to act!"

What is your Christmas all about this year?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kingdom Friends

A kingdom friend of mine sent me this a couple of days back from the What Jesus Did website. It reminds us all of our relationships as Kingdom Friends.

John 20:3-8
Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn't go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.

So often we need the support of a friend to do that next necessary thing. Peter and the Disciple whom Jesus loved (presumably John) alternate taking the next needed step in this story. John outruns Peter, but doesn't go in the tomb. Peter goes in the tomb and sees. John goes in and sees, then believes. We need each other. Not just for the times of mission -- like when Jesus sent out his disciples two by two -- but for times of weakness, confusion, and distress. Sometimes, maybe even often times, we can't take the next step on our own and we need the help of a friend. Don't try to do the Christian life solo. We need each other to make it the risen Lord with faith and live vibrantly for him!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

There is something inside of me. Something that can't wait to see you. Something that gives me butterflies and keeps me from focusing on today. Something inside me tells me to hope for things I cannot see. And so I hope because you are coming. You are coming. You've told me this and I wait in eager anticipation. There is something inside me that knows you're on your way. That same thing that knows you are coming knows everything will be different when you get here. And for that I rejoice. I sing and I dance because I know that when you come it will be true. We will finally be together and I can't seem to hope for anything else.

And so I wait. I stop and wait. Patiently, when my feet will allow, but mostly anxiously, like a young child knowing her father will return. I move and I fuss. I pace this hardwod floor and find myself gazing out the window. I can't stand still. Soon we will be together. You've promised that you will come and because of that my song will not be silenced and my feet cannot be still.

I hear words of your arrival. Your voice whispers a promise that renews my strength. I trust you and know that you are good. And so-this waiting turns into hoping, which nourishes my love for you. Soon we will be together. Stefanie Faridnia

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kingdom Friends: That’s How The Light Gets In

Week 4: A Celebration of Kingdom Friends

Have you ever had to wait in a crowded doctor’s office, or in a long line, waiting for name to be called? All the while these other names are mentioned before yours. You find yourself wondering about their origin, nationality, and background, perhaps being surprised as to what the person looks like after their name is announced and they come forward. “Look at that, Jamie parson’s is a guy. I thought it was going to be a woman.”

“Yadlowski? What kind of name is that?” “MacTavish? Wonder if they’re related to Craig?”

Lets read an interesting list in the bible:

Romans 16
Be sure to welcome our friend Phoebe in the way of the Master, with all the generous hospitality we Christians are famous for. I heartily endorse both her and her work. She's a key representative of the church at Cenchrea. Help her out in whatever she asks. She deserves anything you can do for her. She's helped many a person, including me.
Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, who have worked hand in hand with me in serving Jesus. They once put their lives on the line for me. And I'm not the only one grateful to them. All the non-Jewish gatherings of believers also owe them plenty, to say nothing of the church that meets in their house.

Hello to my dear friend Epenetus. He was the very first follower of Jesus in the province of Asia.

Hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be!

Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Christ before I was. Both of them are outstanding leaders.

Hello to Ampliatus, my good friend in the family of God.

Hello to Urbanus, our companion in Christ's work, and my good friend Stachys.

Hello to Apelles, a tried-and-true veteran in following Christ.

Hello to the family of Aristobulus.

Hello to my cousin Herodion.

Hello to those who belong to the Lord from the family of Narcissus.

Hello to Tryphena and Tryphosa—such diligent women in serving the Master.

Hello to Persis, a dear friend and hard worker in Christ.

Hello to Rufus—a good choice by the Master!—and his mother. She has also been a dear mother to me.

Hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and also to all of their families.

Hello to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas— and all the followers of Jesus who live with them.

Holy embraces all around! All the churches of Christ send their warmest greetings!

One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They're only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren't above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters—I couldn't be more proud of you!—I want you also to be smart, making sure every "good" thing is the real thing. Don't be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of Jesus!

And here are some more greetings from our end. Timothy, my partner in this work, Lucius, and my cousins Jason and Sosipater all said to tell you hello.

I, Tertius, who wrote this letter at Paul's dictation, send you my personal greetings.

Gaius, who is host here to both me and the whole church, wants to be remembered to you.

Erastus, the city treasurer, and our good friend Quartus send their greetings.

All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus Christ, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the very last letter.

All our praise is focused through Jesus on this incomparably wise God! Yes!

I wonder how Paul new all those people? They say he had never been to the church in Rome. This list is interesting because it gives us a profile of a committed group of Christ followers, a group of Kingdom Friends.

In the list there is a husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla. There is a man and his mother, Rufus. There is brother and a sister, Nereus and sister. There are brothers, Andronicus and Junias; sisters, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. How about an old man, Epanetus. There is a single woman, Mary. A single guy, too, Herodian. The common bond is Jesus Christ. A motley crew, I might add.

This isn’t just a list. “Aquila and Priscilla risked their necks for me”, Paul would say. “Some were in jail with me”. “Mary was unbelievable. She was there when everyone else quit, saying, ‘go home, I’ll finish up. She worked hard.’”

“The first Christ follower from my teaching, Epanetus. Rufus and his mom, who is my mom, too.”

Paul isn’t just saying hello to these people either. In many ways he’s saying ‘goodbye’, too. In Romans 15 Paul writes, “Pray for me. Pray strenuously with and for me—to God the Father, through the power of our Master Jesus, through the love of the Spirit—that I will be delivered from the lions' den of unbelievers in Judea.”

“I hope to see you all. But I may not, I may be killed first”. As it was, Paul did make it to Rome, to spend some time in a jail cell before he was put to death. This is not just a list, but also a celebration of Kingdom Friends.

"We have all known the long loneliness and have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community." Dorothy Day

Communion is always a celebration of Kingdom friends. In New Testament times it was a love feast. It’s not about the food or the preparation but about the people and the journeys and the conversation and the caring.

Finding Jesus maybe isn’t as difficult as we all think. It’s just that sometimes He hides behind trees and clouds. Other times He is a little bolder and looks at us through human eyes and smiles at us with human teeth. Sometimes He is so kind as to reach out and touch us. When we weep from the heaviness of our heart, we hope and pray someone is able to reach out and touch us. Jesus is often hidden somewhere between those reaching fingertips and our shoulder.

On the notes page please take a minute to write down a name, several names if you will, of those whom you are thankful for on your own spiritual journey.

My Kingdom Friends:

Don’t do it just for today, though. Make this list and keep it. Add people to it as they are sent by the Father to cross your path. Envision adding to it over the years, sort of your own ‘Book of Life’.

Imagine meeting Peter at the mythical gate to heaven and he asks to see what you’ve got.

My Book of Life:

“Not much” you say. “Just a little list. A bunch of names, my Kingdom Friends- the people who God used to help me accept and live a son or daughter in Christ. This group of people, who without their influence, I never would have made it.”

Peter looks at the list and smiles, saying, some of these folks are already here. They’ve got a banner just ahead that says, “Welcome home friend. ’Welcome home.’

Come and receive the broken body and blood of Jesus Christ, celebrating with Kingdom Friends.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Cash For Christ

God's Gonna Cut You Down

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time

Sooner or later
God'll cut you down

Go tell that long tongue liar
Go and tell that midnight rider
Tell the rambler,
The gambler,
The back biter
Tell 'em that
God's gonna cut 'em down

Well my goodness gracious let me tell you the news
My head's been wet with the midnight dew
I've been down on bended knee talkin' to the man from Galilee
He spoke to me in the voice so sweet
I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel's feet
He called my name and my heart stood still
When he said, "John go do My will!"

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later
God'll cut you down

Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin' in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What's done in the dark will be brought to the light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down
Tell 'em that God's gonna cut you down

God's Gonna Cut You Down

Spoken as only one who has seen all the worldly glory possible and is now at the end of his life can say...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Merry Christmas from Hosea

Hosea 2
"Rename your brothers 'God's Somebody.' Rename your sisters 'All Mercy.' Wild Weekends and Unholy Holidays.

"Haul your mother into court. Accuse her! She's no longer my wife. I'm no longer her husband. Tell her to quit dressing like a whore, displaying her breasts for sale. If she refuses, I'll rip off her clothes and expose her, naked as a newborn. I'll turn her skin into dried-out leather, her body into a badlands landscape, a rack of bones in the desert. I'll have nothing to do with her children, born one and all in a whorehouse. Face it: Your mother's been a whore, bringing bastard children into the world.She said, 'I'm off to see my lovers! They'll wine and dine me, Dress and caress me, perfume and adorn me!

'But I'll fix her: I'll dump her in a field of thistles, then lose her in a dead-end alley. She'll go on the hunt for her lovers but not bring down a single one.She'll look high and low but won't find a one. Then she'll say, 'I'm going back to my husband, the one I started out with. That was a better life by far than this one. 'She didn't know that it was I all along who wined and dined and adorned her, That I was the one who dressed her up in the big-city fashions and jewelry that she wasted on wild Baal-orgies.

I'm about to bring her up short: No more wining and dining! Silk lingerie and gowns are a thing of the past.I'll expose her genitals to the public. All her fly-by-night lovers will be helpless to help her. Party time is over. I'm calling a halt to the whole business, her wild weekends and unholy holidays. I'll wreck her sumptuous gardens and ornamental fountains, of which she bragged, 'Whoring paid for all this! 'They will soon be dumping grounds for garbage, feeding grounds for stray dogs and cats.I'll make her pay for her indulgence in promiscuous religion— all that sensuous Baal worshipAnd all the promiscuous sex that went with it, stalking her lovers, dressed to kill, And not a thought for me." God's Message!

"And now, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to start all over again. I'm taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I'll court her. I'll give her bouquets of roses. I'll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She'll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

"At that time"—this is God's Message still— "you'll address me, 'Dear husband! 'Never again will you address me, 'My slave-master!' I'll wash your mouth out with soap, get rid of all the dirty false-god names, not so much as a whisper of those names again. At the same time I'll make a peace treaty between you and wild animals and birds and reptiles, And get rid of all weapons of war. Think of it! Safe from beasts and bullies! And then I'll marry you for good—forever! I'll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness.

Yes, I'll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go. You'll know me, God, for who I really am.

"On the very same day, I'll answer"—this is God's Message— "I'll answer the sky, sky will answer earth, Earth will answer grain and wine and olive oil, and they'll all answer Jezreel. I'll plant her in the good earth. I'll have mercy on No-Mercy. I'll say to Nobody, 'You're my dear Somebody,' and he'll say 'You're my God!'"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Beat The Drum

World AIDS Day was last Friday. The problem is HUGE.

AIDS has already orphaned more than 12 million African children. In sub-Saharan Africa 30 million people have died from the HIV/AIDS virus since 1981. Approximately 28 million people are currently HIV/AIDS positive.

God is raising up many who will stand up and be counted to bring hope, comfort and healing in the midst of the pain.

Among the CoHo family, several have gone to Africa to help in orphanages this past year, and several more are slated to go in the New Year.

What would the Father have you do?

Beat The Drum

Jeremiah 22:16
The life of King Josiah: "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well." And then this profound postscript: "Is that not what it means to know me?"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Practicing Resurrection

Even if there were no heaven and there were no hell, would you still follow Jesus? Would you follow him for the life, joy, and fulfillment he gives you right now?” Tony Campolo

To say 'yes' to the profound question Tony asks is to realize Kingdom Living.

My answer to the question is yes. It's not our effort to say 'yes' that brings the kingdom about, though. The Kingdom is already here. It is in surrendering to Jesus day-in and day-out that we get to see the Kingdom.

Matthew 10
Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Isaiah 35
Wilderness and desert will sing joyously, the badlands will celebrate and flower—Like the crocus in spring, bursting into blossom, a symphony of song and color. Mountain glories of Lebanon—a gift. Awesome Carmel, stunning Sharon—gifts. God's resplendent glory, fully on display. God awesome, God majestic.

Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees.

Tell fearful souls, "Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here, on his way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He's on his way! He'll save you!"

Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song. Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain. Even lowly jackals will have water to drink, and barren grasslands flourish richly.

There will be a highway called the Holy Road. No one rude or rebellious is permitted on this road. It's for God's people exclusively— impossible to get lost on this road. Not even fools can get lost on it.

No lions on this road, no dangerous wild animals—Nothing and no one dangerous or threatening. Only the redeemed will walk on it. The people God has ransomed will come back on this road.They'll sing as they make their way home to Zion, unfading halos of joy encircling their heads, Welcomed home with gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kingdom Friends: That’s How The Light Gets In

Week three: Choose Your Travelling Companions Wisely

The company you keep; transformational friendships. We can never truly live until we recognize we are inseparable from others.

Experiencing Jesus Through Others.

Make a space for God on the journey

Hebrews 11:32-40
I could go on and on, but I've run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets....Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

The journey can be very hard at times. Recently a very good friend of mine lost his grandfather then father in one week! My step dad got the call last week about the beast called cancer. Anola & I are in a season where our school may close, sending tremors through our family and community. Many of you are facing bankruptcies, job loss, relational breakdowns, you name it.

Is there anyone who really cares about me? This is a relational question.

“What must occur for me to be happy?” This question usually ends up in the relational realm.

Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful, friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away. George Eliot

“When we open the New Testament, we often read it in light of our individualism, reading a “me theology” into what is written. We would do well to look at the perspective of our Catholic brothers and sisters who have historically read the Bible from a community perspective often called a “we theology.” We are, after all, created with a connection requirement.” Desmond Tutu

Kingdom friends are a soul craving.

In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints. Frederick Beuchner

Matthew 22:37-40
Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

Could also be called, ‘who’s in your triangle?

Operate with trust and respect. Trust is the willingness to turn your back and know you won't be hurt, and respect as the ability to be face-to-face with the others, knowing they are hearing you and finding what you say valuable. When we're in the midst of change is when we feel most alone.

Does the triangle have ‘complaining’? Or guy girl and sex? How about sports? Or __?

The musical “Rent” opens with the question of how we are to measure the quality of our lives … in minutes, seconds, cups of coffee consumed, in sunrises witnessed? The song resolves with the conclusion, “How about love, How about love, Measure in Love.”

Love can never be simply between you and God. It can never be limited to that relationship. Jesus makes that clear. Love is more than the relationship between a man and a woman, no matter how extraordinary it may be. Love is ever expanding. Love always grows, not just deeper, but wider. Love always loves people more and always loves more people. Love cals us to community; love calls us to humanity; love calls us to each other. Erwin McManus

Has there ever been a time when you have felt insignificant?

A time when you wondered if your life had any value, any real importance to anyone?

For most people, nothing awakens feelings of deep terror like the experience of absolute disconnection from others. But in the same way, nothing vitalizes the human spirit like the experience of a loving connection—something that assures us that we are not alone and that we count for something to someone. David Benner

Whatever you choose to become, is what you begin to call others to.

Abandon yourself to holiness. If you will do that, you will become a kingdom friend to someone. You will also have kingdom friends sent to you.

1 Peter 1:13-17
So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that's coming when Jesus arrives. Don't lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn't know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, "I am holy; you be holy."

You call out to God for help and he helps—he's a good Father that way. But don't forget, he's also a responsible Father, and won't let you get by with sloppy living.

Only love can soften a hard heart. Only love can renew trust after it has been shattered. Only love can inspire acts of genuine self-sacrifice. Only love can free us from the tyrannizing effects of fear.

"Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas With Style

One week ago today the CoHo family served out of the love of Christ in their hearts in the annual Christmas With Style event. In truth, many had been giving great energy collecting clothes for quite some time, contacting businesses for support, working logistics, decorating for the event, doing set up, and so many other things that needed to be done behind the scenes to make it happen.

To watch the event was really beautiful, it was as if seeing a group of people truly become 'one body'. Below is a link to Don Retson's article for the Edmonton Journal.

Many thanks to all who served tirelessly behind the scenes, those who donated clothes, products and time, and especially to those women who participated- it truly was a blessing for us to be able to meet and share together with you all last Sunday.

Bob shared that as he was driving to church one of the women in his car said, "do I have to sit through a church service for this?" "No", he said, "this is a no obligation free gift to you from the heart of God." Another woman in the car quipped, "maybe it would do you some good."! The woman then asked if they could leave by 2:00 and Bob said that they could leave whenever they wanted. At about 3:20 Bob had to encourage them that "we should probably get going!"

Writes Bob, "the atmosphere, love, service, music and food were clearly a refuge and draw for these ladies, they did not want to leave!"

Makeovers pamper hurting women

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Ken Blanchard has said that ego stands for 'edging God out.' When we drown out the voice of God in our own life or in others, our ego is taking us down a destructive path.

It happens very insidiously in my life and in yours, too. The original temptation was not to do evil but to do something that looked good: to eat the fruit and become like God.

Have you seen the old painting of Jesus, who is knocking on a door? How often do we not hear the knock because our lives are too busy or noisy?

"I am more and more aware that Christ living in you is what really creates the ability to be sensitive and responsive to people." Richard Halverson

Revelation 3:19-22
"The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they'll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!

"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That's my gift to the conquerors!

"Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches."

Friday, December 01, 2006

When suffering isn’t wrong!

My good friend, an elder of the Eastern Band Cherokee, has been an active athlete, a talented dancer and a dedicated police officer in both tribal and state police in various parts of the United States. He and his wife Gerri of 45 years have survived many difficult times including injuries on the job for him and cancer for her. They have laboured in the ministry among the Nez Perce and Colville people of Washington and Idaho since John’s retirement from the police – most often without the support of their denomination who felt they were wasting their time. They were committed to ministry in the cultural context of the people. It often meant ostracism and exclusion. His life became focused on being and living the Good News among the traditionally religious people of the two states.

These past three months John suffered a series of mini-strokes, was taken for heart surgery to repair a congenital defect which had gone undetected all his life and, finally, for brain surgery to correct an aneurism waiting to explode. It’s been a tough time in John’s life. John wrote these words to a number of us this past week:

i can hardly typei plead with HIM for healingdeep depressionjohn

Why the suffering? I’m sure that’s on of the questions lurking behind the words John was crying to communicate to us by email – an email he struggled to complete. I thought to myself, “Surely here was a person – a couple who had done all they could to serve and honour God! Why the struggle? Why the suffering?”

Anything I might say here this morning runs the risk of over-spiritualizing or under-delivering on God’s promises. It also would tend to be prescriptive and formulaic. It would seem to make each individual circumstance the same – just a matter of applying a particular formula. And, of course, that would not only make God into a cosmic bellhop, it would try to apprehend with human logic, the motives and goals of God who makes clear that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways!”

This past summer as our family journeyed through a difficult season, I was struck with a competing series of thoughts about the situation in which I found myself:

At first I thought, “It was my dad who lived in rebellion against God – not me. So why am I seemingly reaping the consequences of his behaviour? I’ve been a good person since I came to Christ – why me!?” Then I thought, “What did we do wrong? How did we fail to serve God well? Why is this happening to us? Don’t we have enough faith??!!" I quickly moved on to, “Doesn’t God care about our lives here on earth? Is it only about heaven and God doesn’t care about us here and now?” As you might imagine, there were many, many more.

There are a few prominent theological positions about suffering. One says that anyone who experiences suffering is outside of god’s will – they have sinned and come short so they are reaping the consequence of their sin – even if it is not immediately apparent to them. Another says that suffering is the norm of life on this side of eternity and no amount of prayer or intervention with god will change it. Only when Jesus returns will we experience total relief from the suffering which has accompanied the fall.

So we come to what to ask, “What is normative for the world in which we find ourselves – the place in which we live – not yet what God has planned for it but on its way in that direction? How did the writers and authors of scripture understand the world and its suffering – how did they understand the way they were to engage with it as followers of Jesus? What did God communicate through the writers of scripture?"

Let’s start with this one:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, be we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
Romans 8: 17-27

How many of you have found yourselves groaning when something bad happened to you – when more than one thing after another compounded to create an intolerable and oppressive situation for days, weeks months, perhaps years on end? If we are honest with ourselves and others, this has happened more than once in our lives – for some it may describe life as an almost constant reality. More and more, it seems even teenagers, in a time of life most often characterized by youthful zeal and enthusiasm, idealism and a firm sense of “it won’t happen to me,” can experience deeply troubling and oppressive times in life; suffering seems unbearable. More than ever today, in these young lives, it goes beyond the experiences of the past, captured in such frustrated cries as: “God, why can’t I get my locker open?!”

Sacrifice, suffering. When does it begin? When does it end?

There are those who seem to think that sacrifice began and ended on the hill where Jesus died on a Roman cross. Yet the Bible inexplicably (if that were true) refers to Jesus as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8b). Funny that Jesus should have been slain for that long. Or, is that just a literary device and the writer meant something else? On the night before his crucifixion, the bible also notes that Jesus broke bread with his followers, saying, “This is my body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24b). Later, taking a cup of wine, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25b).

Did all suffering end there?

Is it restricted to one time, one place, one event, one person, never to be repeated if we but have faith?

It would seem not. There is some sort of “longer-than-just-the-present-reality” sense of Jesus’ suffering that is expected to be with us – even in us – that is not captured with the cross alone. From the beginning of time, human beings have lived by the deaths, often the suffering of others. So, when did sacrifice really begin? And, when will it end?

If I declare that sacrifice has ended or should end, then maybe I should stop eating and go on to that place where, perhaps, sacrifice is no longer needed – the life beyond this one. Maybe I should give up and die to inherit the glory. Yet even this would be sacrifice for those who I would leave behind. Paradoxically, many of us are yet afraid of and want to postpone death as long as we can. Witness the increasingly profitable cult of youth industry which pervades our society.

Vine Deloria Junior, Lakota son of an Episcopalian minister turned anti-Christian is a very well-known author and thinker. When confronted with this very thought about death and eternity (and please know that I am not advocating Deloria’s theology of eternity in this) recalled the circumstance where a TV evangelist spoke on the TV one day of God’s displeasure with him; how God had told this evangelist that if he did not raise a certain amount of money by a certain time, God would take him to heaven. He would die and leave this earth. You can imagine Vine Deloria’s amazement at such a conundrum. I mean, if heaven is to be desire and heaven is where we go when we die, why the fear of death?

When I consider Jesus’ sacrifice, his death on a Roman cross, am I asking myself, “What’s in it for me in this present life? What do I get out of this for the here-and-now? Or, am I asking God to grant strength and power that I may follow Jesus all the way – the same way he took – the way of sacrifice and suffering if need be? Some would rely on Jesus only as the great fire escape or the train ride to heaven. “I’ve got my ticket purchased and know where I’m going but I am not interested in boarding the train just now thank you. I’ll take the next one.”

It seems absurd that the follower would not experience what the master did – at least to some extent. The early church knew this and they had a well-developed, well understood theology of pain, suffering and sacrifice. That’s why they could go to their deaths singing when being martyred by the Roman emperors of the day. The had a clear understanding that this life is a portal to the next – that then journey continues beyond the grave, but without suffering, sorrow or pain. In the meantime, the earth – and we on it – groan in travail. There are those who would go so far as to say that if a person has enough faith, that person need never have to suffer, in this life or in the life to come; all sufferings having been placed already on Jesus.

But Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23b-24). I don’t think Jesus was talking here about one of those neat little crosses on the end of neck chains many people wear today – not because they are followers of Jesus but because it’s fashionable. In Jesus’ day, when a person took up a cross, that person might surely be on a one-way path to public humiliation, torture, excruciating pain and slow, agonizing death as a martyr. The people along the road – a road bordered by the crosses of such martyrs – looked at that person, and they shook their heads. That person must be particularly bad, they would think, for the Creator to allow him to die such a death.

The thing is, not one of us makes it out of this life alive. No one! Not those who shake their heads and try to imagine what evil someone else must have done to deserve such suffering; not those who think their faith is so strong that they may avoid suffering altogether. Curious that those who believe if they simply had enough faith they would not suffer any disease, die in the end of one or another of the diseases which cause death – even if it is simply death by the natural cause of aging – itself a disease of the fall.. Scripture makes clear, “it is appointed unto human beings once to die…” Yet death is simply one or another of the natural consequences of sin taking our lives. Tragic – yes!!! Real – yes!! Avoidable – not except by some intervention of God heretofore unseen.

Paul, who wrote so many of the letters that are in the New Testament, had no illusions concerning freedom from suffering in this life. For Paul, sharing in Jesus’ sufferings was present reality. We can read a summary of this man’s life in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28. With all he went through, I have no doubt but that he suffered – even something as simple (try saying that fast and it sounds better) as chronic pain which 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 seems to indicate. It is said he finally died on a Roman chopping block. And yet, Paul said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What happened on the hill called Calvary or Golgotha or the Place of the Skull was the opening of a window into a much larger, ever-present reality: God identifies with and is present in all aspects of creation. The Creator suffers in creation. The Creator sacrifices himself within and on behalf of his creation. The scriptures make clear that not a sparrow falls apart from the Creator (Matthew 10:29 N.R.S.V.), that the hairs of our heads are numbered, that not one day’s worries go by but that he knows them. The Creator loves what has been made with a great love.

This includes you and me. When you suffer, the Creator of heaven and earth suffers with you. He suffers in you. As you make sacrifices, as you suffer, as your blood is shed, as your life is laid down, God is sacrificing himself in you so that others may live. That’s the way of creation in its as-yet- fully-unredeemed state. That’s why it groans even while it continues to provide for our needs – all the while we are abusing and damaging what was given for our life – whether human or not.

Here are some things to ponder:

Are we to remember Jesus only when taking part in a communion ceremony in a church, or should we recognize the body and blood of our Saviour in all that we eat, all that we drink, all that we do and all that we see done?

Is the Lamb slain from the creation of the world not also the deer slain by the hunter? Is he not also represented in the buffalo slain, the bear and the salmon and yes, even the whale slain – all so that people may live?

Could it be that Jesus’ broken body may also by seen in the corn and the beans and the squash pounded and ground and mashed and boiled for our nourishment and in the herbs crushed for our healing?

Is the blood of Jesus not reflected in the spring water and the berry juice as well as the communion wine?

The Canadian Blood Services commercial is a great one. It makes clear to us about this business of sacrifice that “It’s in you to give!”

Someone will say, “But wait a minute! ‘….by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (Hebrews 10:14). Jesus sacrifice for sin is once and for all.”

Yes, Jesus’ sacrifice is once and for all, yet in some mysterious way, we participate in that once-for-all sacrifice. Paul recognized this when he said, “….I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith….” (Philippians 2:17); and “….I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church [that the people may live]' (Colossians 1:24). and especially “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body" (2 Corinthians 4:11).

Within many traditional Native ceremonies, sacrifice is depicted and proclaimed. It’s not looked upon as payment for sin – only Jesus could do that – instead, it is seen as some small measure of giving back, of reciprocating. What do I own that I may give – my own body, my own blood? I don’t even own these. These ultimately belong to God; in the interim, these belong even more to the people around me than to me. This is in agreement with the Bible. You will suffer and you will die, yet there is no dishonour. Jesus brings honour to suffering and profound and mysterious meaning even to death. In some way which is mysterious to us, we suffer that the people may live.

“But I didn’t ask for this!” you may say. “I’d rather opt out!”

Have you heard of a man named Simon? Not Simon Peter, not Simple Simon and not even Simon Boersma but Simon who had two boys named Alexander and Rufus, Simon who saved and scrimped all his life so he could go up from Libya to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover with his Jewish people in their holy city, that’s the Simon I’m talking about. He was finally in Jerusalem for a major holiday. He couldn’t believe it. Everything was so wonderful, and then boom, a Roman soldier grabbed him and forced him to carry a cross, a cross already covered in the blood and gore of some unfortunate man he didn’t even know, of some man who must have done something terrible, according to the popular assumption, in order to deserve such a fate. I tell you just to carry a cross is to suffer, even if you’re not going to be nailed to that cross. It’s no small task. Simon didn’t ask for this, but he did it anyway (Mark 15:21-24).

Sometimes we do things reluctantly. Suffering may not be fully our choice, yet it happens to us, and God the father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are there, with us, in the suffering, giving meaning, giving honour, even to the point of bringing life from death. And when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, the Spirit of the Creator prays for us with groans too deep for words to express.

As Red Green says, “We’re all in this together.” All creation is a reluctant participant in suffering. All creation groans as in the pains of childbirth. “What do you mean?” you say.

Think of it this way. A mother sacrifices. She sheds her blood, she risks her life, she suffers and she groans. She brings new life into the earth. A baby is born, and the mother looks back to see all her sufferings as unworthy to be compared with the glory of this new and perfect little life. Isn’t that a wonder? Isn’t that a mystery? In many ways, the earth – the rest of creation is our mother – not in the pantheistic sense in which some often treat Native understandings of such things. But in the simple ways in which the earth brought forth all life as we see it in the rest of creation it also gave birth to us as God took the dust of the ground and brought us to life. The creation continues to die to bring us life – many times unnecessarily. As it does so, it groans in the pains of childbirth.

As you consider Jesus’ sacrifice, do you find yourself asking, “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this?” or are you asking our Creator to grant you strength and power to follow after him all the way. And, do you follow in such a way that you bring life from suffering or do you bring suffering in the midst of life.

How far are you willing to follow Jesus? Will you shed your blood in the earth? Will you lay down your life that people may live?

Some additional thoughts from scripture:

ü Scripture makes clear that there are times – perhaps many – where we suffer according to the will of God. Peter says it this way: "But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:14

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:17

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 1 Peter 4:1

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 4:12-16

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19

Last night I watched Snow Walker – about a girl and a guy – an Inuit girl and a white guy – a pilot – who crash in the Arctic. Throughout the movie it is obvious that she, suffering from TB gives her life through great suffering to bring the man to life – not just physical life but also spiritual and moral.

Did she suffer for no reason – or was her suffering necessary that he might have life?

Jumping to conclusions that she was just a poor ignorant Inuit girl doing by instinct what it took to survive minimizes her sacrifice. The idea that “If she just knew Jesus, this would not have happened,” trivializes life – hers and ours – and makes God seem a cruel practical joker. And that, is not the God of the bible and definitely not the God I know. Besides, maybe she did know Jesus!! by Terry Leblanc