Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Alice & Darfur

My experience has confirmed the wisdom of so much of what the Bible teaches. In my career I have seen how often ego and selfishness are the root of conflict in people's lives. Too many people are more concerned with their reputations and what other people think than they are about the best course of action or what risks they really ought to take.

It all boils down to your values. If your priority is to look good in front of people, your life will take a different direction than if your priority is to use the talents God has given you to make a positive difference in the world. Such values will influence what risks you choose to take.
Dr. Ben Carson

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Walking With God

My dear Lord Jesus I come to you now to be restored in you, to be renewed in you, to receive your love and your life, and all the grace and mercy I so desperately need this day. I honor you as my Sovereign, and I surrender every aspect of my life totally and completely to you. I give you my spirit, soul and body, my heart, mind, and will. I cover myself with your blood—my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind and will. I ask your Holy Spirit to restore me in you, renew me in you, and to lead me in this time of prayer. In all that I now pray, I stand in total agreement with your Spirit, and with my intercessors and allies, by your Spirit alone.

[Now, if you are a husband, you’ll want to include your wife in this time of prayer. If you are a parent, you’ll want to include your children. If this doesn’t apply to you, jump to the paragraph after this one.]

In all that I now pray, I include (my wife and/or children, by name). Acting as their head, I bring them under your authority and covering, as I come under your authority and covering. I cover (wife and/or children, by name) with your blood – their spirit, soul and body, their heart, mind and will. I ask your Spirit to restore them in you, renew them in you, and apply to them all that I now pray on their behalf, acting as their head.

Dear God, holy and victorious Trinity, you alone are worthy of all my worship, my heart’s devotion, all my praise, all my trust and all the glory of my life. I love you, I worship you, I trust you. I give myself over to you in my heart’s search for life. You alone are Life, and you have become my life. I renounce all other gods, all idols, and I give you the place in my heart and in my life that you truly deserve. I confess here and now that this is all about you, God, and not about me. You are the Hero of this story, and I belong to you. Forgive me for my every sin. Search me and know me and reveal to me where you are working in my life, and grant to me the grace of your healing and deliverance, and a deep and true repentance.

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and choosing me before you made the world. You are my true Father—my Creator, my Redeemer, my Sustainer, and the true end of all things, including my life. I love you, I trust you, I worship you. I give myself over to you to be one with you in all things, as Jesus is one with you. Thank you for proving your love by sending Jesus. I receive him and all his life and all his work, which you ordained for me. Thank you for including me in Christ, for forgiving me my sins, for granting me his righteousness, for making me complete in him. Thank you for making me alive with Christ, raising me with him, seating me with him at your right hand, establishing me in his authority, and anointing me with your Holy Spirit, your love and your favor. I receive it all with thanks and give it total claim to my life—my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind and will. I bring the life and the work of Jesus over (wife and/or children, by name) and over my home, my household, my vehicles, finances, all my kingdom and domain.

Jesus, thank you for coming to ransom me with your own life. I love you, I worship you, I trust you. I give myself over to you, to be one with you in all things. And I receive all the work and all of the triumph of your cross, death, blood and sacrifice for me, through which I am atoned for, I am ransomed and transferred to your kingdom, my sin nature is removed, my heart is circumcised unto God, and every claim made against me is disarmed this day. I now take my place in your cross and death, through which I have died with you to sin, to my flesh, to the world, and to the evil one. I take up the cross and crucify my flesh with all its pride, arrogance, unbelief, and idolatry (and anything else you are currently struggling with). I put off the old man. I ask you to apply to me the fullness of your cross, death, blood and sacrifice. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my spirit, soul and body, my heart, mind and will.

Jesus, I also sincerely receive you as my life, my holiness and strength, and I receive all the work and triumph of your resurrection, through which you have conquered sin and death and judgment. Death has no mastery over you, nor does any foul thing. And I have been raised with you to a new life, to live your life – dead to sin and alive to God. I now take my place in your resurrection and in your life, through which I am saved by your life. I reign in life through your life. I receive your life – your humility, love and forgiveness, your integrity in all things, your wisdom, discernment and cunning, your strength, your joy, your union with the Father. Apply to me the fullness of your resurrection. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my spirit, soul and body, my heart, mind and will.

Jesus, I also sincerely receive you as my authority, rule, and dominion, my everlasting victory against Satan and his kingdom, and my ability to bring your Kingdom at all times and in every way. I receive all the work and triumph of your ascension, through which you have judged Satan and cast him down, you have disarmed his kingdom. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to you, Jesus. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to you, and you are worthy to receive all glory and honor, power and dominion, now and forevermore. And I have been given fullness in you, in your authority. I now take my place in your ascension, and in your throne, through which I have been raised with you to the right hand of the Father and established in your authority. I now bring the kingdom of God, and the authority, rule and dominion of Jesus Christ over my life today, over my home, my household, my vehicles and finances, over all my kingdom and domain.

I now bring the authority, rule and dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fullness of the work of Christ, against Satan, against his kingdom, against every foul and unclean spirit come against me. (At this point you might want to name the spirits that you know have been attacking you). I bring the full work of Jesus Christ against every foul power and black art, against every human being and their warfare. I bind it all from me in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and in his Name.

Holy Spirit, thank you for coming. I love you, I worship you, I trust you. I sincerely receive you and all the work and victory in Pentecost, through which you have come, you have clothed me with power from on high, sealed me in Christ. You have become my union with the Father and the Son, become the Spirit of truth in me, the life of God in me, my Counselor, Comforter, Strength, and Guide. I honor you as my Sovereign, and I yield every dimension of my spirit, soul and body, my heart, mind and will to you and you alone, to be filled with you, to walk in step with you in all things. Fill me afresh. Restore my union with the Father and the Son. Lead me in all truth, anoint me for all of my life and walk and calling, and lead me deeper into Jesus today. I receive you with thanks, and I give you total claim to my life.

Heavenly Father, thank you for granting to me every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. I claim the riches in Christ Jesus over my life today, my home, my kingdom and domain. I bring the blood of Christ over my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind and will. I put on the full armor of God – the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel, helmet of salvation. I take up the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit, and I choose to wield these weapons at all times in the power of God. I choose to pray at all times in the Spirit.

Thank you for your angels. I summon them in the authority of Jesus Christ and command them to destroy the kingdom of darkness throughout my kingdom and domain, destroy all that is raised against me, and to establish your Kingdom throughout my kingdom and domain. I ask you to send forth your Spirit to raise up prayer and intercession for me this day. I now call forth the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ throughout my home, my family, my kingdom and my domain, in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, with all glory and honor and thanks to him. (A Daily Prayer by John Eldredge)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Acts: We’re On A Mission From God

Our lives are years spent "on a mission." Do you remember The Blues Brothers?

Joliet Jake says, “Well me and the Lord. We got an understanding. We're on a mission from God.”

The blues, Jake & Elwood and the quest to save the orphanage, especially when 'the Establishment' isn't going to help.

You’re on a mission from God. I’m on a mission from God. We’re all on a mission from God,

Becoming followers of Christ who make costly decisions for the sake of the Kingdom.

This early band of followers in Acts did just that- a real commitment to community is hard work.

Isaiah 55:8-13
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work." God's Decree.

"For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them.

"So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God."

We're on a mission from GOD.

God is the guide. Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd & I shall not be in want.
If we don’t know, Don’t.
God’s guidance is clear, often only in hindsight.
God’s guidance is Next Step for some; for others God’s guidance is more long term.
Trust GOD more than TRUST god.
Major decisions require several of these factors to line up.

How does God break into our normally self-focused life?

“What do I hear Jesus saying to me?”

Take time to write down a few thoughts and then carry those words with you though the day. Live them and discover them. Jesus always deals with our own circumstances. You too with be able to say as was said of the disciples on the Emmaus road, “Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him.”

Watch for ‘double confirmation’: A crucial moment where we need a sure word from God,

God gives us direction sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly,

God then confirms this direction through someone else. The further outside the influence of the first person, the more spectacular is the double confirmation.

God then brings the two together in some unmistakable sovereign way. Terry & Paul Young example.

What is usually the only book read week in and week out throughout the year? TV Guide!

Let's give the Bible a better going over than the TV Guide!

Acts 2: a new way of thinking; a new way of seeing; and a new way of speaking. Remember Isaiah 55. Repent. Repent from doing it your way. You’re on a mission from GOD!

Acts 3: ‘silver or gold I do not have’…apparently Peter hadn’t quite got a handle yet on the health & wealth implications of the gospel…Money had stopped being the most important thing for the early Christ followers.

Peter’s bold proclamation.

Acts 4:13
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Unschooled ordinary folks like Jake & Elwood, or you & I.

Acts 4:19-20
"Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

Daniel 3:17-19
"Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."

Acts 4:32-37

No significant spiritual growth can occur in your life unless you put your money and what you think about your money into God’s hands. Tim Keller

"The days of the blessed person are filled with divine "coincidences" and heavenly meaning." Double confirmations galore!

"God doesn't need us to give - we need to be blessed."

Acts 5:12-16

Imagine the Three Tenors are coming to Rexall. A group of street musicians gather and soon has all the attention- no one is going inside. Serious trouble is brewing.

Acts 5:20
During the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, "Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life."

Acts 5:38-39
"So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!"

They didn’t quite take Gamaliel’s words at par, "They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus' name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute.”

They’re on a mission for God.

Ever had an experience like this, where everything went wrong:

I had volunteered to lead the youth at a church in Palm Springs, California. I thought a canoe trip would be a great idea, so I went to the river and reserved camps, rented canoes, and made the arrangements to take one hundred students down the Colorado River near the town of Needles. Read what happened. Then, maybe you’ll see why I said, “Lord, please let me out of working with students.”

Day 1
We get started late, so the camp is closed when we get there and we have to make camp on the river with no water or electricity. Rather than go to sleep, the students start a water fight. They find some kids from Needles to use as targets, which starts a whole night of problems. The students from Needles go recruit friends and come back, and I have to stand between the two groups to keep them from fighting one another. No sleep this night for students, nor leaders.

Day 2
Next morning the canoes are delivered to the camp I had reserved, except we are not there, so our canoes are now one mile upriver. We’ve already sent the busses downriver to the take-out spot, so now we have 100 students and no canoes. I take some leaders, hitchhike up to the canoes, and float them down to the students. While we are gone, breakfast is cooked in three large skillets, but they crack while heating and breakfast ends up in the dirt. No skillets to cook with for the rest of the trip make mealtimes interesting.

Now we head down the river. The wind is pushing the canoes upriver at a greater rate than the current is carrying them downriver. This is causing canoes to go everywhere but where they should.

By this time we’ve developed a problem with a trouble-making student (whom my leaders had recommended we exclude from the trip). He will not paddle his canoe. He has found a cute girl who will paddle for him. Her hands are worn to the point of bleeding. Their canoe is almost a mile behind everyone else. When my canoe gets close enough, I tell him to paddle. He refuses. I’ve had no sleep and I’m in no mood to deal with this problem. I pull next to his canoe, and He decides he wants to fight me right there in the river. When he stands up to take a swing at me his canoe tips and he falls forward with his behind in the air. This looks to me like a great target for my paddle and my frustration, so I swing—hard.

Unfortunately, he moves slightly so that my paddle skips off his behind and smacks the young lady square in the face. The force of my blow almost knocks her out of the boat. She has a very sore face, but thankfully no broken bones. (Please do not start your ministry by hitting students in the face with a paddle.)

Because of the wind and the desert heat, some of our leaders are so late that they miss finding the camp that we had reserved for the second night. I rent a boat and go down the river looking for students and leaders and pull them and their canoes back to the camp. We get settled about 1:00AM, only to find out that some of our girls have gone off with some boys in a ski boat and we have no idea where they are. Finally, we get all of our students to bed. We are camping right on the river, and that night the river rises and overflows our camp. Our canoes float down-river. All of our sleeping gear, clothes, and food are soaked. No sleep for another night.

Day 3
We discipline the girls for going with the boys in the ski boat by sending them home in cars. (I later think that may have been a reward, not a discipline.) In the process, we have purchased more food, but accidentally leave it in the cars so we have no food for the whole day on the river. As we reach a wider part of the river we encounter ski boats pulling skiers. They are running the boats on one side of the canoes and the skiers are going on the other side, so it seems they are trying to take the heads of my students off with the towropes. I finally smack a skier in the stomach and then they try to run over me with their boat. (There I go again, using that dumb paddle.)

When we arrive at the canoe take-out spot where the busses are, we realize we have gone downriver about a half-mile too far, so we have to pull the canoes up the river in the 100-degree heat. Students are sunburned, and they’re exhausted from no sleep. Some are sick. Finally everyone is on the busses and we head for home. One of our busses breaks down on a road that has to be a road to Hell. We pull the bus to a small garage, where I spend the whole night fixing it. No sleep another night. The garage does not have a phone. The parents wait at the church for us all night. When we finally arrive, I am told what a great youth leader I am. (Not!)

After the trip, all my leaders resigned. I told God I was done with this ministry stuff. Of course, He was not done.

This experience changed my life and my understanding of ministry. I learned two important core values.
• Programs don’t change lives, God does.
• Students must minister to other students. As we looked back on the trip, we saw that although the leaders were a mess, the students ministered to their friends. Students came to Christ and others were cared for by their friends.

God brought me to the end of myself. I realized that ministry was not about my planning or my program, but about totally depending upon Christ to work in the lives of students. Paul speaks about life-change in Romans 7:14–23 where he uses the words “I”, “me”, and “my” 38 times. Then in verse 24 he realizes his problem: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” And in verse 25 the answer, “Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul realized that he couldn’t change himself or others; only through Christ will he see lives change, not through programs or his great ability. He says it all in 2 Corinthians 12:9–10, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I am 67 years old and have been ministering to students for more than 40 years. I find that I need still to become weak and allow God to bring me to the end of myself. I can still walk into a group of high school students and minister because they see I am authentic and that I love them. Let’s not do programs in our own strength, but in our weakness—and God will change the lives of those to whom we minister. (by Mac McFarland)

Don't give up the mission even if times are tough.

"Battles leaves scars, but scars bring wisdom."

“The story of your life is the story of the journey of your heart through a dangerous and beautiful world. It is the story of the long and sustained assault on your heart by the Enemy who knows who you could be and fears you. But it is also the story of the long and mysterious pursuit of your heart by the God who knows you truly and loves you deeply.” John Eldredge

Another day, another riot. Can we rediscover the movement and mission that God has for each of us? It's about 'Unlimiting God'.

Give your ‘yes’ to God, but remember it’s a Dangerous Surrender!

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall love as Christ loved, I shall do his work.” John Henry Newman

Our goal isn’t to attract Christian people to our worship service but to be the faithful church in small pockets throughout Edmonton.

May God bless us with discomfort-
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships so that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
to believe that we can make a difference in the world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: to bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.

The deal is still on-
We're On A Mission From God!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Acts- We're On A Mission From God...

God loves us and gives us an amazing mission- to take His love to others!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Father Let Your Light Shine Down On Me...

Isaiah 55:8-13
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work." God's Decree.

"For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don't go back until they've watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They'll do the work I sent them to do, they'll complete the assignment I gave them.

"So you'll go out in joy, you'll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thornbushes, but stately pines— monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Acts For Everyone

Bishop Tom Wright's book, Acts For Everyone has & will continue to be a great resource for this journey we are on through the Book of Acts. Pick up a copy today and go deeper into learning about God's work!

Imagine a world without this astonishing teaching! Imagine a society where there was no ‘common life’ built around a shared belief in Jesus! Imagine a world without ‘the bread-breaking,’ or a world without prayer! Life would be bleak indeed — as it often is for many people, not least those who embrace a relentlessly secularist lifestyle, shutting the door on any of these possibilities. And if you lived in such a world, and then suddenly found yourself swept up in this pattern of teaching, fellowship, bread-breaking and prayer, you would know that new dimensions had opened up before you, and new vistas of how the world might be had suddenly become visible. NT Wright

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Philippians 2:1-8
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This Sunday, April 27, right after the service...

Acts 4:32-37
The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn't even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, "That's mine; you can't have it." They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.

And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person's need.

Joseph, called by the apostles "Barnabas" (which means "Son of Comfort"), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Take the Risk!

Luke 5:17-26
One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and religion teachers were sitting around. They had come from nearly every village in Galilee and Judea, even as far away as Jerusalem, to be there. The healing power of God was on him.

Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn't find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, "Friend, I forgive your sins."

That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. "Who does he think he is? That's blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins."

Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, "Why all this gossipy whispering? Which is simpler: to say 'I forgive your sins,' or to say 'Get up and start walking'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . ." He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: "Get up. Take your bedroll and go home." Without a moment's hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, "We've never seen anything like that!"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Acts: Dangerous Holiness

Has the church jumped the shark? I was looking at some pictures from a friend currently in Europe- big churches, no people. You might say they jumped the shark many moons ago.

Spiritual rigor mortis sets in without regular renewal.

The first century Jewish leaders who crucified Jesus certainly had jumped the shark. ‘Let’s get rid of the Messiah!’

Have we jumped the shark with trying to control, manage and operationalize the work of God?

Control freak: “People who care more than you do about something and won’t stop at being pushy to get their way.” Les Parrott

I still remember watching this three-part episode of Fonzie jumping the shark thinking, "This is the dumbest thing I've ever seen." It was very disappointing because the gang at Happy Days was my surrogate family!

The term "Jump The Shark" has since become a part of everyday lexicon indicating a time where one has radically departed from the original mission. Watch this but be careful, the suspense is excruciating!

Willow Creek jumps the shark!
They’re making the biggest changes to the church in over 30 years. For three decades Willow has been focused on making the church appealing to seekers. But the research shows that it’s the mature believers that drive everything in the church—including evangelism.

Hawkins says, “We used to think you can’t upset a seeker. But while focusing on that we’ve really upset the Christ-centered people.” He spoke about the high levels of dissatisfaction mature believer have with churches. Drawing from the 200 churches and the 57,000 people that have taken the survey, he said that most people are leaving the church because they’re not being challenged enough.

Because it’s the mature Christians who drive evangelism in the church Hawkins says, “Our strategy to reach seekers is now about focusing on the mature believers. This is a huge shift for Willow.”

One major implementation of this shift will occur in June when Willow ends their mid-week worship services that had been geared toward believers. Instead the church will morph these mid-week events into classes for people at different stages of growth. There will be theological and bible classes full of “hard-hitting stuff.” Hawkins said most people are very enthusiastic about the change.

On the seeker end of the spectrum, Willow is also changing how they produce their weekend services. For years the value people appreciated most about the seeker-oriented weekend services was anonymity. This is what all their research showed. People didn’t want to be identified, approached, confronted, or asked to do anything. But those days are over.

“Anonymity is not the driving value for seeker services anymore,” says Hawkins. “We’ve taken anonymity and shot it in the head. It’s dead. Gone.” In the past Willow believed that seekers didn’t want large doses of the Bible or deep worship music. They didn’t want to be challenged. Now their seeker-sensitive services are loaded with worship music, prayer, Scripture readings, and more challenging teaching from the Bible.

Willow has been wrestling with the research from REVEAL since 2004. Hawkins said, “We’ve tried incremental changes for four years, but now we know we have to overhaul our whole strategy.” Small steps are no longer the method; Willow is revamping everything. “It would be malpractice for us to not do something with what we’re learning.”

In the larger REVEAL survey taken by 200 churches, people were asked what they want most from their church. Three of the top four responses were:
1. Help me understand the Bible in greater depth
2. Help me develop a closer personal relationship with Christ
3. Challenge me to grow and take the next step in my faith (from Out Of Ur blog)

We’ve been talking about ‘unlearning’ and relearning total dependence on God. We call this ‘morphing’. We are in bad need of morphing when we wake up and realize that we’ve jumped the shark!

Philippians 2:7
Jesus took the form (morphe) of a servant.

Prayer that recognized a total dependence upon God permeated the life of the early church.

TRUST God vs. trust GOD

Turn our worries into prayers.

A focused life- absolute surrender. Measure Your Mindset- what do you expect from God? Is it your way or the highway?

Many Christians know they have been saved from their past lives but now feel caught in a no-mans land. They have been brought out of slavery in Egypt, are at present in the wilderness and have not yet entered the Promised Land. Their Christians lives are a wilderness. They know what they ought to do but cannot. They understand the truth of the gospel but know that it is not lived out in their lives.

We need to discover being led by the Spirit and into a journey with other followers of Jesus.

“Biblical community is the life of Christ on earth today.” Randy Frazee

Acts 2:42-47
Acts 4:32-37
Acts 5:1-11
shows us the passion of Jesus vs. the passion of Judas (Acts 1)

"Money makes you happy—if you spend it on others." Carey Goldberg, The Boston Globe

"Studies of happiness have long found that unless people are extremely poor, getting more money brings surprisingly slight gains in positive feelings." Elizabeth Dunn, University of British Columbia, Michael Norton, Harvard Business School

"The size of the bonus you get has no relation to how happy you are, but the amount you spend on other people does predict how happy you are." Those who spent on others felt happier than those who spent it on themselves.

North Americans tend to spend their money on possessions, but research shows that the happiness from a bigger house or television set quickly dwindles as people get used to the benefits and face the responsibility that comes with ownership. Whereas taking a friend out to lunch, say, is more of an experience, and more likely to yield longer-lasting good feelings.

So why are people so poor at predicting that spending money on others is a reliable road to happiness?

"Marketers are bombarding us with these ideas that we need a Lexus, so you can't entirely blame people for getting tricked."

It is also much easier to count money than to measure happiness. "If you think about getting ahead in life, you can say, 'Last year I made X, and now I'm making X plus 10.'"

There appears to be an inborn need to help or contribute to others. Dr. Robert Brooks

"Initially there is a big increase in happiness, but then it reverts to its original level. So why do people want to win lotteries? They have a rather short-term focus, and they don't seem to grasp long-term ways their own feelings work." Richard Layard, London School of Economics

"If anyone had told me when I first started my career how much money I would eventually be making I would have been ecstatic. I would have felt that I was a real success. But now I don't feel ecstatic. I don't feel successful. I only feel sad and empty."

Acts 5:1-11 shows the dangerous holiness of this early movement.
Acts 5:12-16
Acts 6:1-7
These guys just won’t shut up! Proclamation!

Outsiders are now insiders!

Make it up as you go along; wiring it live; building the bridge as you walk on it. Trust GOD because He’s the one who is leading! The everlasting arms are there to catch us.

No home groups, no ministries, just disciples! If we have disciples they get together in community & reach their friends fir Christ & love the. Not a bigger & better goal, but an unleashing, a decentralized ability to follow what God is asking each & every one of us to do.

Every once in a while someone will ask me when we’re going to “get a church.” The question is innocent enough and I’m sure it’s well intentioned, but it does believe a common misconception. Let me clear it up: the church is not a building. You can’t go to church because you are the church! Besides that, why build a “church” when you’ve got a Union Station? Mark Batterson

"The primal responsibility of Christian proclamation is to empower the community to reimagine the world as if Christ, and not the powers, were sovereign." Walsh and Keesmaat

“I choose joy...I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical...the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.” Max Lucado

"When you see what you're here for, the world begins to mirror your purpose in a magical way. It's almost as if you suddenly find yourself on a stage in a play that was written expressly for you." Betty Sue Flowers

How God’s people embed themselves into the muck of the world to influence hearts towards God’s alternative kingdom. That’s it!

There is a truth to know.
There is a way to follow.
There is a person to love.
And that ultimately these are all about Jesus. Dangerous holiness!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Have You Jumped The Shark?

Isaiah 44:22
I made you, shaped you: You're my servant. O Israel, I'll never forget you. I've wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings. There's nothing left of your sins. Come back to me, come back. I've redeemed you.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Kingdom...

It tapped me on the shoulder today when I got home
I saw everything collecting dust
It made me hope there was something more
I pour over pages, desperate to find out why
The cripple at your table has what I'm longing to find

Teach me how to hum it
Because I don't know the words yet

Help me see the light
I'm reaching through the fight
Yahweh, show me the Kingdom
Arms open wide
Death swallowed up by life
Yahweh, show me the Kingdom

Why are some women barren
While the wicked's house is full
The stories never seem to end
Give me evidence I'm not alone
You said the weak would be lifted up
But maybe just not yet
So while I wait in this flesh and blood
I'll learn to lean in

Help me see the light
I'm reaching through the fight
Yahweh, show me the Kingdom
Arms open wide
Death swallowed up by life
Yahweh, show me the Kingdom by Bethany Dillon

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Luke 23:34
Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Working with the Father...

The cause of all failure is self-confidence - "I can do it - let me try again."
Surrender totally to the work of God - only God does the work.
Turn to Jesus as the one and only sure escape from the power of self.
Know the hope of a better life for all who turn to Christ in self despair.

Ephesians 5:25
...Since we live by the Spirit let us keep step with the Spirit.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ask Me

This song is about a girlfriend of mine. if you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual abuse, please dont be afraid to seek help. the sexual abuse helpline is open 24 hours a day, and someone who cares is waiting for your call...(800)4a-child Amy Grant

I see her as a little girl hiding in her room
She takes another bath and she sprays her mommas perfume
To try to wipe away the scent he left behind
But it haunts her mind.

You see she's his little rag, nothing more than just a waif
And he's mopping up his need, she is tired and afraid
Maybe she'll find a way through these awful years to disappear.

Ask me if I think theres a God up in the heaven
Where did he go in the middle of her shame?
Ask me if I think theres a God up in the heavens
I see no mercy and no one down here's naming names
Nobodys naming names.

Now she's looking in the mirror at a lovely woman face
No more frightened little girl, like she's gone without a trace
Still she leaves the light burning in the hall
Its hard to sleep at all.

Still she crawls up in her bed acting quiet as a mouse
Deep inside she's listening for a creaking in the house
But no ones left to harm her, she's finally safe and sound
Theres a peace she's found.

Ask her how she knows theres a God up in the heavens
Where did he go in the middle of her shame?
Ask her how she knows theres a God up in the heavens
She said his mercy is bringing her life again.

Ask me how I know there's a God up in the heaven
(how do you know?)
Where did he go in the middle of her shame
(where did he go?)
Ask me how I know there's a God up in the heavens
(how do you know?)
She said his mercy is bringing her life again
She's coming to life again.

He's in the middle of her pain
In the middle of her shame
Mercy brings life
He's in the middle
Mercy in the middle.

God can & will speak into our old wounds, releasing us from the lies and pain that still has a hold on us. Ask Him today...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Acts: The Revolutionary Empire of God Is Here!

Liminality- a place where we are not certain or in control, and where something genuinely new can happen. We realize that we are empty, an erased tablet waiting for new words. We are out of our comfort zone! Unlearning thoughts.

Unlearning- Stuff White People Like: The main reason why white people like these clothes is that it allows them to believe that at any moment they could find themselves with a Thule rack on top of their car headed to a national park. It could be 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday when they might get a call “hey man, you know what we need to do? Kayak then camping, right now. I’m on my way to get you, there is no time to change clothes.”

Though it is unlikely that they will receive this call, White people hate the idea of missing an opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities because they weren’t wearing the right clothes.

They pegged me- I'm still waiting for the call to go to Banff National Park!

This unlearning is what all of Eugene Peterson’s writing is geared to, including The Message:

I am trying to recover a respect for the life of the Spirit that is revealed in Jesus and the Scriptures in contrast to a life that is defined by consumption and achievement, competition and psychological profiling. I am trying to develop an imagination that is immersed in the operations of the Trinity so that I will not be constantly seduced into thinking that spirituality is a way of managing my own life and the lives of others, my life with me in charge with an occasional assist from the Spirit. I am trying to practice a way of language that is personal, particular, relational, a language of poetry and parable and metaphor, a language that welcomes mystery and counters the bullying, propagandizing, sloganeering, cliched and abstracted use of language that dominates our schools, our workplaces, our media, and, sadly, our churches.

We need to unlearn what is and has been ‘church’:
Mega Church the Game
Think of all the possibilities:
hire and fire staff
deal with idiots, naive volunteers, and denominational egos
earn points with god by winning souls for Christ.
write a mission statement
choose a logo
hire a professional musician.
PLUS, you can deal with real-life scenarios, including:
elderly donor who wants to buy a new organ
troublesome board members
the city starts construction in front of your building
but perhaps the best selling point is the last line:
“do it all without a degree, license or even the Bible! Just like Joel Osteen.”

Contrast that game with what the early followers of Christ were doing. They were huddled in prayer- not trivial prayer, manipulative prayer but more likely prayer to seek God and repent.

Are we willing to go through the process of repentance? The early followers huddled together, trying to get a grasp of what was happening, letting go of their control, releasing our views, reaching out to Jesus and it all starts with repentance.

This is the ultimate teachable space and one of the reasons life flourished in the early church.

It is a 24-7 orientation of what we only get a small taste when we’re together. Winston: “This’ll get me to Wednesday, man.”

On any given Sunday it’s just enough time to stop wondering whether you turned off the stove, or begin to get the kids- or our wayward emotions- under control.

No one comes to church expecting to hear something they did not already know.

"The last thing they expect to come from a pulpit is any news." Henri Nouwen

Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights, after which He was hungry in Matthew 3:2. It takes a lot of work to discover our true and real hunger. That’s what the early church was doing with Jesus, and while waiting for the Spirit.

We need to look at Acts with 1st century eyes and 21st century questions.

Ephesians 1:10
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

That time was now. It’s still ‘now’ for us! There is no deficiency in God’s sovereignty!

The Revolutionary Empire of God Is Here!

1 Corinthians 15:58- the resurrection doesn’t get us focused on heaven, it charges us up for today!

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

That’s the reason they replaced Judas- they needed 12 tribes to take the message out. They were the new Israel. (Acts 1:12-26)

It also contrasts the two different passions: that of Jesus and of Judas.

The passion of Judas ends in a car wreck. (Acts 1:18-19)

They chose lots to select a new apostle. Lots! How random & arbitray is that! Lots help us realize that we don't live in circumstances. God chooses, and if it doesn't quite work the way we wanted we surrender our desire for control.

The early followers were driven back to the Scriptures to unlearn and relearn what God was doing. They talked about old experiences and I’m sure had new learning’s. That’s why we get together and talk about life (Acts 1:12-15)

TAWOGFAT, The Authoritative Word of God For All Time

Dare to Become Dependent On God.

Receiving God’s love gives us a fire in our bones. It will keep our inner fire burning. God will give us a flame of purpose.

Otherwise we will say to the things we want, “I Lust You. I Lust You Very Much.” Idols and lust lead to the unsatisfied life, bondage and car wrecks.

We have A Hope that Frees.

"If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they've got, the God that you end up with is the God shaped by the blank." N. T. Wright

"The most creative thing they do is to watch television."

Acts 2:42-47 shows us what this all looks like.

We are being rescued form an old life to be delivered into a new one! It’s not optional.

Conversion calls you into being a part of this kingdom project!

2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.

How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

The answer to ‘How?’ is Christ.
The answer to ‘How?’ is yes.

We need to get away from ‘how to’ and get with Jesus to ‘want to.’

This is what the kingdom of God looks like.
Christians blaze through this dark world and set it on fire with their love. It is contagious and spreads like wildfire. We are people who shine, who burn up the darkness of this old world with the light that dwells within us. And perhaps the world will ask
what in the world passed through here …
We are not just called to be candles.
Candles make for nice Christmas services and for a nice peace vigil. They can remind us that God’s light dwells within us and that we are to shine that light in this dark world.
But we are not just called to be candles. We are called to be fire.
Shane Claiborne

Tongues of fire. It isn’t ‘speaking in tongues’ as defined in charismatic nomenclature, it’s letting God so fill us we get on fire. What does that look like? Your neighborhood, work, family, school, and recreation- it’s all for God’s kingdom!

It’s all about how God’s people, you and I, embed ourselves into the muck of the world to influence hearts towards God’s revolutionary empire. That’s it!

We lose the idea of coming to church and realize that we are sent to the world.

"Those who have been called out or summoned for a special purpose." That’s what the church is.
Not a building, or a service. They had no buildings! There was no protection; it was all high risk, done in the context of their life. And they proclaimed that the revolutionary empire of God was now here.

What if we just had disciples? No home groups, no ministries, just disciples! What if we had disciples and we’d get together in our communities & reach our friends for Christ & love them. Not a bigger & better goal, but an unleashing, a decentralized ability to follow what God is asking each & every one of us to do.

"Saw a Dead Head sticker on a Cadillac.” Don Henley

Have you sold out as a Christ follower? Are you living your whole life with Christ, not just a couple of hours on a Sunday or another night of the week?

Or are you more eager than ever to wait on God, to hear His voice and to say, “Yes!”

Are you willing to see the influence you have built up in your life surrendered to God and His revolutionary empire?!

I want to. That young musician in the video is doing it. Can we join our hearts together?

Let’s do it!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Make a real catch like David Tyree!

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

James 1:19-20
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Crisis Prayer

God, I cry out to You.
The news that's just hit me is so hard to bear.
I'm close to being in shock right now.
I don't know what to do.
I'm angry. I'm hurt. I'm confused.
So, Lord, I call out to You. Please hear my prayer.
Give me strength to get through this mess.
Help me to make wise choices and not to say something that will just make things worse.
Please, don't let this thing get any worse than it is.
And God, help me not to do anything stupid.
This is going to take a long time to get through; and right now, I don't feel like I'll ever get on top of it.
So, here it is, Lord. A big mess.
Thank You that You're here to show me how to clean it up.
Amen. John Hull

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lord I surrender all to
Your strong and faithful hand
In everything I will give thanks to You
I’ll just trust Your perfect plan

When I don’t know what to do
I’ll lift my hands
When I don’t know what to say
I’ll speak Your praise
When I don’t know where to go
I’ll run to Your throne
When I don’t know what to think
I’ll stand on Your truth
When I don’t know what to do

Lord I surrender all
Though I’ll never understand
All the mysteries around me
I’ll just trust your perfect plan

As I bow my knee
Send Your perfect peace
Send Your perfect peace, Lord
As I lift my hands
Let Your healing come
Let Your healing come to me

“From deep in our lungs – our lives! – we sing and play to the glory of God.” Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

Welcome to Acts 29!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Blessing...

May the Lord of the outcast, the King of fools, the great shepherd of our souls, come and place a kiss of peace on your cheek.

May He say to you, “You are mine and I am yours.”

May He give you the embrace of the Father that will heal a thousand wounds and speak a thousand hopes into life.

As He takes the dry ashes of misspent passion and gives you in its place a garland of praise, may you rejoice.

No, may you shout with a bold, confident joy at the dizzying delight of being chosen, of being welcomed in by your true Father and invited to sit with Him at the banquet table reserved...for His friends.

But, as you celebrate your delightful privilege, may you never forget that the one who called you His own is friend but also sovereign King — that He who gave everything up for you calls you to give everything up for Him. Timothy J. Stoner, The God Who Smokes

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Revolutionary Empire of God Is Here!

Coming to Edmonton on May 21 @ 800 PM. Let me know if you'd like to go!

I Heart Revolution

Monday, April 07, 2008

Peter in Acts: Why God Uses Knuckleheads

This week was a very interesting and somewhat disturbing week in Federal Politics. On Thursday we heard the news that a sixteen year old video had found it’s way into the hands of national media that characterized a sitting member of parliament as being filled with contempt towards the gay community.

What struck me most about this story was the sincere and humble apology and request for forgiveness that Tom Lukiwski showed in subsequent interviews. He does not justify his hate filled comments, he merely says “I was stupid, I am ashamed, I am sorry.”

The outcry and condemnation of Mr. Lukiwski is loud and gathering steam. I have read several blogs and commentaries relating to this incident, many of which call for his immediate dismissal from parliament.

I believe that there are deeper questions to be asked here.

What I find interesting to watch in this video is the countenance of the same man, sixteen years ago, arrogant, flippant, contemptuous and mean spirited, to the man we saw sixteen years later, humble, contrite, sorry, matured.

His enemies claim his apology is forced and false. Made for political gain only and to save his own skin. The question to be asked here is whether or not the judgment of what is going on in Tom Lukiwski’s heart now, is any less hurtful than the judgment that came out of his mouth sixteen years ago.

What seeing this news story this week has done for me is to stir up the 'what ifs'-

What if God condemned as people do?
What if I was judged by every mistake I have made?
What if I judged others through my own self righteousness?

Stew has begun a series on the book of Acts. Coming out of the celebration of resurrection Sunday, we are going to look at what God did with the followers of the Jesus Way after Jesus ascended to heaven, and what that means for the followers of the Jesus Way today.

Acts 2:14 – 36

Peter, here is speaking with eloquence, passion and conviction. He is correcting the wrong thinking of the Jews in Jerusalem. He is powerful and visionary and he is commanding attention……. wow, what a guy! If we were to read this speech out of context, not knowing who Peter is…. or more importantly who he was. We could dismiss it as just another bunch of words. But what we realize as we learn to read our bibles that we have to understand the context and history not only of the times and teachings, but also of the person doing the teaching.

Paul’s conviction and insight that he displays in all of his letters to the churches would really be hollow words if we did not understand where Paul came from. Paul was a self-righteous religious man who knew the Hebrew Bible inside out and was arresting followers of the Jesus Way and persecuting them. Paul was a bully and had much contempt for those who did not conform, do the right thing or say the right thing. This is why his witness to his conversion to Jesus is so much more powerful. His word of love and forgiveness and grace that much more believable.

Peter on the other hand…..well,

Peter was a Knucklehead.

We see in the book of Acts that Peter did many great things in the spread of the gospel of Jesus. We see in his letters, 1 & 2 Peter, that he was wise and instructive on how faith should be lived out. If we were to just begin there, we might lose the message on what it means to be transformed in faith. As for Peter we need to know what he was transformed from:

Just like the unfortunate incident with Tom Lukiwski.

Peter had foot in mouth disease

We see in the gospel accounts that Peter is impulsive, outspoken, and if words were used to describe him we could imagine that he was pretty cocky. Throughout his journey on Jesus’ mission, we see Peter contradict, correct and even deny Jesus. He is somewhat petulant and always concerned about whether or not others will be receiving more than him. One of the most memorable blunders of Peter’s came more from his fear and lack of faith.

If we look at Peter's denial as just one instance of sin, we might say that Peter simply had a moment of weakness. Surely Jesus knew how difficult it is to face death. Surely he would not be surprised to see Peter fearing for his life. But if we consider this episode as part of a larger pattern, we might see it in a new light.

Earlier, Peter had rebuked Jesus for mentioning the cross-and received an even stronger rebuke himself (Matthew 16:21-23). Just one week later, at the transfiguration, Peter blurted out a proposal to keep Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on Mount Tabor, only to hear God tell him to listen to Jesus and not make his own suggestions (17:4-5). Then, when Jesus tried to wash his feet at the Last Supper, Peter tried to prevent him, but then turned around and said, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" (John 13:9). Finally, at Gethsemane, as Jesus was being arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest's servants (18:10-11). John 21:15-22- Peter saying “what about him?”

Over and over again, Peter came face-to-face with his impetuous, rash nature, and every time he had to confront his inability to change. We don't know how many more situations like this Peter had to go through, but we do know he ultimately was transformed and chose to put his old nature to death and submit to God's wisdom instead.

Throughout the history of the church God has shown that he can use rebels and sinners very powerfully.
Knuckleheads throughout the ages:

Augustine – Bishop of Hippo-St. Augustine in his “Confessions.” He is not afraid to confess his impetuousness, arrogance, lust, and rebellious lifestyle.

John Bunyan, famous writer of Pilgrims Progress, wrote of his knucklehead days in “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.” He was a wildman, drinker and womanizer he changed his heart and life to the grace of God.

St. Francis of Asissi- One biographer stated: In other respects an exquisite youth, he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice."

St. Mary of Egypt (circa 344 - 421) ran away to the big city of Alexandria at the age of 12, entranced by the prospect of a life of fun and sin. "I did free of charge what gave me pleasure," she told St. Zosimas, whom she met at the end of her life, "and ... there is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity" she could not lay claim to. But this life ended in Jerusalem, where she experienced a miracle that turned her life around. What was it?

St. Ignatius Loyola -prideful, gambling, womanizing

St. Pelagia – 5th century - actress, stripper, promiscuous – became a monk they called her the “beardless monk”

John Newton – slave trader, writer of Amazing Grace.

And more recently:

Steven Baldwin – Cocaine addict, alcoholic, womanizer one of the famous Baldwin Brothers.

Alice Cooper - The Marilyn Manson of the seventies.

George Foreman - heavyweight champ, at one time filled with hate and now with love.

Brian “Head” Welch – lead guitarist for Korn

The list can go on and on. One thing that they do have in common is that they are not fearful of recognizing that they were once knuckleheads, people who said and did some very stupid, hurtful, hateful, lustful things.

What happened to these people and why is it that God can use them in meaningful and powerful ways. The common denominator for them all lies in a true conversion.

This is what one writer said about Brian “Head” Welch: “Christians should be the people least surprised by this conversion. We know that in Mark 2:27 Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”

If our Lord walked the earth today, we’d more likely find Him at a thrash metal rock concert looking for the wounded rather than sitting in a pew on Sunday morning amongst the righteous. God went to that rock concert and apparently found a hurting soul on stage.

We have a tendency, however, to downplay our need for the grace of God. We downplay not only our capacity for sin, but also our capacity for sin.

We don’t want to admit that we can be knuckleheads.

We compare our goodness and our piety and our intelligence with others. A Tom Lukiwski, sixteen years ago cannot contain his contempt for homosexuals. In effect he is comparing his life and his righteousness against others. Sixteen years later a politician, or perhaps a gay or lesbian activist repay Tom the favor, pouring contempt out onto him. This comparison of ones own righteousness over another is nothing new.

Perhaps we, in our prayer life have prayed something like this:

God thank you that I’m not like so many other people who are doing evil things. Thank you that I live a clean life, that I am a good person not like………

Here is what Jesus had to say about this type of prayer:
Jesus told this story to some people who thought they were very good and looked down on everyone else:

“A Pharisee and a tax collector both went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stood alone and prayed ‘ God I thank you that I am not like other people who steal , cheat, or take part in adultery, or even like this tax collector…

The tax collector standing at a distance would not even look up to heaven. But he beat on his chest because he was so sad. He said “ God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I tell you, when this man went home, he was right with God, but the Pharisee was not.

All who make themselves great will be made humble, but all who make themselves humble will be made great.” Luke 18:14

Peter's compatriot Paul says this about righteousness
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

In comparison to God’s holiness, we are all knuckleheads. We should not be comparing our own righteousness to that of others. When compared to God we all fall short and are in need of saving.

What this means to us is that unlike many people in the world, we should not be comparing others actions to what we would or would not do. We need to understand that our right standing with God is by his grace only. It is not something we have done, it is not by our intelligence, it is not by our intrinsic goodness, it is not by our clean lifestyles. It is by Grace that we can only humbly say to the Tom Lukiwski’s, the politicians clammering for his head, the stripper or prostitute, the thief, the violent, the drunkard, the womanizer, the wretched and the wicked.

“Although my memories fading I know two things. I am a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour.” John Newton

With true conversion comes something much stronger that can overcome our past, our shame, our fear and that is the promise that Jesus gave to Peter and his other disciples. Jesus told them that when He is gone that his Father would send the Helper, the comforter. What is known as The Holy Spirit. (John 14)

Why did Peter go from impetuous and blundering to passionate and articulate and clear thinking. We see in the book of Acts that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as Jesus promised. The Spirit then went on to provide the disciples with a supernatural ability to speak in foreign languages so that they may reach as many people as possible with the gospel message. Lets go back to the book of Acts just prior to the speech he had made.

This is how the Holy Spirit wants to work in our lives. He is less concerned with every individual sin we commit and more concerned with transforming us so that we can become more like Jesus. And to that end, he works very patiently and compassionately, showing us the patterns of behavior that he wants to change.

If we look at Peter after Pentecost, we see a man who still had a very strong, determined personality, but who was also humble and open to the Spirit. His impetuous behavior was transformed over time as he began to see how much of a hindrance it was.

The knucklehead became wise and righteous in his faith.

Acts 2
“So all the people of Israel should know this truly: God has made Jesus - The man you nailed to the cross – both Lord and Christ.”

“When the people heard this they felt guilty and asked Peter and the other apostles

“What shall we do?”

Peter said to them, “change your heart and lives and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away. It is for everyone the Lord Our God calls to Himself.

As we leave here and contemplate our lives and the weeks and months ahead. I encourage us all to ask some tough questions about what we believe about our faith.

Has our understanding of our basic nature brought us to our knees to ask for God’s grace and forgiveness?

Have we allowed the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us, or do we often revert to our own righteousness?

John 3
Don’t be surprised when I tell you “you must all be born again.” The wind blows where it wants to and you hear the sound of it but you don’t know where the wind comes from or where it is going. It is the same with every person who is born from the Spirit.

Have I truly been born of the Spirit? by Bob Stenhouse

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result they have a strangle hold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead. You live by their norms, conform to their standards, seek their company, desire their love, dread their ridicule, long for their applause, meekly submit to the guilt they lay upon you; you are terrified to go against the fashion in the way you dress or speak or act or even think. And observe how even when you control them you depend on them and are enslaved by them. People have become so much a part of your being that you cannot even imagine living a life that is unaffected or uncontrolled by them. Anthony DiMello

2 Corinthians 5:14-16
Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Jesus As our Leader

Philippians 2
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.