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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Soap, Everest, and The Gospel

Several years ago I saw Rob Bell speak live. Although Rob Bell has since gone off some sort of deep end, at the time he said something that made sense to me. He gave everyone a bar of soap and started talking about how a carving is already inside, you just have to remove all the extra pieces. That is what God is doing with us. I appreciate the thought and I do believe that God is always working on my sanctification, slowly working my heart.

This illustration was however flipped around in my mind today. I imagine that if the Gospel were a pebble, then we have added stones of law and false teachings to it to the extent that Everest is now dwarfed in its presence.

It is now the unfortunate task of dedicated clergy to chip away at the mountain, reminding their flock weekly, daily, hourly, moment by moment of the one true gospel. I am fortunate enough to have such a pastor. He dedicates himself weekly to preaching the truth of the gospel, the only gospel, the one that saves.

I am currently writing a post about "Plan B" that I will be posting tomorrow.

Galatians 1:6-9

No Other Gospel

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yeah, I have a friend who....

This is not a post about anything biblical or theological. It's just something that hit me yesterday.

I am in BC visiting with Krystl's family. So far it has been a great time. There were about 20 people at Krystl's grandparent's house for dinner so it was a full house. I hopped from person to person having all sorts of conversations. I was able to indulge in some museum talk with one of the uncles, discussing different aviation museums. He told me that his dad had a plane that was a postal plane in the Winnipeg area in the early days of aviation. Because of its significance to the area the Western Aviation Museum in Winnipeg was trying to convince them to donate it to them. They were quite irate when the plane was donated elsewhere. The conversation ended on one I'd my favorite topics, Howard Hughes' Hercules (The Spruce Goose). The rest of my conversations that night were as varied as you'd expect. Each person a wealth of experiences and stories. My favorite being those of Krystl's grandfather, who is always ready with stories of years ago, times in the war, and life afterward.

As I engaged in all these conversations something started to bother me. I started to notice a pattern I had never noticed before. People would tell me of their stories and experiences and I had the same answer over and over, "yeah, I have a friend who...". Over and over I'd tell second hand stories to fill on the gaps of all the things I've never done. It started to grind on me, over and over again. I started to feel like a man who published a great book by stealing chapters from great authors. Each chapter an obvious confession of his own inaction.

It's not my intention to whine, nor is this a build up to a grand New Years resolution. I think through things better when I write about them, and the topic is more settled in my mind when I've put it to paper (figuratively or literally). So, don't let the timing of this blog lead you to believe that I'm giving into the false gratification of a New Years resolution, the timing and conviction is only brought on by the concentrated volume of conversations I've had in the last two days.

I'm tired of being lake, collecting stories from all the rivers that I'm fortunate enough to have flowing into my life. As much as I love the stories, I don't want to just sit the rest of my life telling second hand adventures. I want to have my time flowing over rocks, rushing through narrow passages, tasting rain from different skies. I want to rush and explode into the white water rapids that people love to hear about.

Hopefully soon I will be able to stand on even ground in conversations with friends and family, trading stories first hand.


Monday, December 24, 2012


It's 7 am Christmas Eve and I am 38,000 feet over Alberta. We are on our way to BC to visit family and I am finding myself with the extra time I need to process everything that's been going on in the past weeks.

I will start with the obvious, and I will make by best effort to handle this topic with respect. What I'm talking about is the school shooting in Connecticut. A horrible event by any worldview. When the lives of innocent children are so ruthlessly taken It causes pause for anyone who hears of it, and in today's world of social media there are many ears that hear and hearts that weep. We start to ask questions about good and evil, God and mercy. Questions are quickly directed to church leaders and even individual Christians.

Allow me to take you toa week before the shooting. This is not to draw a parallel but to let you inside my head to better understand the conclusion of this post.

A week or so before the shooting a very good friend of mine was driving past a strip club in Winnipeg. On the sign outside the club was an advertisement for the upcoming customer appreciation days. My friend was livid. He texted me in anger asking what sort of city we live in when strip clubs can be so bold to advertise lewd acts and it's common place, but when our new police chief calls for prayer for our city there is public outrage. My friend is a good man, but in this situation where he found himself overwhelmed he called those customers names like "scum", frankly a lot of people would agree.

Later that day as I read his Facebook post on the same topic I found myself taken back. In my mind I could see my chest split wide open, and there in the core of who I am sat the same horrible desires as those customers walking into strip clubs. In fact, I could see all sorts of evil. See that's what I am, what we are. As I pondered this the next morning I was overwhelmed with grace. I sent my pastor this text needing to tell someone who would understand what was going on in my soul: "The more I ponder grace the smaller big questions become. Why is there so much strife, why must we suffer, the problem of pain, why cancer, why aids, why is there so much bad in the world when God claims to be good. What more can we ask for when our natural inclination is sin? There is no good in us, there is no good to come from this fallen world. The only good is given by the only man untouched by sin." (Excuse any crude grammar or spelling as it was a direct paste from the text).

These thoughts were sitting as a backdrop when I started processing the Connecticut shootings. Anger rose quickly as I started to read Christian commentary on Facebook, that basically at its base was a wagging finger with the message "perhaps if you lived like we told you to this wouldn't have happened". A condescending, morbid, disgusting "we told you so".

I grieve what social media has presented as the Christian response. If I were to preach on this topic my message would be simple. We live on a fallen world. We have since Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Each of us at our core is full of sin, each of us carries in us that seed of rebellion, and that hunger for sin I spoke of earlier. I see it in myself everyday.

Don't assume I am saying that in each of us is the temptation to commit such horrible atrocities, but in each of us lives a sinful heart, Christian or no. Sadly, and tragically, the effects of sin visit us randomly and senselessly through evil in the world. Christian, don't assume we can destroy these evils simply by instating more moral law.

This all ties together for me through Christmas. Our horrible sin and the evil we've seen in the world is why Christmas is so significant. This evil we see, the sin that lives in us has been there since the beginning. It came into the world through Adam. God wiped out man kind in the time of Noah because they had become so evil.

But finally at Christmas hope came to earth. God born as lowly man! This was such a joyous event that when the angel appeared to the shepherds to tell them of the birth of the Christ the sky erupted with an angelic choir singing. Shortly after Jesus was presented at the temple and a man named Simeon saw Jesus and said

"Luke 2:29-32
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

So far as I know there is nowhere else in scripture where an angelic messenger was accompanied by a choir. We celebrate Christmas because it represents that moment when God's promise of the seed of Abraham became flesh, the seed that was to be a blessing to the whole world. The baby grew to a man, the man died on the cross, rose again, conquering death and sin. And to our hopelessly sinful humanity he offers us his own righteousness so we might spend eternity with him.

Christmas was the long awaited exhale of a creation held in suspense over the story of fallen man.

We will always be sinful men, evil will continue to visit us randomly and horribly. But thank God he has not left us abandoned. Celebrate Christmas knowing our wait for the answer to our fall has come. Simeon sums up the joy of Christmas "for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

I will write again soon about the wagging finger of the church as I have much more to say about it.

God bless you, and if you actually read the whole post thank you and feel fee to comment.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Wrap up and a Preview

 "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for  your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" - Matthew 11:28-30

I touched on this yesterday. That when we give into the mechanics of religiosity (simply put: doing our best to appear good) we embark on climbing a religious ladder that never ends, it's to high to climb.

I was listening to Tullian Tchividjian, an amazing preacher, and he quoted someone as having said "unfortunately from most pulpits it's the christian being preached, not Christ." That is to say that what we must do is being preached instead of what Christ has done.  We are preaching the rules of what Christians must do, and must not do. What rules we need to follow. But Christ's sacrifice and substitutionary atonement is not being preached. Christ died saying "it is finished" not "now finish it". He left nothing to be done"Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus Answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.' "-John 6:28&29. They came to Jesus looking for something to do to be doing... something. Jesus tells them it is for them to believe in him. Jesus taking our punishment, and freely offering his righteousness to us is an act of grace.

When we realise that Christ has done it, that his sacrifice was all sufficient, it allows us to rely on his righteousness, and the weight of the law comes off our shoulders. In contrast when we start looking for salvation in our actions or accomplishments we suffer horrible slavery.

Over the next week or so I would like to do present a series I'm calling: Three Brands of Slavery. I hope you'll continue to read.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Punch Line Full of Grace: Part 2

Why was Joel's quip about being able to sin with his eyes closed so significant? Because in the story of the pastor we see an image of a man who wishes to see the face of God by following the law. (See yesterday's post for context).

When the pastor in Joel's story clenched his eyes shut and started repeating " I want to see God, I want to see God" as a way to avoid lust he was trying to force himself to the very tight mold that the law of the Bible has set. Unfortunately the Bible does not say "those that don't look at girls in bikinis will see God's face" it says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God". This mans very reaction to do all he could to avoid looking at a beautiful woman already shows the state of his, and every man's heart. His, and my, and our, hearts are lustful! They are greedy, coveting, jealous, lustful, lost hearts that will never meet the standard of purity required to see the face of God.

I am positive that this pastor's reaction to the woman was one out of love for God and a desperation to know Him better. So it's not my intention to brow beat him at all. I only intend to point out where this sort of thinking has led, and can lead for Christians.

Joel's admission that he can sin just fine with his eyes shut comes from a heart that has encountered the true grace of God.  Joel knows that the grace of God extends beyond all his sins (Romans 5:20-21), and that the righteousness that he relies on is not his own but that of Christ. Romans 8:3 and 4 "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit

Christ died so that the righteous requirement might be met in us! My pastor, Dan Cormie, once said that Jesus did not come to "show" us a solution but to "be" the solution. He also commented once that we do not receive a blank slate when we are born again, but one filled in with the righteousness of Christ!

Anyone who has come to this understanding of grace can look truthfully at their own destitute sin and know that we are closer to be Judas then we are to being John. Paul talks in the book of Romans in Chapter 7 about how he desperately wants to do right, but he does what he knows he shouldn't, and fails to do what he should. Chapter seven climaxes with Paul exclaiming "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?". Paul knows the truth of who he is, but even after this self examination he is able to proclaim "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!". If you have the time when you leave this post read from the beginning of Romans 7 through Romans 8:11.

Joel's point was this: even if I can get it right on the outside, my heart and mind are still full of sin. That is why I didn't laugh immediately, because I was swept up by the extreme grace that Joel relied on even to admit his sinful nature as he preached!

Even if you could manage the mechanics of religiosity, it would serve only to fool yourself into believing that you are climbing a ladder of righteousness, but even in the attempt you have shown yourself to not know how far that ladder extends. You will climb forever, never satisfied, and never righteous enough. And in doing so you will lose the significance of one of Jesus' beautiful promises: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). Rest, rest for our souls, an easy yoke and a light burden. This is found through Grace and not law.

More on this tomorrow. Thanks for reading.


Monday, October 15, 2012

A Punch Line Full of Grace

I love my church, and my church loves to laugh. We are a congregation that laughs several times every sermon when our regular preachers are doing the preaching. This past Sunday though I found myself thinking when everyone else was laughing. I did come to and offer a chuckle, more to make sure that the preacher didn't misinterpret my lack of reaction as disapproval of his punch line.

It was my good friend Joel who was preaching. Joel preaches the gospel of grace passionately, fervently, and with conviction. As Joel preaches a sermon he doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve, he cracks his heart to allow the his true feelings for the text he is preaching to run up to his face, you can see in his eyes how close the scriptures and the truth of grace are to his heart. His hands jump and explode, his fingers twiddling as his mind translates all this passion his soul is bursting with into words, laughter, and tears. Sometimes I detect a hint of desperation for the importance of this message to reach the hearers, because he knows it is the message that brings true freedom and salvation. He is a great preacher and if you live in Winnipeg and are reading this, I strongly encourage you to take time to come down to Dakota Community Church on any Sunday, although Joel only preaches several times a year, our regular pastor (Dan) is a sight to see as well. Come expecting grace.

Back to the story at hand. Joel was talking about law and grace. He used a story in his sermon about a pastor (who he left unamed out of respect) who was preaching about the beattitudes. This pastor was talking about Matthew 5:8 which says "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God". The pastor went on to say that on his block there is a woman who every few days washes her car in her driveway. He pointed out that she doesn't wear a whole lot, and she always tends to be washing the car when he is on his way to work. He talked about how this created temptation for him. So he would drive by her, not looking at her, because he wants to be pure in heart. He would repeat to himself "I want to see God, I want to see God" and avoid looking at her in his attempt to not give into lustful thoughts. He wants desperately to see God, and wishes to be pure of heart like it says in Matthew 5:8. Joel followed this story  by saying "I must be a better sinner then him because I can lust even with my eyes shut!". The church went up in laughter, I didn't realize it immediately because I was processing the implications of what he had said, I snapped to and offered a chuckle.

I don't think it was inappropriate to laugh, and that is the reaction that Joel probably would have expected when he delivered the line. I know Joel very well, and that line was packed with so much more.

I should probably stop here, as this post is getting long. Consider this a cliff hanger and come back for the next post as I unpack the incredible significance of what Joel said in one simple line.


Monday, February 27, 2012

The World, The Darkness, and The Baptism of My Soul

There I sat, drenched in the realization of grace. I sat, the whole world dark around me contemplating what was happening. This second that was lasting forever. God was taking His time to take every loose end of the way I thought of grace and was connecting each with the reality of what His grace is.

It wasn't long before this revelation started rearranging my entire faith experience. I sat in darkness as I realized that I had taken grace and made it small. Suddenly the world started illuminating around me, and with it the truth of my thoughts.  I had sentenced grace to be a companion to repentance, it was a tool I used to come back to God and that was it. As the darkness slowly retreated, and the drenching realization of God's grace started taking root in my heart, I could feel my misconceptions of grace beading, running down my soul, and dripping off of me one by one. It felt like a new baptism, my realization of His grace, the decent into a place where I experienced God like I hadn't in years, and an emergence back to this world as my old way of thinking dripped out of my soul, hopefully not to return.

I smiled, looking around at the other hotel guests eating their buffet breakfasts oblivious to the fact that God has just changed my soul. My brain couldn't keep up with how fast my soul was processing this wonderful revelation. I couldn't vocalize what grace was at that time, and out of sheer inability to do so could only manage this thought "What is this revelation of grace? My soul can't wrap around it! Like trying to drink the ocean through a straw, I'm breathless."

In the days to come these thoughts unwound in my soul, my soul tickling my brain constantly with new tidbits. It's still happening today, I can feel my soul quicken inside me every time a new shade of grace shows up! I now intend on dedicating my following posts to these "tidbits" rattling in my soul.