There Is No Love Which Does Not Become Help

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There is a beautiful quote from theologian, Paul Tillich, about the relationship between love and help. He writes this:

“There is no love which does not become help.”

I find this immensely helpful. Because, in my world (and probably yours too), the situations around me are complex. Sometimes I see the struggles in the lives around me, both locally and globally, and I can feel stuck. I mean, I want to help that neighbour who is struggling; I want to help that co-worker with a broken relationship; I want to change some of the global realities around me. The problem is, I just don’t know how.

Have you ever been there before?

Sadly, since we don’t know what to do, we just don’t act. We end up having loving intentions that don’t lead to helping actions. And, if the love isn’t there and you just focus on the helping part, it will often come off in the wrong way.

This is why I love Paul Tillich’s quote. Because he gets the focus right.

If you want to help someone, the focus should be on loving that person. And, if that focus is there, as Tillich says, it will turn out to be helping. When you focus on loving someone first, it always turns into helping them in the best way possible.

Love turns into love-filled actions, which turns out to be help. Because, help without love isn’t charity; rather, it’s empty actions.

So, I write all this to say something simple: If you see someone and you want to help, but don’t know how, start by loving them, and the rest will come.

“There is no love which does not become help.”

 

What’s Killing the Church

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Today, I want to talk about what’s killing the church and its witness. And no, it’s not what you’d expect – it’s not sin. It’s not a lack of discipline. It’s not weak or lukewarm Christians, or whatever else is lamented in today’s world.

I think what’s killing the church is busyness.

And, I say this as an incredibly busy person. This is snapshot of what a recent day looked like for me…

  • Meeting starting at 6 AM.
  • Back to the house to get kids and drop them off to school.
  • Meetings and sermon writing throughout the day.
  • Volunteering in Asher’s school.
  • Hockey in the evening for the boys.
  • Followed by school (I had an exam).
  • Followed by prepping for a large NGO Board that I sit on.
  • Followed by cleaning the house and talking with Krista.

And, I say this not to be like, “Look at how busy I am! I must be awesome!” I say this because I think the drive to get more stuff done each and every day is what is killing the church. Where do you and my neighbours show up? Where is whitespace for God opportunities and interruptions?

Where am I even giving God space to move in my day?

I bring this all up because I bet your life isn’t all that different. Sure, the pieces might be different. Sure, some of what you do might be different. But, I bet the first thing you’d say when I ask how your week is, “Busy.”

And, that’s what needs to change.

Because, busyness doesn’t expand God’s kingdom.

And, I’m not talking about being lazy, rather I’m talking about being available. Available to God. Available to interruptions and those around you. Available to meet and connect with others.

Doug Fields writes, “Busy is the enemy of neighbourly.”

That is so simple, and true.

As Christians, we are called to be neighbourly because we are called to change neighbourhoods.

I write this as a challenge today. Cut some things out of your schedule to make space for God’s schedule. Busy is the enemy of neighbourly, and busy is the enemy of a whole life. So, make some changes.

That’s what I am going to do today.

 

The Greatest Treason

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“The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.” – T.S. Eliot

I read that quote just a little while ago and it has really stuck with me. However, I don’t want to comment too much on it, but instead I want to encourage you to examine it and think it through.

Because, what I believe Eliot is getting at is that our heart, motives and desires actually do matter.

I believe that’s true, because, in Matthew 25, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees, not for their actions, but for their hearts. They were doing the right deeds for the wrong reasons.

And so, for me today, I’m thinking through not only my deeds, but also my heart. Because,

I believe that Eliot is onto something when he reminds us that the right deeds done for the wrong reasons are a great treason.

 

Dad you can have enemies right?

Enemies-e1520468752606.pngI have always believed that the Bible matters and is relevant to all ages. I just didn’t realize how true that was, even for little kids, until the other day when I was driving Asher to school.

As we were driving, Asher said, “Dad, you can have enemies, right? If someone hits you a lot, they are your enemy.”

He then preceded to tell me who his enemy was and what he thought about them. And, he outright asked if it was okay to have enemies. Because, in our technical language, it seems that Asher has a “frenemy.”

Sometimes I wish adults were this honest and open.

So, I told him about Jesus, and how we follow what Jesus asks of us. I told him how Jesus doesn’t deny that there are enemies in this world (people who hurt us, maybe even hit us, or people who aren’t good), but that Jesus says we are called to love our enemies.

I said to Asher, “If you have an enemy, we need to love them too. It’s okay to choose not to play with them. It’s okay to tell the adult in charge if you are being hit. But, we don’t want to hate anyone.”

I write this all because I think Asher’s question is a good one: Is it okay to have an enemy?

Yes, the Bible lives in the reality where there are hurtful, abusive and difficult people in our lives – people that we might call an “enemy.” What the Bible challenges isn’t the existence of evil, but rather our response to it. We are called to love our enemies, and we are called to love them because our God in heaven loves them. And, how we do that is complex, and my point isn’t to wade into all of that today.

Yes, with abusive people, boundaries matter.

Yes, with toxic people, you don’t have to become a doormat.

Yes, with evil, pursuing justice matters.

But, when it comes down to the base level, what I told Asher was, “We can’t let hate into our hearts.” We need to love people, even the ones who are difficult.

So, how might you do that with the difficult people around you?

That’s a question that’s worth thinking about, because after I dropped Asher off that’s what I thought about. My little guy reminded me of Jesus’ calling on our lives to love our enemy. And, it’s a reminder that I needed. And, maybe you need this as well.

 

Daddy are you Strong?

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The other day, Eden came into our room and into our bed, because, as she said it, “I scared.”

If you have kids, this has probably happened to you.

And so, like any good parent, I snuggled with her, calmed her down and then took her back to bed (because little kids are wiggly in bed and ensure that while they sleep, you don’t!).

When I took her to bed, I prayed with her, and ensured her that daddy loved her and that she was safe. It was then that she looked up at me and said, “Daddy, are you strong?”

And, I said, “Yes, honey, your dad is strong.”

“Like really strong?” she asked.

And, I told her this, “Yes, sweetheart, your dad is very, very, very strong. He is here and you are safe, and it’s okay to sleep and have sweet dreams.”

At that, she turned over and fell fast asleep.

Now, you might want to quibble or challenge the statement that I am “very, very, very strong.” And maybe, in your eyes, I’m not. Well, let’s be honest, in most people’s eyes the first word that jumps to their mind when they see me isn’t “strong.”

But, the point is that for Eden, knowing that someone stronger than her was watching over her let her feel safe and at peace. What she was looking for wasn’t for me to give a complex answer on the different magnitudes of strength out there, but rather to assure her that she is safe because of my strength.

When I went back to my bed then, the first thing that came into my head was how often the Bible talks about God being strong and mighty. We read of God being great and “mighty in power” (Psalm 147:5); that He has “acted with a strong hand and powerful arm” (Psalm 136:12) and is “mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17).

I think the reason the Bible talks like this isn’t because God is physically strong or that He has big muscles. The point is that God is strong enough that we can trust in Him, and feel safe in His presence, power and protection.

Of course, the world is broken and complex and, at times, bad things happen. I’m not denying that.

All that I am saying is that at some point what we need isn’t a complex discussion on the different magnitudes of strength, free will and evil. Rather, what we need to know, at a base soul level, is that God is mighty and able to save, and that He is for us and not against us.

What we need to know is that the One who looks after us and cares for us is “very, very, very, strong.”

 

Quit Keeping Score

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Today’s blog post is a little honest or vulnerable for me to write, but I think it’s important. I want to let you in on where I struggle the most…

I struggle with a deep desire to be perfect, to succeed and be good.

And, that doesn’t sound that bad on the surface. It makes me driven, it makes me get things done, it makes me be a better dad and husband in many ways. It means that I don’t tend to drop things, and I will push things forward. It means you can count on me.

It also means I carry a brutal weight around, all the time.

Because, I can’t be perfect and the truth is (while it’s awkward to say), sometimes my desire to be perfect is greater than my desire for God. This is where this becomes downright dangerous, because all of sudden what matters more is my expectations, rather than God’s. What matters most then is moving things ahead, rather then sitting with God. What matters most is perception of perfection, rather than the real, honest, messiness of life. And, what this leads to at its most base level in my life is this…

I keep a scorecard of success and losses.

While you may not personally be driven to be perfect (that may not be your struggle), what I think you can relate to is this idea of keeping score. Because I believe this “keeping score” mentality drives so much that we measure ourselves  against our brother or sister, our parent’s expectations, our co-workers, or that neighbour down the street. We measure ourselves by what “other parents do” or what “society says we should do.” And, we end up keeping score to know that we are worthwhile and meaningful.

We keep score to know that we matter.

In my desire to be perfect, I keep score all the time. But, this is just absolutely true: There is no keeping score in God’s kingdom.

Because whether you are perfect or not, whether you can keep up with your perfect sister, or that co-worker, or your perfect parent friend, you have this truth…

You are loved by God.

You are a child of God

You are redeemed by God.

I think what we need in life is less keeping score, and more submission to the fact that you matter and are already included in God’s kingdom. I write this as much for me as anyone else.

What if you gave up keeping score?

What if you gave up striving for all that stuff around you? What if you just rested in the fact that you are loved, you are okay and God is for you? What if we let that centre us and lose the scorekeeping cards? What would life look then?

Because the short answer is this: Your life would look better, wholer, and certainly more full of God. 

So, give up the scorecard this week and see how it feels to simply be accepted by God.

 

Rethinking Evangelism

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Today, I want to dive into something that is both obvious, but also crucial for sharing Jesus. And, it surrounds two facts…

1) I believe that Jesus Christ is absolutely worth sharing with others.

2) Our culture has shifted and changed, so where that sharing starts needs to change.

And, here is what I mean by this…

Decades ago, there was a lingering “Christian” consciousness in our culture. What this was often called, in more academic studies, was “Christendom.” What this meant was that purely by being born into Canada, the United States or England, etc., you were raised with, at the very least, a basic understanding of Christianity, and perhaps even shared certain Christian values. Of course, people were free to reject Christianity or to disagree, but, in general, there was a familiarity with Christianity.

If you were to graph it in terms of (a) meaning “zero understanding or readiness to accept the Gospel” to (z) meaning “deciding to follow Jesus,” people were simply closer to where the “x” is below, being ready to follow Jesus because of the cultural familiarity.

(a) ————————————————x——— (z)

My dad would often tell me that when he was growing up in high school, everyone in his grade 13 class went to Sunday School. And, this was just north of Toronto. That is no longer the case because our culture has shifted.

Today, people are far less likely to have a base knowledge, or any knowledge, of what Christianity is or why it matters. Today, on the same graph, our culture might be better represented as this…

(a) ——–x————————————————- (z)

After a sermon recently, I had a new guest share with me that they really liked my “TED Talk.” This is because they had never seen or experienced what a sermon is, since this is no longer something of which we are culturally familiar.

I bring all this up to say something radically obvious: If it’s a different culture, we need a different approach. Since people no longer have a cultural understanding of Christianity, what worked decades ago won’t work today.

In previous generations, the primary approach was to tell people about Jesus and then bring them to church. And, while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I believe our starting place has changed, so we need to change.

We need to demonstrate the love of Jesus and bring the church to them. We need to reach out and share the love of God in tangible ways, being the people of God (the church) to those around us. And, this may take a while, because people are in a different place.

So, when it comes to sharing Jesus, I think the starting place has shifted. I think it now begins with demonstrating the love of Jesus, so that we can share about Jesus. I believe that the way we will see people be changed by Jesus isn’t to just invite them to church (although, that’s a good thing!). We also need to faithfully love those around us over the long haul. That’s the new starting place.

 

The Small Sins Matter Most

smallsins.pngHave you ever noticed that the “church” loves to pay attention to the “big sins”? Do you know what I’m talking about? How online, in the news and in the pews, people love to call out people for the “big sins”? Of course, what counts as a “big sin” changes with the times, but it’s often and usually a sexual sin of some sort.

Now, obviously “big sins” are sins that matter and need to be rooted out. And, even that classification of “big sins” and “little sins” is problematic, but I think you get what I mean.
The reasons we love to focus on “big sins” isn’t because we are “standing up for truth,” but instead we are guided by judgment, pride and sin itself. (see Paul’s exposition on this at the beginning of Romans 2)

While there is a lot to unpack in that previous paragraph, I want to look at something else. I’d like to focus in on how we shouldn’t be focusing in on the “big sins,” but rather the “little sins.”

Because, what so many deep, wise and mature Christians have shared throughout the centuries is that our temptation to look at other people’s sins obscures us from what we should be doing, which is rooting out sin in our lives.

When we are busy looking at other people, we are neglecting the myriad of ways we neglect God daily.

The truth is, if we pay attention to the “small sins” in our lives, then they won’t lead to the “big sins.” Most often, really disastrous choices are made with a bunch of small, poor choices first.

Mechthild of Magdeburg, a 13th century mystic, writes this…

“What hinders spiritual people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins. I tell you in truth: when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul become so dark and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.”

Do you see how practical that is? How everyday that is? That we need to be paying attention to our smiles, our bits of sourness and our impatience because that can turn our hearts cold and dark.

Mechthild’s point is that if we ignore those moments, we can never move toward spiritual completion, and focusing on other people’s “big sins” just misses the point. Instead, we need to reflect and act on the little ways we disengage from God and others throughout the day.

So, I write all this as a reminder that while our world loves to focus on the “big sins,” our Saviour reminds us to focus on our own planks, junk and sin that loves to hide in the everyday moments of life.

And, that’s the starting place to really walking and following with Jesus: Looking at Him and our own lives, not at others.

 

Where to Look for Leaders

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Culture, and an even bigger leadership market. What I mean by this is that many people will pay for courses, training, books (or whatever!) on how to develop and find leaders.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this. I, too, go to the conferences and read the books. But, there is a current discussion in the leadership world about a leadership deficit.

What this means is that as the Baby Boomers age, there is a leadership vacuum and people needed to fill it. In essence, there is a leadership crunch. And, there are numerous opinions on where to find the right leaders and how to develop them.

I don’t want to offer my opinion on this, instead I’d like to reflect on a theme I see in the Bible: The best leaders are first servants.

I just believe this is true. We see this in Jesus’ teaching when He says that leaders aren’t called to lord it over others, but to serve (see Matthew 20:25-28). We see it in Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 5:2-3 in his calling to serve one another. And, we see it in Matthew 23:11-12 in which Jesus says the greatest among you will be the servants.

I think the reason for this is obvious: Leadership positions don’t create character, serving does.

The best leaders are also people who understand serving and aren’t into leading for themselves, but rather leading for others.

So, I write all this because if you are business leader, a hockey coach, a pastor or leading anything at all, and you want to find more leaders, the place to look isn’t at leadership conferences. The place to find the best leaders isn’t from a group of people vying for the position.

The place to find the best leaders is wherever someone is faithfully serving. 

That’s the place to start, because these people will already understand that leading isn’t about themselves; it’s about others, and that’s what matters.