Quit Keeping Score

QuitKeepingScore.png

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.

 

What is God really Like?

whatisgodlike.png

This is a question people often ask: What is God really like?

And, often when push comes to shove, even though we hear of God’s grace and love, we often fall back on a view of God as primarily angry, wrathful and vengeful. This idea of God as full of rage and wrath lingers in our theology, and it nags at the back of our minds.

Which is why I think we need to get something crystal clear: God looks exactly like Jesus.

Or, putting it another way, Jesus fully and absolutely reveals God. And what Jesus reveals isn’t a God full or rage and anger, but a God full of love. This is what is seen pre-eminently on the cross. Here Jesus doesn’t punish and exact vengeance on others, but takes on our punishment and what we rightfully deserve.

So what Jesus reveals is that at God’s core is love, even when we are tempted to believe its something else.

And, if this sounds, well, controversial or a little worrisome to you, that itself highlights the issue. We have been so influenced by a view of God that doesn’t look like Jesus, that we need to regain the only orthodox view of God that there is: Jesus fully reveals God.

Thomas Torrance puts it this way…

“Is God really like Jesus? Questions like that gnaw at the back of people’s minds but which they suppress and which come to the surface only in moments of sharp crisis and hurt, tell us of the insidious damage done to people’s faith by dualist habits of thought which drive a wedge between Jesus and God.

“Fearful anxiety arises in the human hearts when people cannot connect Jesus up in their faith or understanding with the ultimate Being of God, for then the ultimate Being of God can be to them only a dark, inscrutable, arbitrary Deity whom they inevitably think of with terror for their guilty conscience and makes them paint harsh, angry streaks upon his face.

“It is quite different when the face of Jesus is identical with the face of God.”

And, I think that’s true. Our view of God is not only better, but truer and more whole when the face of Jesus is identical with the face of God.

So, today I write this as both a challenge and invitation: A challenge to see God as identical with Jesus, and an invitation to change your view of God so that it looks completely like Jesus. Because, the Father doesn’t have harsh, angry or rage filled streaks on his face. His face is identical to Jesus, streaked with tears and love.

You are NOT a Layperson

I want to be honest and say I’d like to get rid of the word “layperson.” And, if you’ve never heard it…well, that’s good…but here is what it means: “A person without professional or specialized knowledge in a particular subject.”

At a base level, there is nothing wrong with this idea. That in some spheres or disciplines we might be a hobbyist or an amateur at something – like being an amateur filmmaker or electronics enthusiast or racing hobbyist.

The problem happens when this terminology gets infected with consumerism and spreads into the church. Because, here is what can subtly and quickly happen: We end up with two classes of Christians – the professional and the layperson. And, what can easily happen is that we expect more from the professional than the layperson, or we encourage the layperson to live vicariously through the professional.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way: “If I can be convinced that layperson designates who I am…then I am wide open-market for experts who are ready to tell me how to live my life and, in some cases, even live it for me…And so, I end up delegating the operations of my soul to the experts. I no longer deal with God myself – I’m a layperson, after all…following Jesus gives way to following Jesus-experts.”

I couldn’t agree more. This is a problem in the North American church. We are tempted to follow Jesus-experts, rather than get out into life itself and follow Jesus for ourselves.

Now, of course, this doesn’t mean we don’t need people who give up decades to studying the Bible and God. Our theologians, scholars and pastors can help us and they matter, but they can’t follow Jesus for us. We can’t delegate the core of following Jesus to experts who are trained in evangelism, knowing the Bible, hospitality or teaching. They can point us to Jesus, help us understand Jesus,  train us in the way of Jesus, but they can’t follow Jesus for us.


I write all this to remind you to not buy into the idea that you are layperson in the church. If you are a follower of Jesus, you ARE the Church. And yes, some of us have been doing it longer than others (and we should look to these people for help!), but they can’t fill our role or our calling

So, we need our models, leaders, pastors and teachers. But, let’s never let “following Jesus give way to following Jesus-experts.” Because the world needs all of us – including you.

Be a True Leader

beatrueleader.pngI really like learning and practicing good leadership as much as I can. And, it’s a very important topic that’s leveraged highly in seminars, training and such, especially if you’re in the business world.

But, what I’ve noticed is my own personal reaction to some leadership training and discussions. I’ve discovered that sometimes I react strongly against it and really dislike it. At other times, I’m really drawn to it and want to practice it. I seem to have two differing reactions to them: One is allergic, the other is excitement.

As I reflected on this, I realized that what causes me to either get excited or dismissive about a leadership talk is based on this one question: What’s the goal and the motive?

Sometimes in these talks, the point seems to be about creating and drawing a bigger crowd and more of an audience, or to find success and be recognized as a leader. And, when that seems to be the goal (or is subtly influencing the direction of a leader or talk), I really dislike it.

At other times, though, the talk seems to not be about drawing a bigger crowd, but rather focused on empowering, training and releasing more leaders. It’s about the impact any of us can have on those around us. It’s not about the size or reach of our influence, but rather about stewarding it well, so that lives are changed. And, it’s this style of leadership I deeply resonate with and respond to.

I write all this because, in our world today, there is a lot of talk about leadership. There are plenty of podcasts or blogs out there about how to grow in leadership and impact people. In the midst of all that, I want to remind us that the true goal of leadership isn’t to amass a bigger following, but rather to empower others. True leadership is other-centred, not self-centred.

So, grow in leadership, whether you are a business leader, stay-at-home mom or dad, teacher, landscaper, retired, etc. But, make sure the leadership you are growing in is always about others and not just about you.

 

Are We Looking?

are we looking.png 

If we’re honest, at certain times in our lives God can be difficult to find. If you’ve walked with Jesus long enough, there seems to be these seasons when God is either difficult to find, elusive or seemingly absent.

There are a lot of complexities and facets to this reality and feeling. There are a lot of potential reasons and points to consider when you are in this place. And, while I don’t want to offer a simplistic or one-size-fits all explanation for this reality, a new reason why God might be difficult to find did occur to me the other day. It happened as I played hide-and-seek, with my kids.

The truth is this, when I play hide-and-seek with my kids, I hide to be found. I don’t want to win; I want them to enjoy the search, to seek, to feel joy when they’ve found me and to celebrate when they discover me.

Then it hit me, does God sometimes “hide” for this same reason? That we might search for Him? That we might find Him? That we might be stirred to action?

This thought occurred to me as I stuffed my big 6 foot 4 inch body into a cupboard and desperately hoped my kids would find me, as it was incredibly uncomfortable. And, the longer they took, the louder I got yelling, “Over here, Asher, Eden, Hudson!!”

I wonder, does God ever do this? Remove Himself so that we might seek Him? Call out to us so that we might find him? Intrigue us, draw us and ask us to move toward Him?

Now, I certainly don’t want to downplay what you are going through or to dismiss any of your current realities, especially if you’re in a season when God seems absent. This isn’t saying that anytime God seems difficult to find, this is what going on, but perhaps, maybe God hides simply to be found.

The question is then: Are we looking?

What You Need to Know About Great Leaders

leadershipblog.pngI read a lot of leadership books. I listen to a number of leadership podcasts a week. I send out a monthly leadership newsletter to our staff. So, I really appreciate and value the necessity of good leadership.
The problem is that the Bible talks about something so much more than “leadership.” The Bible talks about serving. For all of our culture’s focus on being a leader, the Bible seems to want to place the focus on serving and being a servant. And, this is a crucial distinction to make in our current culture and world.
To be a leader, you often talk about being in front, ahead and being an example, and – here is the main point – where people can see you. Because you want to show them the way, you want to inspire them and you hope to motivate them forward through your efforts.
But, true service has the same inspiring outcome, but through a different means. You are not out front getting recognition, but in the background doing what needs to be done. You aren’t trying to be an example, you are simply being faithful. The point isn’t for people to notice you, but for you to notice others.
It is very easy to fall into the leadership trap in our current culture. We think that what will save the church is leadership – that what we need is better and truer leaders. And, while I’m certainly not against leadership, I think we need to regain a focus on serving. It is so easy to assume that to be a leader means being a leader like we see in our culture, but, for Jesus, leadership doesn’t look like our culture, it looks like Him and serving.
Jesus says, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25-26, NLT) 
While I think being a leader matters immensely, what I know is this – that the best leaders were first, and primarily are, servants. And, the worst leaders are those who never serve, but command and direct.
So, I write all this, with books on leadership on my shelf, this article going out to you and a desire to lead well as a reminder: Leadership is never the main thing, service is. 
And, for all our culture’s preoccupation with leadership, I think it’s time to do something countercultural: Serve.

The Main Thing

mainthing

Earlier this year, after we got up one morning, Asher asked me, “Daddy, is it school day?” I said, “No Asher, it’s church day!” And, immediately he ran around yelling “YEAH!! Thank you Daddy! It’s church day, Hudson!”

Then I asked him why he loves church so much and he said, “My class, Dad. We talk about Jesus. I love my class.”

Now, I know right off the bat that this seems like a made-up pastor’s story or that our kids are wonderfully spiritual. But, just so you know, our kids are just like your kids – not perfect. In fact, one day when we had a family over, Asher came to supper without any pants on and then yelled through grace. So, perfect we are not.

So, I mention this story not because my kids are spiritual superstars (they are just kids), but because of what Asher said. He said he loves going to church because of Jesus and, for me, this matters so much.

Because, there is a temptation in church ministry to just get people to want to come to church, regardless of why they come. But, what I truly believe is this: What you draw someone with is what you draw someone to. While it is certainly easier to draw people to church with others things, I just don’t think it’s better. Because what you draw them with is what you draw them to.

This is so important in our current culture because it’s easy to fall into the temptation of catering to consumerism – to get used to whatever is “relevant” or “cool” to get people to church, hoping that once we get people there, we can convince them of Jesus. But that switch rarely happens, and is mostly actively resisted. Because, as I’ve said, what we draw them with is what we draw them to.

So, what made me excited about Asher’s comment? He didn’t mention the amazing fun songs (which we have), the great community (which we have) or the playground (which we have). He mentioned Jesus.

While I’m certainly not against great extras in church, I am cautious that our extras don’t ever overshadow Jesus. Because, for me, Jesus is simply the main thing. Asher reminded me of that. In church, Jesus is the main thing. Certainly not the only thing, but He should always be the main thing.

Share the God You Know

simply share the god you know blogI want to talk a little bit about evangelism and apologetics. And, I want to take a bit of a different slant than normal.

Normally, we think of apologetics as seeking to convince someone of the reality of God. And, in many ways, this form of apologetics has a huge number of benefits and is really effective, especially in our modern world. It also has some drawbacks, but it is still an important area of thought in Christianity.

If we are honest, though, many of us would love to convince people of the reality of God, and their need of God, but we just don’t feel comfortable having those conversations. Maybe we feel like we’re not “smart enough,” don’t know the lines of reasoning or it’s just not our personality.

So, when it comes to apologetics and evangelism, many of us feel like that’s something for the “professionals” – the pastors, the theologians or Ravi Zacharias.

But today, I want to encourage you, because you can be part of sharing God to others, whether or not you know any apologetic argument at all. Because, in today’s postmodern world, you don’t need to talk about God. Rather, you can actually introduce people to God.

Tony Kriz puts it this way: “For the most part, we talk about God… Most people speak as if God is just an ideology: a set of concepts, arguments, guidelines and categories. God is presented as something that people need to be convinced of, as opposed to someone they can be introduced to.”

And, here is the beautiful thing: God is a person. So, if you know God, you can introduce people to Him. You can share about what He is like in your life. You can share about the difference He has made in your life. You don’t need to know every philosophical or rational argument about God. You can simply share the God you know.

My point with this short little post isn’t that apologetics or good reasoning isn’t needed. It is, and it’s incredibly valuable, deep and rich. It gives us confidence for our beliefs. And, it helps immensely with our questions and doubts.

But, my main point is that you don’t need to know every argument for God to start to share Him with people. God isn’t just a concept to know, but a person to share. And, you can do this if you know Him.

So, my challenge is to share the God you know – the God who is changing your life, the God who is active, the God who is real. Share what He is doing in your life and then, as more questions come up, that’s fine. Because, there are lots of great resources for why we believe what we believe.

But, don’t be intimidated by the idea that you need to know everything to start sharing. Because, if you know God personally, you can introduce Him to others. Right here, right now.

 

The Voice of Accusation Vs. Conviction

accusation vs conviction.png

After my sermon this past weekend (March 11/12), I got a huge amount of feedback about how helpful it was. Which is always encouraging – it was a good Sunday afternoon! Thank you!

But, I’ve also received this question a few times since then: How can you tell the difference between the voice of the accuser, and the voice of God convicting you of sin? Well, the answer is actually pretty easy…

Accuser: “You are wrong.”
God: “That choice was wrong.”

Accuser: “You are so bad.”
God: “That wasn’t right.”

Accuser: “See, you’re so worthless. Why bother trying?”
God: “You are pure, holy and blameless. You don’t need to live that way anymore.”

Are you seeing the difference? Satan accuses you – of you. God convicts you – not of you, but of sin and your calling to live into who you really are.

So, when God convicts us, it’s of our actions, not of our personal value or worth to Him. When the accuser accuses us, he takes our actions and then says that they are what determine our value and worth. 

God doesn’t guilt, He convicts. So, when you feel weighed down with guilt, shame and worthlessness, that isn’t from God. The difference is, when God convicts me of my sin (which is often), I know I’ve done something wrong. When Satan accuses me, I feel that I am intrinsically wrong.

The other thing to watch for is the outcome of the “conviction/accusation.”
With the accuser, his voice always leads to depression, shame, silence and despondency (or inaction). With God, His conviction leads to repentance, which literally means “changed behaviour” – a different way to live. With the accuser, his voice causes us to run from God – we hide (i.e. look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden). With God, His conviction leads to a greater reliance on Him and a desire to follow Him, knowing that He is faithful and just to cleanse us from every single wrong.

So, Satan tries to tempt us into believing our life is based on what we do (or fail to do). But, Christ has already done everything and so God’s conviction is based on living fully in that reality, not trying to earn it. 

May you hear God’s Spirit this week clearly, closely and personally, and may you not give the voice of the accuser the time of day.

Salvation – Its Not Just About You

salvation blog.png

We are currently in the season of Lent. This is a time when we would traditionally pay more attention to themes such as confession, sin and sacrifice. This is an important area of our lives because, as I’ve often even wrote here, sin kills things. That’s simply what it does. But, the flipside is that salvation heals things.

Here, though, is what I want to unpack today: Sin isn’t just what we do (actions), it’s also part of our systems and relationships (systemic).

Pentecostal theologian, Amos Yong at Fuller, puts it this way, “Sin itself is undeniably social in character. … Because all creation labors under the bondage of sin, human creatures struggle with sinful relationships, life systems and environments from their conception. But, if sin has this inextricably social dimension, then so has sanctification.”

He goes on to write that “the purification from sin and the consecration to holiness therefore inevitably have to involve the reconciling of alienated relations, the redemption and renewal of social structures, and the healing of the world.”

What this all means in theological jargon is this: Salvation isn’t just about you and your sins; it’s about everything in the world – that in and through Jesus’ death and sacrifice, He wants to save not only us from our personal bad actions, but also the broken relationships we have in the broken social structures around us.

What this means is that salvation isn’t only individual, it’s also relational and cosmic. Meaning it involves everything. And, this is really really good news.

Jesus is not just interested in saving you, but also in saving your broken relationships, and the broken systems in and around us. Jesus is about a salvation that involves all the different aspects of “us.” Sin has a social dimension to it, and so does sanctification or salvation. Jesus wants to save every area of brokenness in the world, including our relationships and systems.

I write all this to remind us of one thing at Lent: That, yes, the world is broken and we can see it all around us – we don’t need to deny it. Instead, we can work against it, because Jesus is interested in saving every bit of creation.

Of course, we should confess our sins and brokenness during Lent. We absolutely should invite Jesus to work in our lives – to convict us, heal us and transform us. But, we should also ask how we might partner with Him in the healing of the world, because salvation has never been about just “you,” but about all of “us.” Sin does have a social dimension to it, but redemption does too.

So, during Lent, as we focus in on our sin and brokenness, let us not forget the broken systems of the world and the relationships around us that need to change. Because, while we might sometimes forget this, Jesus certainly does not, so neither should we.