People of the Second Chance

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A little while ago, I was reading the book, People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster. In it, he lists what he calls “The Five Condemnments”:

1. “I don’t deserve a second chance.”
2. “I am my shame. I am my secrets.”
3. “I will always feel and be this way.”
4. “I am defined by my worst moments.”
5. “My life, my dreams, my hopes no longer matter.”

As I interact with people, I see so many who live under these condemnments. That somehow a second chance is for others, not for them. That somehow what defines them most is their shame, failure and worst moments. They feel trapped in a cycle of no hope because yesterday was bad, so tomorrow will be bad, and they feel they deserve it. In essence, they start listening to the lies other people say about them, rather than what the Gospel says about them.

But, Jesus has a radically different promise and pronouncement for all of us. Here’s what He has to say about you:

1. “You do deserve a second chance, because I died to secure that for everyone.” (John 3:16)

2. “You aren’t your shame and secrets. You are forgiven and free.” (John 8:1-11, when Jesus encounters the woman caught in adultery).

3. “Your future isn’t full of darkness and repeats of defeat. If you believe in Me, you will have full and abundant life today.” (John 10:10)

4. “You are not defined by your worst moments, but rather by My calling on your life.” (John 21, when Jesus restores Peter after his worst moment).

5. “Your dreams do matter, because I, the Good Shepherd, know you and all that you need.” (John 10:14) – In fact, the first words of Jesus in the book of John are, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). So, your wants, dreams and desires do matter to God.

I write all this to remind you of something: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is freeing, transforming and totally life giving. The condemnments we so often live under aren’t part of living under God’s reign, love and grace.

So, today I want to remind you that if you feel like you don’t deserve a second chance – that shame owns you, that your past failures define you, that life can’t change, that your wants and desires don’t matter – than, well, Jesus begs to differ. Come and experience Him, and find that difference in your life.

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.”

 

How to Change Your Heart

How to Change Your HeartToday, I want to wade into a complex theological topic in about 500 words. Trying to explain desires, disconnect and why we don’t act how we should.
Here is the truth: Many of us want to live differently, but we struggle. We want to be more like Jesus, but find ourselves not living like Him. We want to be holy or righteous (to use more traditional language), but we find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do.
Paul puts it this way, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15) So, it seems like it isn’t just us that struggle with it, but also Paul.
Here is a controversial, but true thing: The solution to this problem isn’t more knowledge or more information. Yet, this is precisely what we gravitate to when we or someone else is struggling. We try to give them more information or we listen to more sermons about “How to Change Our Lives” and decide to “try harder.” And, I’m not saying that information or sermons are bad (clearly it’s my job!), but if deciding to try harder and gaining information led directly to transformation, we would be the most transformed and healthy society with all our information
The truth is, when we encounter a gap between what we know and how we live, the problem isn’t with the knowledge. The problem is with our desires.
Jamie Smith puts it this way, “It seems we can’t think our way to holiness.”
I cannot love this quote more. It’s so simple, yet also so true. We cannot think our way to holiness. We cannot decide our way to righteousness. Because, the disconnect in our actions is not with our intellect, but with our hearts. Because our hearts are following desires that lead us away from Jesus, holiness and righteousness. Because we are not just thinking things, but loving beings or wanting creatures.
So, what does this all mean, practically?
Well, what I think it means is that when we struggle to live differently, the problem often isn’t our moral muscle, resolve or lack of knowledge. The problem is that our hearts have not been attuned to love the way of Jesus over the other competing desires in our world.
When I live less than I should, it’s because I love something more than Jesus.

So, my challenge this week is just this: When you act differently than you know you should, ask Jesus to help you shape and change your wants. Because that’s where transformation resides.

Pray and say, “Jesus, help me to want forgiveness more than revenge.”
Pray and say, “Jesus, help me to want generosity more than financial security.”
Pray and say, “Jesus, help me to want your way of love more than fear.”
Pray for your heart and wants/desires to change.
Because, it’s not just about knowing more, but loving differently.
P.S. To learn more, Jamie Smith’s book You Are What You Love is amazing.

The Problem with Humanity

Today’s blog post might seem a bit funny at first. It’s not only completely orthodox, but also absolutely needed.
Jesus is not only the Son of God (and fully divine), He is also the Son of Man and fully human. This means that Jesus not only came to earth to demonstrate and reveal who God fully is, but also to reveal who we are to fully be as humans. Jesus demonstrates what true humanity actually looks like, feels like and, most importantly, lives like.
Marilynne Robinson writes, “It is a truism that humanity is deficient in humanity.” And, that is absolutely, unequivocally true.

When you look around the world and see evil, hurt, violence, racism, destruction and a whole host of other evils, the problem is not with “humanity” per say, but rather our lack of “humanity.” The problem is that we are not living as we actually should; that we are missing the mark (the Biblicial term for sin), and it is having disastrous consequences.
To put it positively, true humanity is seen whenever love, generosity, grace and justice flourish. Anything short of this is actually anti-human. Which brings us back to Jesus and why we need Him.
As a Christian, I fully affirm that Jesus is divine, but also that He is fully human. I believe that Jesus reveals to us the path we are to take as human beings. He reveals to us how we are called to live in this broken world. He models a life of forgiveness, grace and justice in the presence of oppressing powers. We need Jesus to not only make us more Christ-like, but also more human, not less.
So, what does this all mean practically? It means that if you want to be part of changing the world, it means embracing your humanity and especially embracing Jesus to guide you into it. Because it’s the path of Jesus that will bring healing to this world. Not just us denouncing evil, but us living differently. Us living into our full humanity. In essence, living like Jesus in and through Jesus.

Do Not Fear

donotfear.pngJoy Davidman (wife of C.S. Lewis) writes this: “Fear is so much a disease, we have forgotten it is a disease.”
I couldn’t agree with this or believe in this more. Fear is a disease and it’s one that runs our world. We are constantly under the sway of fear. Of course, we don’t call it that. We call it things like: being realistic, prudent planning, worry, anxiety, stress or a whole other host of euphemisms. But often, what is really lurking under the surface is fear.
We save and save because we are fearful we don’t have enough. We try to “grab” all we can because we fear scarcity. We have “stress,” but what is it really? It’s fear of failure, fear of the future, fear of so many other things. What I am saying is that often what is driving our decisions and actions isn’t the goodness of God, but a belief that things will get worse, and that’s fear. 
And, that’s wrong.
Because, if you read the Bible, what you will see again and again is the command: “Do not fear.” Do not fear. Do not give in to fear. Fear does not run our world. Fear is not in control. Fear does not decide your fate. “Do not fear.” Because as Bruce Springsteen sings…
Fear’s a powerful thing, baby
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
And, that’s true. Which is why Jesus often says in the Gospels, “Do not fear.”
So, my hope today is to remind you of something I’m sure you know deep down: Don’t give in to fear. As Jesus says, “Do not fear.” As the Apostle John says, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” Or, as Joy Davidman writes, “Fear is a disease, so don’t give in to it.”
Because, God is good and God is love, and that has always been the antidote to fear.

Confession Brings Freedom

The other day while reading (which, full confession, I do kinda frequently), I read this statement by Craig Groeschel…
“It’s so much better to confess your sins and enjoy forgiveness than to be caught in them.”
Wow, how true is that?
Rather than confess, I’m more likely to hide my sins, flaws and mistakes. And, I actually think this isn’t just true for me; it’s a human response. In fact, if you read Genesis 3, this is exactly what you see when Adam and Eve sin. Rather than confess to God and find forgiveness, they hide their sin and are eventually caught in sin.
The truth is just this: Whenever we let sin dictate our decisions, hurt isn’t far behind and hiding never brings healing. Forgiveness brings freedom, whereas hiding brings more guilt and baggage. The beautiful thing is that God is a God of forgiveness; it’s actually what He does best.

So today, I’m probably not writing something you don’t already know. But, it isn’t in the knowing that we struggle, it’s in the acting. I write all this to remind us of one little thing: “It’s so much better to confess your sins and enjoy forgiveness than to be caught in them.”
I know that’s something I need to not only hear, but to act on too. And maybe you need to as well.

Living Out Christmas

livingoutchristmas.pngChristmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I’m not going to lie – we get our decorations up pretty early and leave them up pretty late. The truth is, I just love this time of year. Some aren’t as into it, but I am.

I bring this up for a very specific reason…This time of the year is a great time to actually show God’s love in real, practical and tangible ways that don’t come off as weird. You can actually reach out to your family, friends and neighbours in real ways without it seeming odd.

1. You can invite neighbours over for a Christmas party

2. You can make cookies and drop them off

3. You can give small and meaningful gifts to co-workers

4. You can actually invite people to a Christmas Eve service

These are all simple and pretty straightforward things to do, and I mention them because I believe that Christmas is a time of action. The reason we gather together as Christians at Christmas is because God acted. The reason we give gifts to one another is because God acted. The reason we have hope in this season is because God acted.

Again, I bring this all up to remind you of something pretty simple… If God acted on His love for the world, so should we.

So, what might it look like to love those in your world? What might it look like to tangibly remind people that they matter? What might be a way you could surprise someone with an example of their value? The message of Christmas is that God surprised us with His actions, giving us something we weren’t expecting. What might that look like in your life?

I know we all live in different contexts and places, but one thing each of us can do is to show love in those different contexts and places.

So, invite people over for a party, drop by cookies, share a gift, write a note, do something. Remember, we are here today becauseGod did something, so let’s follow His lead this Christmas.

The Most Radical Spiritual Gift

spiritualgift.pngI think that in today’s day and age there is one really needed and really radical spiritual gift. It’s not seen in a lot of places and it’s certainly undervalued in most places. And, it’s just this…hospitality.

Hospitality is the gift of opening up a space so that others feel safe, loved and valued. Read that sentence again. Because, isn’t that what our world needs? Isn’t that what our family, friends, neighbours and co-workers need? A safe place to feel loved and valued.

The gift of hospitality is used when we really welcome people into our lives without any preconditions or expectations. We simply welcome. And, I think if we want to change lives with Jesus, it begins with learning this gift and this art. Opening up our lives, homes and hearts to others with no expectations other than giving them a place to feel loved and valued.

To do this, though, is really difficult because it first requires us to be centred and whole in our own identities. If not, we try to make people into what we think they should be, rather than loving who they are. And, no one likes being changed.

Henri Nouwen puts it this way: “True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.”

So, how do we practice this really radical gift of hospitality? Well, I think the first step is to actually welcome the hospitality that Jesus has for us. Because He welcomes us as we are, and loves us right there and then. So, for some of us, before we take the step of opening up our hearts and homes to others (which we absolutely need to do!), perhaps the step for today is to just remind yourself that you are loved by God exactly as you are. He actually likes you, loves you and wants to be with you.

And, once this starts to shape who you are, you’ll be able to share that love with others. Once you accept that you are accepted by God, you can start accepting and loving others.

Of course, we all have unhealthy areas in our lives that need to change. I’m not saying those don’t exist. I’m saying that people want to be loved firstand that love changes people, not our judgment.

So, today, practice the radical gift of hospitality by welcoming someone in as they are or by allowing Jesus to welcome you as you are. Because that’s what our world needs and what I know I need.

Broken Phones and Broken Hearts

puzzle-heart-1-1141004-1599x1398So Asher broke my phone. Like he dropped it / threw it and cracked the screen…with a case on. I’d have a picture to show you but again – Asher broke my phone.

Now if you’re house is anything like mine when these things happen it is never when you feel filled with patience, lots of time to deal with it, and in a good space. Instead, Eden was crying, and we were trying to get out the door to pick up Hudson from school, so he wouldn’t be wondering where we were. It was then that I asked Asher for the phone that he didn’t want to give me and the throw / drop happened.

I was very frustrated (meaning mad and angry) and I kinda huffed and said now you can’t use dad’s phone or any phone again. And he didn’t say anything but got into the stroller, and crawled into the bottom and fell asleep.

As I was pushing him and his sister towards school God hit me with a thought, “what matters more, a broken screen or a broken heart”. And this is why occasionally I don’t want to hear from God, because when God speaks he can be challenging and convicting. I knew in my heart I was angrier and upset with a broken phone, than making sure I didn’t harm or break Asher’s heart when discussing it with him. I know inwardly I wanted him to really feel how frustrating this was for me. But that’s the problem, I was thinking about me.

So we came back home and I woke him up and got the other kids snacks so we could talk. And as soon as he woke up he gave me a huge hug with little tears and said, “Daddy I so sorry about your phone”. So I hugged him back and said, “It’s okay, it was an accident” because he hadn’t meant to wreck the phone. I talked to him, hugged him, and made sure he felt okay.

And this response only happened because God reminded me that what matters more in life is not things, but people. But so often that gets reversed. So often that gets missed. And we can be so quick to lose perspective, especially with our kids.

Because perspective matters. My hope and prayer is that when Asher grows older he doesn’t remember how mad Dad got when I broke his phone; he’ll remember how well I dealt with it with patience, love, and understanding. Of course that didn’t happen in the moment, but that’s the beautiful thing about life. We get second chances, and can make it right.

So I write all of this to remind us all of one thing: don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things. And in the scheme of life, a phone is a little thing, a relationship is a big thing. So if in anyway you’ve maybe like me missed the point, focused on a thing rather than a person, or overreacted – why not make it right today. Call a friend, tell your spouse your sorry, give your kids a hug and say you love them. Because what I needed that day was a reminder from God, that broken hearts matter more than broken phones and things and maybe you might need the same reminder today.

3 Strands of DNA

diversity-1-1184126-1598x1024On Sunday we are looking at another value we have here at church. We are looking at how we hold to unity in diversity. And at first glance that statement looks well…innocuous. Like who cares?

But I would say this: that value is one of the most counter-cultural values today.

That value is one of the most needed values today.

That value is one that is most missing in our current Evangelical Christian sub-culture. We are quick to divide. Quick to call out people. We are quick to call our “heresy”

But in the process we have made an idol out of our own theological perfection. In doing this we have not only moved into dangerous territory, but unbiblical territory. And yes, I see the irony of saying “heresy hunters” are heretical…but my point is actually larger than calling out “heresy hunters”.

My point is that in Evangelical and Western Christianity we have forgotten how to hold onto unity in the midst of difference. We haven’t practiced well what the Bible calls us to be: one in love.

So on Sunday we are going to unpack this value, and most importantly, unpack how to practice it.