Our Stories Have Power

If you think about it, the Bible is a book of stories.

That’s really what it is. And, I’m not saying that to diminish the inspiration or power of the Bible, but to actually raise the power of stories in our lives. The Old Testament is full of the stories of Jewish people and their interaction with God. The Gospels are full of the stories of Jesus and His interaction with people. And, the Epistles are also stories of sorts – insights into the Early Church, and the stories that shaped them.

So, I raise all of this, because we so often discount our own stories.

We discount the lives we have lived, and the impact God has made in our lives. But, the truth is, our stories matter. They shape us, change others, and give tangible insight into the working of God in our lives.

When Paul shares his story in 2 Corinthians – that he has been battered and bruised, but not beaten – we resonate and can understand. When John shares about his interaction with Jesus in Revelation, we enter into his world and are changed. When we read Acts – literally the story of the Early Church – we are shaped, formed, and changed by it.

I write all this to remind you of one simple thing that we often discount and dismiss: Our stories have power. Our stories have meaning. Our stories are places not only to connect with ourselves and others, but also with God.

And, this is something I think the church understood a while ago, with the importance placed on “testimony” or “bearing witness.” And, it’s something we need to get back to. We need to share our stories.

Andrew Root, an amazing theologian, writes this:

“Stories are the tentacles of personhood that reach out to share and be shared in. We enter each other’s lives not through magical voodoo, but through the words of our stories, and entering into these stories binds us to one another. Story is the formative experience of relational personhood, and to share our story is to invite others to share in our being. When I share your story, I share in your person.”

So, share your story with others. Open up. Share around a table. Share over a cup of coffee. But, please share your story.

Because, it is in opening up and sharing that we become bound to one another.

And, I think that’s needed more than ever in our world. To be bound together, and bound to Christ. But, that only happens as we share our lives with one another. So, share your story, and see what happens.

“God helps me get to the North Pole” : Theology from a 4 year Old

IMG_4512Today I’d like to share the work of my 4 year old.

Now I’m not sharing his work because he is an amazing artist, or because I want to sell his work or anything (although you’re welcome to buy it).

I share it because of something he had written at the bottom of the page.

God helps, “Get to the North Pole”

Now at first glance that is a very silly thing to say. It seems just like the type of thing a 4 year old would say. Except that this is actually a very deep theological statement, it’s just said in “Hudsonese”.

The past few weeks Hudson keeps talking about his grandpa, my dad, who died when he was just a few months old. He keeps talking about how he misses grandpa and wants to see him. So he asked where grandpa is, and I told him “Grandpa is in heaven”.

And because he’s 4 he had lots of follow up questions, “Is heaven far? Can we drive there and see Grandpa? Is it farther than Caleb’s house? Why can’t we see grandpa?”

And lastly, “How do we get there?”

We talked about this and the point he got was that God, because his love is so strong, can take us to heaven. And that heaven is far away, like the North Pole.

So when Hudson says God can help us get to the North Pole, it’s a comment on the power of God. That God is able to get us places we couldn’t get on our own. That the love of God is strong enough to draw us to heaven, and to bring heaven here. That God’s loving power is enough to do amazing things: like get us to heaven, bring reconciliation, cause resurrection, bring healing, bring hope, bring transformation, and of course, get us to the North Pole. 

While you might not see the phrase, “God helps me get to the North Pole” in any theology textbooks, it’s still a true statement. And may that statement give you hope today, just like it gives Hudson hope. That God’s love, power, and strength can change lives – and apparently get you to the North Pole.

Beautiful Quote on Love


I read this in a book a few weeks ago and its really lingered with me:

Love is the great equalizer. One cannot love from a higher position. Love requires personal abandonment, a divesture of the social, economic, political, or hierarchical artifices we think make us somebody of worth. Only love does that, and the loving requires the divestiture, the humility. It descends, never condescends. This is what God is teaching us in Jesus. Phil Needham

Yeah I don’t have anything to add to that, other than that this is true and worth reflecting on. To help try reading Philippians 2:5-11 a few times, I think it will resonate really well with what Phil Needham wrote.

Confessions of a Pastor: Limitations

plaster, old damagedI have a confession. I’m an imperfect person. I have faults and flaws. I’m not sufficiently good, wise, or amazing to make things work everywhere. I know I have limitations, I know I have temptations, I know I make mistakes, and I have regrets. You might be like me too.

We live in a world though that sees confessions such as these as weakness. Imperfections and limitations are things to be covered up, avoided, or denied. But this is not the way in God’s Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom limitations are not to be avoided but actually embraced because they are where God works best. As Paul says, it is in our weakness, our limitations, our imperfections, that God is strong and does his best work.

Sometimes I come to a situation, a crisis, or even a Sunday with a feeling like I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the experience, the skill, or the knowledge to draw upon. I have no idea how to make things work. I reach the end of myself and see my limitations. These, though, are precisely the times when God seems to act most. When I say to him I have no idea what I am to do – so this one is up to you. When I say to him – God, this is bigger than me, so it needs you. When I embrace the fact that God I am small and broken – but accept the fact that even in my weakness God wants to use me. And he wants to use you even with your weaknesses and limitations.

This isn’t about excusing sin and failures of that sort. This is about realizing that we are not God, that we are not perfect, that we do not know everything, or know how to act in every situation. This isn’t to be lamented but embraced because when we embrace the fact we have limits we embrace the fact that God doesn’t.

It is only when we acknowledge our limitations that we also acknowledge our need and dependency on God. As I said I am not sufficiently amazing, wise, or skilled to succeed without God. I need God each and everyday in my life, work, and in his church if I am to be faithful. I cannot rely on myself, my limits remind me of my desperate need for God.

So for you – when you come up to your limits – what do you do? Do you embrace them as a moment for God to work? Do you embrace them as a reminder of our dependency on the Spirit that lives and moves in us? Or do you avoid it, deny it, or try to compensate for it?

My suggestion is this – the next time you come to the end of yourself, embrace that fact because it is often the beginning of the work of God.

Power, Dominance, Submission, and Jesus-Style Love in a Marriage

929639_40861409On Sunday we explored the potentially difficult passage of Ephesians 5 where Paul writes, “Wives submit to your husbands…Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church”.

What we came away with was an understanding that no healthy relationship is based on power and dominance. We realized that we are all called to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21), and that the way Jesus related to others was through submission, humbleness, and sacrifice. The same things are too part of our marriages: submission, humbleness, and sacrifice.

We explored how Paul elevates woman, with the expectation that they are partners in marriage making a choice to be like Christ. Then Paul expects the same thing of husbands reminding them of their obligation to love like Jesus. This means buying flowers once in a while isn’t enough. This means husbands remembering the anniversary every other year isn’t enough. It is not until we have loved our wives with such a depth of self-sacrifice and giving, that all their flaws vanish because of the depth of our love that we haven’t done our job. Paul raises the bar pretty high actually.

We ended up landing on this truth that relationships based in power and dominance lead to division and difficulty. But relationships based in the type of love shown by Jesus Christ lead to life. Marriages based on self-sacrificial and submissive love last.

So we ended off asking ourselves a tough question. Are we sacrificing in our marriages, friendships, and relationships? Are we caring and putting the other person first? Is our love self-centred or sacrificial? Because I believe it’s when we love like Jesus that relationships last and give life.

We ended off by quoting Wendell Berry who I believe is worth quoting again. He writes this: “The proper question, perhaps, is not why we have so much divorce, but why we are so unforgiving. The answer, perhaps is that, though we still recognize the feeling of love, we have forgotten how to practice love when we don’t feel it”.

And I think that’s the challenge for all of us married or not. To learn to practice love when we don’t feel it. I think it’s a practice worth learning.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Marriage based on self-sacrificial love leads to life

Take Aways…

  • Our experience with marriage shapes our view on marriage
  • We have a romantic individualistic view of marriage
  • Jesus gives grace to a messy marriage life in John 4
  • Christ is his relationship with us took on a posture of submission and sacrifice not one of dominance and power
  • Striving for power and dominance in relationships wrecks relationships
  • Women in that day and age weren’t a partner but property
  • Paul elevates wives to a position of a partner with a choice to love like Jesus
  • Paul asks the same of husbands to love like Jesus
  • To be the head means source or origin
  • Marriage isn’t about perfection, but an opportunity of reflection – of loving like Jesus
  • Marriage is based on self-sacrificial and submissive love
  • “The proper question, perhaps, is not why we have so much divorce, but why we are so unforgiving. The answer, perhaps is that, though we still recognize the feeling of love, we have forgotten how to practice love when we don’t feel it” Wendell Berry

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? Was this take on this passage new? Where have you seen relationships based on power and dominance struggle? When have you seen relationships based on love and submission succeed? In your relationships are you loving with self-sacrificial love? Are you learning to practice love when you don’t feel it? What next steps can you take this week to pour love into your significant relationships’?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk with your kids what you think marriage is based on. Share with them what matters in it. Share with them why it matters. And then share with them some important things to practice and learn before they get married like loving when you don’t fee like it, forgiving if you don’t want to, and taking the first step even if its hard.

Challenge for this Week:

Love even if you don’t feel like it


Power of Prayer

On Sunday we are starting a new series on spiritual practices. These practices are incredibly important. The reality is that many people want to grow closer to God but they don’t know how.

So over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at practices that have drawn Christians deeper into a relationship with Jesus throughout the years. That whether you are exploring Jesus, growing with Jesus, or completely centered in Jesus, you could discover a next step to grow further. Because the reality is that the Christian is never finished, we can always grow more, take another new step, and become more Christlike.

So on Sunday we are starting by looking at prayer. We are going to be discovering what prayer is, what it does, and how to actually do it. To do this we are looking at the creation of the world, the life of David, and Jesus all in one sermon. So it will be a bit of a whirlwind but through it, our hope is that prayer will become more real to you than ever before. Henri Nouwen writes:

“Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.”

So we are going to discover how God can change darkness to light in prayer. We will be learning what tohu va vohu means and how it changes David’s and Jesus’ prayer life.

But before we get there, what has helped your prayer life? What questions about prayer do you still struggle with? And does prayer matter to you?

On Sunday we’ll see how it matters and how it changes darkness into light…

Power, Parades, and Position

On Sunday we talked about Jesus’ triumphant entry. We talked about how he enters into Jerusalem riding a donkey, symbolizing that his power works differently than the world’s power of might, greed, position, and conquering. Jesus didn’t ride a warhorse emphasizing his superiority, but a donkey emphasizing his humility.

But even as he was riding into Jerusalem in humility, he was still riding into it to rescue the people. The people shout “Hosanna”, save us now. And Jesus was bringing rescue to them although in a way they never would have expected. That’s because while Jesus does rescue and save, he does it in his way and not in the way of the world.

Jesus rescues and saves through submission, sacrifice, and surrender, not through military might, wealth, or positional power. Jesus’ power operates in a way that is distinctly different than the way of the world.

Around the same time that Jesus rode into Jerusalem, so did Pilate. Pilate rode in on a horse with all of his position, power, and strength on display for all to believe in. Jesus rode in on a donkey where his power and strength required trust to believe in.

The challenge for us is to not simply believe in what we can see with our eyes, but what we can trust with our hearts. The challenge is to not simply search for Jesus in spectacles and the sensational, like Pilate and his parade of power, but also in the simple and significant ways of life. Jesus rides a donkey. He’s not riding something flashy and showy, but humble and true.

So my challenge for you this week is this: look for Jesus, watch for him, and find him. But don’t just look for him in the sensational stuff around you. Look for him in the simple and humble ways that he is riding into your life.

And today if you need rescue from something: a work, health, financial, or a relationship situation, then shout “Hosanna” and ask for Jesus to save you.

Just remember he saves in his way, and not the world’s. But that through saving and rescuing us in his way – he rescues the whole world.