Thursday, April 30, 2009


1 Samuel 13:7-14 Meanwhile, Saul stayed at Gilgal, and his men were trembling with fear. Saul waited there seven days for Samuel, as Samuel had instructed him earlier, but Samuel still didn't come. Saul realized that his troops were rapidly slipping away. So he demanded, "Bring me the burnt offering and the peace offerings!" And Saul sacrificed the burnt offering himself. Just as Saul was finishing with the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. Saul went out to meet and welcome him, but Samuel said, "What is this you have done?"
Saul replied, "I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn't arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, 'The Philistines are ready to march against us, and I haven't even asked for the Lord's help!' So I felt obliged to offer the burnt offering myself before you came."
"How foolish!" Samuel exclaimed. "You have disobeyed the command of the Lord your God. Had you obeyed, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your dynasty must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.
As I read this passage September 26th of 2008 I thought, “Why was Saul disciplined for this? It seems like such a reasonable thing to do. Samuel did not show up when he said he would and so Saul took things into his own hands.” But then I realized this passage is about trust. It did not matter that Saul’s army was fleeing. God could have saved all of Israel with Saul’s one sword. Saul was to be “a man after God’s own heart.” This meant he was to trust and keep on waiting for Samuel to show up.

I confess it is hard to live with the kind of trust God asked of Saul. At that point in our lives we had been waiting for the sale of our house in Calgary. We had already purchased the right place in Vancouver and already taken possession of that place. In one sense, it seemed like God wasn’t showing up on time. I wanted to take things into my own hands. That Friday morning it dawned on me that this experience was about trust. God could take care of us whether our house sold or didn’t sell. If God wanted us to plant missional communities in Vancouver He would make a way.

Later that morning I had the opportunity to pray with about eight new friends in a training session that I had been leading all week. I told them that over one hundred people were praying for the sale of our house. I didn’t want these 8 people to pray for the sale of our house. I wanted them to pray that God would allow us to do His Kingdom work in Vancouver and that I would be able to continue to wait upon God and trust Him whether our house sold or not. And they did pray this with me.

A few hours later, a family fell in love with our house, made an offer, and our house was conditionally sold by 10:00 pm Friday night. On that same day Maureen was offered a position with a company in Vancouver. The job for which she had interviewed had been made even better by some changes to the duties and salary. Maureen accepted the offer.

Today, as I sit in Vancouver very much in the midst of planting a new community of faith ( I realize that it is once again about trust. Sometimes I find it hard to trust that God is going to provide all that we need to plant a network of simple churches in Vancouver. But I will keep on doing what the Lord has asked us to do and I will keep on trusting. He has shown time and time again that He can be trusted.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Not About Me

On Sunday, I preached on 1 Corinthians 7 at West Coast Christian Church ( It was a great chance for me to learn from this passage. I came upon this paragraph in a commentary.
The ideal of the Corinthian was the reckless development of the individual. The merchant who made his gain by all and every means, the man of pleasure surrendering himself to every lust, the athlete steeled to every bodily exercise and proud in his physical strength, are the true Corinthian types: in a word the man who recognized no superior and no law but his own desires.*

Corinth was known as:
• A major port city
• A wealthy city
• A sexually immoral city (prostitutes were welcomed and honoured at civic functions)
• A place of ruthless business dealings
• A place focussed on the development of the individual
• An athletic city – they hosted the Isthmian Games in both the year before and the year after the Olympic Games and their patron goddess was the goddess with “buns of steel” (she was known as Aphrodite of the Beautiful Buttocks).
• A rebellious place – their first law was to pursue their own happiness; other laws were just good suggestions.

I thought how much the ancient Corinthians and modern Vancouverites had in common.
1 Corinthians 7:30-32 says,
Happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God's work. Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away. In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life.

God inspired these words and is reminding us even today that our first concerns must not be about ourselves, our wealth, whether we should or should not marry, or sadness or happiness. Our first concern must always be about doing God’s work. It’s not about me.

*R. St John Parry, The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (Cambridge University Press, 1926; The Cambridge Greek Testament). As quoted in Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Intervarsity Press, 1985), 19.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Path to Holiness

Let us strive and pray that the love of holiness may be created within our hearts; and then acts will follow, such as befit us and our circumstances, in due time, without our distressing ourselves to find what they should be. You need not attempt to draw any precise line between what is sinful and what is only allowable; look up to Christ, and deny yourselves everything, whatever its character, which you think He would have you relinquish. You need not calculate and measure, if you love much; you need not perplex yourselves with points of curiosity, if you have a heart to venture after Him. True, difficulties will sometimes arise, but they will be seldom. He bids you take up your cross; therefore accept the daily opportunities which occur of yielding to others, when you need not yield, and of doing unpleasant services which you might avoid. He bids those who would be highest, live as the lowest: therefore, turn from ambitious thoughts and (as far as you religiously may) make resolves against taking on your authority. He bids you sell and give alms, therefore, hate to spend money on yourself. Shut your ears to praise, when it grows loud: set your face like a flint, when the world ridicules, and smile at its threats. Learn to master your heart, when it would burst form into vehemence, or prolong a barren sorrow, or dissolve into unseasonable tenderness. Curb your tongue and turn away your eye, lest you fall into temptation. Avoid the dangerous air which relaxes you, and brace yourself upon the heights. Be up at prayer “a great while before day” and seek the true, your only Bridegroom, “by night on your bed”. So shall self-denial become natural to you, and a change to come over you, gently and imperceptibly; and like Jacob, you will lie down in the waste, and soon see Angels, and a way opened for you into heaven.*
*Excerpt from Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling, by James Sire.

Monday, April 6, 2009

God Knew Us

Before it ever crossed our minds that God might be important, God singled us out as important. Before we were formed in the womb, God knew us. We are known before we know.
This realization has a practical result: no longer do we run here and there. Our lives are not puzzles to be figured out. Rather, we come to God, who knows us and reveals to us the truth of our lives. The fundamental mistake is to begin with ourselves and not God. God is the center from which all life develops. If we use our ego as the center from which to plot the geometry of our lives, we will live eccentrically.
All wise reflection corroborates Scripture here. We enter a world we didn’t create. We grow into a life already provided for us. We arrive in a complex of relationships with other wills and destinies that are already in full operation before we are introduced. If we are going to live appropriately, we must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was begun and will be concluded by another. And this other is God.
My identity does not begin when I begin to understand myself. There is something previous to what I think about myself, and it is what God thinks of me. That means that everything I think and feel is by nature a response, and the one to whom I respond is God. I never speak the first word. I never make the first move.
- Eugene H. Peterson, Run With the Horses (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1983), p. 38.

Jeremiah 1:5 I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mulligan: when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action.

A well-educated, intelligent, friend of ours recently suggested that she hoped that re-incarnation might be a reality. She hoped that she might get a chance at a mulligan. There were some things she thought she might be able to do better next time around. She is drawn to Buddhism, not because she understands it, but because it offers this idea of a great cosmic do-over. She has trouble with the concept of one life, a final decision, and an eternal destiny. I think we can all relate to these feelings and I admit the idea of reincarnation is appealing at a certain level. And yet, . . .

Our friend likes the idea of heaven. Who doesn’t? She struggles with the idea of some people going to hell. But she also struggles with the idea of sitting down at a banquet table in heaven next to Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, or Robert Pickton. She recognizes that somewhere, somehow, someone must draw a line. We would not want to see everyone get to heaven.

Jesus Christ said something different than Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha). He told of a way to eternal life that did not require countless revolutions through this world until one did enough things to attain enlightenment. He said that those who listen to his message and believe in God who sent him would have eternal life. They would never be condemned for their sins but would pass from death into life. He said that even the dead would one day hear the voice of the Son of God and those who listened would live. Those who continued in evil would experience judgement. (See the Gospel of John 5:19-30.)

I know it is out of vogue to believe in Jesus. I know it is common to see him as just a good teacher along with all the other good teachers like the Buddha. I know it is in vogue to believe in karma, reincarnation, and all paths leading to heaven. And yet . . ., to both my brain and my heart, the message of Jesus still makes sense. In this world, it is the only thing that does.

John 5:23b-30 (New Living Translation)
Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.[d] 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Still Obeying

You must have often wondered why the enemy [God] does not make more use of his power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree he chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the irresistible and the indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as his felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For his ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve.... Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs-to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.... He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand.... Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

C. S. LEWIS, The Screwtape Letters.
As quoted in the front cover of The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard.