Sunday, January 25, 2009

Those Who Have Not Seen

Sometimes I wish that I could see a miracle that would once and for all show me that God is truly involved with our day-to-day lives. If I could have just seen Jesus walk on water or feed 5000, if I could see an undeniable miracle of God today, then I know I would be really dedicated to Him.

Then I read about a widow in I Kings 17. God through Elijah, saves her life and the life of her son by providing them with food for a significant period of time. Yet, it is not until Elijah brings her son back to life that she says, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth." And what about those who saw Jesus walk on water and raise Lazarus from the dead? Did they fair any better? Peter still denied Jesus and all the others ran away. They still failed to see that He was God in the flesh.

It seems that seeing miracles does not ensure that we will follow or even believe. I guess this is what Jesus meant when He said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe".

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Smell the Color Nine

Lyrics and Music by Chris Rice
‘Cause I can sniff, I can see
And I can count up pretty high
But these faculties aren’t getting me
Any closer to the sky
But my heart of faith keeps pounding
So I know I’m doing fine,
But sometimes finding You,
Is just like trying to,
Smell the color nine.

We live in this very physical world. It is sometimes so hard to see behind the facade and see the "real world". Reality, is that we live in the midst of a spiritual battle. Sometimes finding God in the midst of the day to day routine of this pavement and plastic world is just like trying to "smell the color 9".

Praise God for poets!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wind and Spirit

lyrics and music by Chris Rice

I hear a sound and turn to see a new direction on that rusty weathervane/Suddenly the dead brown leaves are stirred to scratch their circle dances down the lane/And now the sturdy oaks start clappin’ with the last few stubborn leaves that won’t let go/I can hear Old Glory snappin’ and her tattered rope now clangin’ against the pole/And my breath is snatched away/And a tear comes to my eye/Feels like somethin’s on the way so I look up to the sky, I look up to the sky and...

From the corners of creation
Comes the Father’s holy breath
Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness
Stirring my soul to holiness
Stirring my soul to holiness

I see the lifeless dust now resurrected, swirling up against my window pane/And carried ‘cross the distance come the long awaited fragrances of earth and rain/And out across the amber field the slender grasses bend and bow and kiss the ground/And in them I see the beauty of the souls who let the Spirit lay them down/And it takes my breath away/And a tear comes to my eye/Feels like somethin’s on the way, so I look up to the sky, I look up to the sky and...

From the corners of creation
Comes the Father’s holy breath
Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness
Stirring my soul to holiness
Stirring my soul to holiness

And like a mighty wind blows with a force I cannot see
I will open wide my wings, I will open wide my wings
I will open wide my wings and let the Spirit carry me

From the corners of creation
Comes the Father’s holy breath
Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness
Stirring my soul to holiness
Stirring my soul to holiness

Clumsy Fly Music (ASCAP)

Friday, January 16, 2009

To Know You

"To Know You"
(Words by Nichole Nordeman/Music by Nichole Nordeman & Mark Hammond)

It’s well past midnight - And I’m awake with questions that won’t - Wait for daylight -
Separating fact from my imaginary fiction - On this shelf of my conviction - I need to find a place
- Where You and I can come face to face.

Thomas needed - Proof that You had really risen - Undefeated - When he placed his fingers -
Where the nails once broke your skin - Did his faith finally begin? - I’ve lied if I’ve denied - The
common ground I’ve shared with him.

And I, I really want to know You - I want to make each day - A different way that I can show
You how - I really want to love You - Be patient with my doubt - I’m just trying to figure out
Your will - And I really want to know You still.

Nicodemus - Could not understand how You could - Truly free us - He struggled with the image
- of a grown man born again - We might have been good friends - Cuz sometimes I still question,
too - How easily we come to You.

No more camping on the porch of indecision - No more sleeping under stars of apathy - And it
might be easier to dream - But dreamin’s not for me.

And I, I really want to know You - I want to make each day - A different way that I can show
You how - I really want to love You - Be patient with my doubt - I’m just trying to figure out
Your will - And I really want to know You still.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Eugene Peterson quotes Annie Dillard in his book The Contemplative Pastor. 
Dillard says "I know only enough of God to want to worship Him by any means ready to hand....There is one church here so I go to it....It is unfashionable because it is ridiculous. How can searchers after God and seekers after beauty stomach the 'dancing bear act' that is staged in Christian churches, Protestant and Catholic alike, week after week?" Dillard, cheerfully and matter-of-factly, goes anyway. Her tour de force on worship, "An Expedition to the Pole," provides the image and rationale. "Wherever we go, to the North Pole or the church, there seems to be only one business at hand: that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us". "Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?...The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews. Explorers [to the North Pole] unmindful of 'conditions' died. Why don't similarly unprepared worshipers perish on the spot?"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Starting New Things

In early January I attended the National Church Planting Summit of At this summit I had the privilege of being on a panel of church planters who were asked to tell three things they had learned from church planting. As one of the three panellists I will summarize the thoughts I shared at the summit. I invite the other panellists to do the same.

It is humbling to realize that after five years of planting in Calgary, and now having moved to Vancouver to start again, I was able to summarize my “learnings” on one side of a 3 inch by 3 inch sticky note. There are several things I did not say in the context of that day because it had already been made clear that planting a church starts with prayer, a call from God, spiritual discipline, proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God, and relationships with people. Instead I spoke of specific lessons learned by one who has been on the ground involved in the day-to-day efforts of seeing the birth of new communities of faith. This article is aimed at others who are planting or are considering planting.

Number 1: Start with a vision. This needs to be a vision that God has given you that is uniquely suited to who you are. Develop that vision to the point that it is something you must do and you can do nothing else until you do it. Then pursue it; pursue it until you achieve it. To keep you on track, hire a coach. You will need someone who can help you talk through the steps of getting from where you are to where you want to be.

Number 2: Adapt to the context in which you find yourself. Now this may sound like it contradicts number 1. How can I develop a vision and then stick with it until I achieve it while adapting to the context? The point is that we must be smart analysts of the place where we are planting. We must understand what makes that place what it is and become a missionary to that culture. As God declared to His people in the Babylonian captivity, we must "Build homes, and plan to stay” (See Jeremiah 29:4-7). As much as possible, become one with the people of that place; interact with them and work with them for the peace and prosperity of that place.

Number 3: We all need community. We cannot function in isolation. Sometimes a planter may have a ready-made team that is willing to go with him or her as they plant. Other times the team will not be as readily available. We all need to find ways to live in faithful Christian community. There is no such thing as a “lone-ranger planter.” We must learn from others around us, read what others have written, seek out the advice of leaders in the area, and find those with whom we can pray and be supported.

Lastly: If I can ask you to read just a little more, I would add one more thing I have learned. This one is truly counter-cultural. Take a risk! I am a church planter not because I think I am the best person to be planting churches. I am a church planter because I looked around one day and saw that not enough people were taking risks for the Kingdom of God. Our culture has convinced us that one of our highest values should be security. And so we buy insurance, save for the future (the latest market melt-down should convince us that this is fruitless – but it won’t) and work very hard to live a safe life. If Jesus had wanted to model a safe life He would not have left the safety of His Father’s side. If the early church had lived a secure Christian faith there would not have been so many martyrs. As Hugh Halter says in The Tangible Kingdom, “The Celts would have regarded our safe and isolating expressions of the church as aberrant reflections of the risen Christ. Who knows, they may have attacked us with clubs so we wouldn’t water down their expression of faith.” Now I am not going to attack you with a club until you choose to plant a church. But I must ask myself, ‘What risks am I willing to take to plant churches and see new expressions of the Body of Christ bringing the Kingdom of God to the cities, towns, and farms of our country?’ God did not call us into His Kingdom so that we could be safe. He called us so that we could be dangerous. Hey, want to be a church planter?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Tomorrow I thirst again

What kind of crazy drink is this? I lift
This strange bottomless cup. You fill it up.
You fill me to overflowing and I
Am satisfied. I thirst no more. And yet
Still I will thirst for more…and more…and more.

I look to those who are thirsty. You fill
Their empty cups. You supply their need and
They are satisfied. They will thirst no more.
Tomorrow they will be back for some more.

I take all I need for this day. You fill
My worthless cup. You supply my need and
I am satisfied. I thirst no more. But
Tomorrow I will be back for some more.

Tomorrow I thirst again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Purpose in Life

In his book, "At The Crossroads," Charlie Peacock quotes John Henry Newman as saying,
God has created me to do Him some service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. Therefore I
will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Soaring like Osprey

I wrote this about six years ago when we were wrestling with whether or not to plant a church. Today, after planting one church in Calgary and moving to Vancouver to plant another, the issues are the same.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

I have been watching a pair of osprey teach their two chicks how to fly. Learning to fly is different than learning to walk in that you really only get one chance. If the chick takes off to soon, before it can truly fly, it will fall to the water or beach below. If the fall does not kill it, it will be stuck on the ground and will be potential prey for other creatures. Osprey are careful and patient teachers. They mate once every year or two and have two chicks. They invest much in the care of these chicks by teaching them how to fish and build a nest and fly.

The pair that I have been watching nests on top of four pilings tied together at the top, which tower twenty feet above the water of Kootenay Lake. The parent birds are incredibly patient. They spend hours flying around the tall pilings. They show the chicks how to carry sticks in their talons as they fly. They soar around the nest on wind currents and they flap their wings hard to show how early flight must be achieved. While one parent is demonstrating flight, the other is behind the chicks down in the nest where they gently coax the chick to imitate the parental movements. The flying parent calls the chicks inviting them to step out into the air and experience flight.

Each chick eventually tests the air by spreading out the expanse of its wings and flapping clumsily at the air. They attempt vertical take off by filling their wings with air, beating hard against the air and hopping with their legs. This is a safe way to attempt flight, but of course they can never achieve vertical take off and must one day step off the piling into open air.

It struck me that this is a beautiful analogy of how God deals with us. If God has made the osprey patient and caring, He must be even more patient and loving towards us. He loves us like a parent loves their child. He cares for us and patiently teaches us. He also knows that He must push us to learn. All created beings from osprey to human adults will take the easy route if given the chance. The osprey chick has no real desire to learn to fly and fish for itself as long as her parents will bring her food. She is quite content to sit safely in the nest and eat and sleep through her days.
God is somewhat like the parental osprey. He coaxes, instructs and challenges us to get out and experience the freedom we are designed to enjoy. He wants us to be all that we can be; we like safety and a full belly. He wants us to soar like eagles (or osprey); we like to stay on the ground while someone provides a meal for us.

I have a safe and secure job. If I am willing to put up with a bit of poor management and people I find hard to get along with, I could stay there for many years. They pay me a relatively good salary. Between what I make and what Maureen makes, we live quite comfortably. It is a safe place to be. My needs are met. And yet, I have a sense that there is something more that I am supposed to be. I no longer believe in the mission of the lab in which I work. Unless some things change, I can no longer work toward the end to which it is heading in good conscience. Is God coaxing me out of the nest? Is He calling me to step out into the air where it is not safe? Is He challenging me to soar? Will I take the challenge or sit in my safe place waiting for my next regurgitated meal?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


A healthy understanding of who we are and how others see us is a blessing. Consider these two quotes:

"Self-doobt isna really so bad a thing, laddie," said Duncan with a chuckle. "'Tis what the Creator gives t' keep us humble. So long as it doesna cripple ye an' make ye so ye canna do a thing, a little self-doobt can du ye guid. 'Tis the seasoning o' a gracious soul to keep it from thinkin' highly o' itself."
". . . The Lord's tellin' a different tale w' each o' us. But the curse o' the human lot is either thinkin' too much or too little o'oorsel's. There's self-doobt and there's pride-an' everyone's got one or the other. Likely enough, everyone's got a heap o' both! But 'tis usually one or the other that's the inner cross o' character we each must bear till Lord's work in us is dune. Speakin' fer myself, I'd rather walk wi' the heavier dose o' the doobt than the pride. 'Tis perhaps a wee harder t' bear up under. But the one grows the fruit of Galatians Five in us if we let him have his way, but the other's a sure ruin o' character if we don't. . . "
"Dinna ye fret, laddie," said Duncan at length. "Ye're a man. An' ye're a man that's walkin' down the right road wi' yer face held t' the light. Ye're just a mite more openhearted than most aboot the struggles ye got inside. But all men'se got 'em. All the men in yer Parliament, an' yer prime minister-they're all fightin' the same battles. 'Tis jist that most never let anither see 'em. An' there's some that winna look them square in the eye themsel's. Ye're more a man, Andrew my lad, fer facin' yer doobts an' trying t' win through them, not less."
– Michael Phillips in Caledonia: Legend of the Celtic Stone, Bethany House Publishers, 1999, p. 396.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!
- Robert Burns in “To A Louse.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Mark 8:17, 18 "Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember?"

When Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves, his followers collected twelve baskets of left-overs. When Jesus fed four thousand people with seven loaves, his followers collected seven baskets of left-overs.

There is a marvelous economy in the work of Jesus. He supplies abundantly but doesn't create so much excess that it will be wasted.

Later, we see Jesus healing a blind man. At first it seems the man does not quite get enough from Jesus. He can see people but they are not distinct. They "look like trees"(Mark 8:24). Jesus touches him again and he can see clearly. I suppose, if Jesus had wanted to, he could have given this man super-telescopic vision or x-ray vision. But he does not. Jesus gives the man just what he needs.

I am often like the followers of Jesus. I worry about whether I have enough bread. Yet, the great supplier of bread is right beside me. He supplies abundantly, at the right time, without excess, and sometimes he supplies a little bit at a time. Jesus gives me just what I need.