Being made new

I have a confession to make. For the past couple of years I have come to realize that I have not been my true self. This past season in pastoral ministry has been very challenging. It has taken a toll physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. The rude awakening came for me this past October.

Our District sponsored a workshop where the speaker was addressing many things included burn-out. He presented a check list of ‘10 signs of burnout’. I checked off all 10. I laughed on the outside, but was dying on the inside.

This may come as a surprise to the ears of some folks around me. We can be good at wearing masks at time. However, there is one who knew all along … well maybe two. My wife, and Holy Spirit. (Those two are often close together it seems)

Feeling and hearing from my wife who challenged me to move past the past, and embrace what God desires to do was not always music to my ears. Yes, I wanted to move on; Yes, I desired to see breakthrough in and through the church … but was it even possible?

What I did not realize was this: It needed to start within me.

This past summer I had approached two men in the church to be my prayer partners. I asked them to pray for me specifically. They agreed gladly.

Next, we began to ask people in the church to specifically pray for the Presence of God to break in. People responded and a weekly prayer group was formed.

Within a couple months, we planned an all night prayer event at the church. People came. I remember asking God before this prayer event a question: Will you make me new again? I knew that I needed His Transforming Presence to come and touch my life. He did!

As a church leader, I have endeavored to do the Transformational Church thing. For the past five years I read the books, went to the conferences, implemented strategy, brought leaders with me, worked on small groups and attempted to address the permeating culture of the church. It was exhausting. I tried to lead from a position of knowing that this needs to be done in order for this local assembly to survive, thrive and grow.

However, with all of my efforts it seemed as though every step forward was greeted with five that went backwards. It was as though the walls were caving in all around me and the only one noticing or caring was me.

But that was part of the problem. The challenging years of criticism, negativity, doubt and conflict had left my spirit wounded. I needed to be made new. Thankfully, Jesus does this very thing; He makes all things new.

Within the Revelation of Jesus, John hears this coming from the Throne of God …

“Look! I am making everything new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Greek experts tell us that the ‘making’ is something that was happening then, is happening now, and will be happening until we are re-united with God in eternity. Jesus is making all things new now! This includes me.

I do not write this for any other means, other than to simply give you a glimpse into my spirit journey over the past five years. Trust me, for a conservative Ottawa Valley boy, being transparent and vulnerable like this generally does not happen.

However, I am committed to taking all things, including myself, into the life changing Presence of Jesus who has promised to make all things new.

As a church family I can say with confidence that we have turned the page. The past is the past. We are on a course that will bring transformation, new life, and new growth to our faith family and community. I acknowledge that many things needed to be done to get us to this place. I am thankful for the journey … I think. However, I am more thankful that I will experience something truly supernatural here.

The course is now set. We are moving forward with the Presence of Almighty God who desires to and will make all things new for those who will allow it. Together, with The Spirit we call to our Lord and Savior to come and do only what He can do.

Raise your voice no matter where you are or what circumstance you are in. He will come. Jesus walks among His Church. He is The Light. His Face will break through any darkness. His voice is more powerful than any other on earth or in the spirit world. His is the Alpha and Omega. He is my beginning and my end. He is also yours.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Maranatha.

Moving past resolutions

I have never been a big New Year’s Resolution guy. For some reason it was not something I embraced. Nothing against those who make them and stick to them … however, for me, it was not normally part of my New Year routine. Having said that, allow me to embrace this idea as a way of launching the New Year together.

For many people, resolutions become a dedicated focus, emphasis, task and mission for the upcoming year. According to US News, 80% of New Years Resolutions fail by the second week of February[1]. That is a high failure rate. So why do so many people do it? Why do so many people fail? Perhaps it is because we are focusing on the wrong thing.

The book of Revelation gives us a glorious glimpse into who Jesus is, what He has done, what He is doing and will continue to do. One of the many things that John heard was this statement, “Look! I am making everything new.” (Rev. 21:5)

Flowing with the rhythm of hearing and seeing, John once again hears, turns and sees something that has been made new. It is a glorious picture of God’s people fully redeemed. The Bride who is now completely pure and flawless is re-united with her Groom. Hallelujah! As the people of God, we find tremendous joy in knowing that our final destination and dwelling is with Him! However, here is the challenge. There is another who desires humanity’s focus.

The devil and his beasts stand in direct opposition to The Lamb of God and the people of God. Leading humanity astray, the beasts name and mark is given to those who worship it. A startling truth is unveiled: humanity resembles what it worships. The Apostle Paul understood this and encourages the people of God to not only know about, but to become like the One we worship; to become like Christ (Philippians 3:10-11).

That is why we as the people of God, need to move past resolutions and embrace a holistic worship of The Lamb that permeates mind, body and soul. This transformation hinges upon our worship of God and His Lamb who makes all things new. The present tense of the Greek work ‘make’ suggests that God is making all things new even now! [2].

So, make this year a year of being marked by the transforming presence of God. Make this year a year of holistic worship, a worship of God that permeates, renews, transforms and makes new our minds, bodies and spirits. Let us move past resolutions and embrace transformation!

Maranatha!

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/new-years-resolutions-courses-2016-12

[2] Chris Tomas, The Apocalypse: A literary and Theological Commentary, CPT Press: Cleveland, TN pg. 626.

Poking holes in the darkness

As a boy I remember asking my parents at bedtime to leave the light on in the hallway.  For some reason I felt more at peace and could go to sleep knowing that the light was on.

Fast forwarding now over 35 years, I find myself leaving a light on for my children either in their room, or in the hallway for them at bedtime.  Funny how that is.

John 1 tells us about Jesus, the ‘light of men’ coming into the world; a light that ‘shines in the darkness’.

At the turn of the Century there were people known as lamplighters who were employed to light and maintain street lights of their town.  Every night as evening approached lamplighters would embark on their scheduled task.  On one such evening a young lamplighter was strolling along rather happily.  A passerby noticed the joy on his face and asked him what made him so happy?  His response was simply, ‘because every night I get to poke holes in the darkness!’

At this time of year we celebrate The One who poked the ultimate hole in the darkness.  Jesus Christ, the Light of The World, pierced through the darkness to bring hope and light to lost humanity.  Death and darkness could not overcome this light.  Jesus, Mighty God had come!  His light now forever shines and will some day illuminate humanity and the world forever (Revelation 22:5).

However, until then, we are to be His lamplighters in a dark world; we are to be His light (Matthew 5:14).

Today I do not mind leaving the light on for my children.  It helps me to remember Jesus, God’s Son, The Light of the world.  It also reminds me of the task at hand to ignite His light in the world.  There are people around us who live in darkness everyday.  There are people searching for a true source of hope, life and happiness.  Jesus is all of that are more.

As a fellow lamplighter, I encourage you to let His light shine so that people around you will give Him glory (Matthew 5:16).  Doing so allows us to ‘poke holes in the darkness’ until He comes.

Maranatha!

Giving a cup of hope

This past Saturday I was part of an outreach event at my church where we simply gave away free hot chocolate.  We were given permission to set up a table inside the entrance of a local retail store and give away cups of hot chocolate to anyone who accepted.  10 gallons of hot chocolate later, we were done!

This simple exercise is a great way to be a blessing to you local community.  We were able to display our local church logo on the table, as well as put in as a sticker on each cup.  Many folks asked if we have any Bailey’s for it, but a few people took the time to notice our church logo and commented that how nice it was for a church to do this.  Our response was always, ‘we want to be a blessing.’

In our desire to live the resurrected life of Jesus in the here and now, I believe we need to find ways to bring a cup of hope to others.  When Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples, they most likely were having a Hebrew meal called a seder.  This Passover meal has four different cups that are drunk throughout the evening.  They are: the Cup of Sanctification, the Cup of Thanks, the Cup of Redemption, and the Cup of Acceptance.

Typically the third cup (Cup of Redemption) is drunk after supper.  This is precisely the cup that Luke says Jesus took and declared that from that moment on it would be the cup of the New Covenant.  Jesus took this third cup of the seder, the Cup of Redemption, and declared that this cup filled with wine would now represent the redeeming blood that He was about to shed[1].  As followers of Christ, we too are able to offer this same cup of Redemption to others.

Regardless if the cup you offer is filled with hot chocolate or wine, remember that we are here to bring hope to those who are hopeless.  Whether it be through baked goods, a kind word or a smile, find a way to bring hope to someone today.

Take a step forward in your journey with Christ.  He will open doors for you to be a blessing.  He will work through you in supernatural ways via Holy Spirit.  Jesus, who is your Hope, desires for you to bring Hope to your friends, family and community.

It is literally in our hands now.  May we find ways to bring the cup of Redeeming Hope to others.

Maranatha!

[1] Joe Amaral, Understanding Jesus, Faith Words Publishing: New York, NY. 2011. Pg. 149

Serving as a wardrobe of hope

N.T. Wright says that ‘hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible …’[1].  

In the Narnia films, C.S.Lewis uses different physical objects as a connection or channel between the real world and Narnia.  From a wardrobe, to paintings and a bench, citizens of the earth are transported to the land of Narnia.  The objects used served as a channel, or touch point between the physical world and the spiritual realm.

As followers of Christ we are to act in a similar fashion.

The Apostle Paul wrote to early believers advocating that the risen Jesus is both a model and means by which we are able to bring hope and transformation into the present world.  As ‘citizens of heaven‘ whose very lives are ‘raised with Him’, the believer is able to not only possess a new life with Christ, but this new life is to burst forth into the here and now[2].  In other words, we can be a ‘wardrobe’ of hope!

Think about it.  Has your worldview changed because of Jesus Christ?  Have you suddenly realized and experience new life?

If so, you are now ready to serve as a touch point of hope to those around you.  The world is waiting for you.  Be a bringer of hope to your family, friends and community!

Maranatha!

[1] N.T. Wright. “Surprised by hope”, pg. 75

[2] ibid, pg. 149. See also Philippians 3 and Colossians 3

 

The Lion, The Witch and The Millennials

Millennials are those born from mid 80’s to early 2000’s. They are the biggest generation in the workplace currently (35%), and by 2025 will 75%. They are affecting institutions, the economy, politics and religion. They are a force. But in what way or for whom?

Back in the 1950’s The Chronicles of Narnia was first published. Since then it has sold over 100 Millions copies, printed in 47 languages and made into several movies.

The series is based upon a fantasy world (Narnia) that serves as a connection point between the real world and the spiritual realm. Peter, Edmond, Susan, Lucy are transported into the realm of Narnia and presented with a choice: which side will they fight for? The battle is between Aslan and the Witch. There is no middle ground.

C.S Lewis famously said that Christians essentially live in “enemyoccupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

Here’s a question: What type of wardrobe will you be?

In the fictional tale the wardrobe was the channel that served as a bridge between this world and Narnia. In other words, the wardrobe served as a ‘touch-point’ between this world and the spirit world.

For the believer, Jesus Christ calls us to serve in the same manner; to serve as a ‘touch-point’ between heaven and earth.

For Peter, the Gospel is the story of 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)

For Paul the Gospel is about Jesus who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (Galatians 1:4)

And how Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15)

The Gospel is about being born again, or born of God “4 because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. 5 And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

The Gospel is about seeing that The Lion has won the victory … 5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and[a] its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5)

The Gospel is about establishing a new humanity; a people of God to be His royal priesthood because 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

Millennials hold an important key. They have the ability to be the ‘wardrobe’ for generations that come behind. They have the ability to shape Christianity for generations to come. They have the ability to demonstrate what “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” to the Peter’s, Edmond’s, Susan’s and Lucy’s of today and tomorrow.

We call all Millennials to join the great campaign of sabotage and be a touch-point between heaven and earth by ‘doing good’ because God is with us!

Maranatha!

Making all things new

Welcome to my blog site.  As a follower of Jesus Christ I believe in God’s Story of love, suffering, redemption and hope.  These themes are cyclical not only in God’s story, but ours.

This web-site is established as a way for me to share with you some thoughts, insights and challenges as we engage in God’s Story.  It is His Story that we find ourselves in.

I trust that this platform will be place that you will visit as you journey along in God’s Story and perhaps find encouragement to join the Revolution that Jesus Christ began.