distractions

I was sitting in a hotel room a few months back and I was feeling a little ripped off. I was in Ontario for a week with my family and Bonita had to take a work related trip to Toronto. It was a good opportunity to go to TBS and see Danny and sit in on a class. But the ‘ripped off’ part came when I realized that I had to pay for the WiFi in our hotel room…and I was not about to drop 20 bucks for 3 days for WiFi or whatever the over-the-top charges were. As I survived without WiFi in the room for a few days, something hit me like a ton of bricks. I can survive without WiFi! I can do this. I can get by without being on the Internet. It was all very freeing.

I did it for years in Brigden where I well remember the days of dial-up and the screechy noise that went along with it. (The sound it made is forever seared into my brain.) I did it when we would go on week retreats that involved media fasting over the years. I did it during times of prayer walking in Corunna or Brigden or under the Bluewater Bridge or in Port Stanley and not really needing to check things on-line.

I don’t know if you’re like me but right now I have 10 pages open at the top of my computer screen. And here’s something I do from time to time: I click each one of them back and forth to see if I’m missing anything. Whenever I move from WiFi to WiFi (since we don’t have a data plan on our phones and never want one) I’m always checking to see if there’s a messages I’m missing.

I’ve watched couples in restaurants and I’ve noticed where one is talking and the other one is distracted by the little screen in his or her hand. I took a course a month ago and the whole time the teacher was teaching, the guy beside me was scrolling through Facebook and checking out different tattoo designs on his Mac.

Everyday when we get up we have the opportunity to hear the voice of Another. We know that His voice will always be true and right. We know that His voice will always be for our good and for His glory. We know that His voice is heard clearly throughout His Word.

When was the last time that you flipped through His Word, from book to book wanting to know what He has to say? When was the last time you sat and savoured His Word over a good cup of coffee or a cold beverage with lots of ice? When was the last time that you discussed what He had to say over some of your like-minded friends?

Facebook posts are fleeting. Email messages are here today and gone like the mist. Info that seems so important in the moment will have little to no impact in the long run. But there is one Voice that is constant.

We allow ourselves to be distracted. I’ve lived the somewhat distracted life for too long.

May we realize that God’s Word is soul satisfying. May we realize that it’s for our growth. May we realize that it’s so chucked full of good stuff. May we begin our day with a simple prayer from Psalm 119.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.
(Psalm 119:18 ESV)

 

 

 

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25

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So Bonita and I have been married for 25 years by the grace of God. June 15, 1991 she walked the aisle at Faith Baptist, St. Thomas, and I got to kiss the bride.

She was out to Alberta for a week and a half and we celebrated our anniversary early. We had a wonderful Greek meal in Cochrane (baked feta is amazing stuff, thanks for recommendation Pastor Seth). We enjoyed the mountains of Canmore and did some hiking and never even made it to Banff…we’ll have another chance for that later in the year. Last time she was out she spent a lot of time painting my office, home hunting, and we did spend a fair amount of time with people over meals. This time it was more r and r. I dearly love this woman and have grown to love her more. God’s grace has caused us to make it to twenty-five, but from a human standpoint we had the odds against us when we tied the knot.

I was new to the faith and she had grown up in church world. I brought in a u-haul of baggage to the relationship. I was part of the family of God, but a brand newbie. So many things that she had grown up with were foreign concepts to me and there is a biblical principle that I wished that I would have learned earlier: Marriage is to make you holy, not happy.

Let me say that I have experienced a lot of happiness in marriage, don’t get me wrong, but biblical happiness (or joy) flows out of personal holiness. The world’s happiness flows out of happenings. The world’s happiness flows out of the stuff of this life: the money, the toys, the things that are shiny and sparkly…and they fade and lose their shine…so we need something bigger and sparklier. Believe it or not, becoming like Jesus is a more joyful tract to be on. Paul wrote in Galatians 5 that joy is a fruit of the Spirit…a fruit that He wants to develop in us. And the more we see and savour Jesus the more we become like Him.

[18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
(2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

People often hear me talk about discipleship in the local church body. The Great Commission is to make disciples and there’s a lot of formal and informal ways to do that. One of the informal ways is within the household and I’m not just talking about parents instructing children.

[15] Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:15 ESV)

In the marriage relationship, we are to confront one another in love. She has done this with me and I’ve done it with her. Sometimes when I pull a bonehead move or say something dumb it would be easier for her to give me a slap on the back of my bald head…although that’s never happened. Sometimes I’ve been confronted in the heat of the moment but most times it’s been after the fact and everybody’s jets are cooled. There have been times I’ve corrected her, in love. And year after year there is a slow maturation into Christlikeness.

I still say dumb things…but I don’t think I do as much. Sometimes my timing to say things is suckaroo…but those things seem to happen less often. When she was out we both challenged each other in a couple of areas…and we were each better for it…and ultimately God was more glorified.

Once in a while Bonita will mix up phrases and I will correct her in private to help her to do it less in public but much more importantly we try to correct and confront one another in private because if that never happens we could do something really dumb in public…and it’s usually me. And the important part isn’t that they’ll think less of me but that they’ll think less of the Saviour, whom I claim to love. It’s not my reputation that is first and foremost at stake, it’s His.

So the next time you’re tempted not to say anything to your spouse, your friend, your sibling, because you might hurt their feelings, that’s okay: say it in love. Feelings may get hurt but our feelings are so much further down on the flag pole than exalting the Lord Jesus Christ with a God-honouring lifestyle, Spirit-led, gospel-empowered lifestyle. We need each other to present the truth in love…for our good and for the glory of the Saviour.

 

 

 

 

dancing in the minefields

So this is the first Valentine’s Day I’ve spent apart from my bride in likely all of our  years of marriage plus the four dating years. (I’m not looking for sympathy in the miles between us, that’s just the reality.) So if my memory serves me well, and sometimes it doesn’t, that’s about twenty-eight VT Days together and one apart.

This past week I’ve been sending Bonita videos relating to love. ‘Red Camaro’ by Keith Urban, ‘Waiting on a Woman’ by Brad Paisley and ‘Honey Honey’ by Johnny Reid. Some of them were funny but some were a little more serious. Our song, if we have a song, is one by Andrew Peterson called ‘Dancing in the Minefields.’

I think that the title says it all. Marriage is a wonderful dance with the one you love but it can also be a battleground. There is this misconception of happily ever after. Maybe we have guzzled down too many rom-coms or too many Disney cartoons. I had a fantasized picture of marriage where everything was going to be hunky dory. It was like I was slammed by a freight train in the first few months.

One author has written about when two sinners say ‘I do.’ Another has written something like when you put two sinners together in a marriage and then you add a couple of sinnerlings…

I don’t think we realize going into marriage how self-centred and self-consumed we are. Marriage clues us into that fact…and when you add a couple of kids to the mix you’re reminded again how self-centred thinking can dominate your heart and mind. How you make decisions that are based solely on what you want. There were a couple of times where Bonita could have easily called the game on account of rain.

By the grace of God, here we are almost twenty-five years later. If there is one piece of advice that I could offer any dating couples or any newlywed couples or any couples that are having a hard go of it, it’s this: the other centred principle.

[3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)

You don’t have to teach anyone to be self-centred. We’re born that way. Some of us are worse that others…I’m one of the worst. I have progressed by the grace of God but self-centred motives rear their ugly head from time to time more than I care to admit. I think the old NIV said it ‘consider others better than yourself’ in :3. When it comes to money matters…when it comes to bedroom matters…when it comes to entertainment matters…and the list goes on. Wow! The next verse goes on to say that we are to look after our own interest…so we’re not to be doormats…but we are to put others first. I think that’s a great biblical counsel in general but also for marriages in particular.

We have the example of Jesus Christ who laid down His life for us. The Sinless for the sin-drenched. The Holy One in place of the depraved. That’s the ultimate example of other-centredness. We do know that Jesus is more than just an example though. Because of His death, burial, and resurrection the believer can walk in newness of life. We have access to the same power that brought Christ back from the dead. I say that a lot because I need to hear it a lot. There’s power in the gospel. The gospel’s not just for unbelievers.

Other-centredness is a trait that the Spirit wants to grow and develop in those who are His. And when our self-centredness is on the decline and our other-centredness is on the rise, we present a more glorious picture of Christ and His church to an skeptical world. He want the gospel to be on display in our marriages.

 

 

 

i love ministry

I love ministry. I love hanging out with the people and getting to know them and pointing them to the glorious cross. I don’t necessarily like saying hard things but those things are for our spiritual growth and God’s glory. I love the smell of a brand new book and digging into the Word, using the tools, and reading the commentaries. I enjoy writing the sermon: desiring to be biblically accurate and attempting to do it creatively and I love preaching it. But if I wasn’t a pastor, I’d want to pastor pastors.

We have friends in the U.S. that bought a big ol’ run down house and had some financial backers and they made the place into a haven for pastor’s to go to. We were welcomed to a five day retreat. We would arrive on the Sunday night and stay until Friday morning. Those were sweet times. We would often meet the other four or five couples the next morning and the walls would be up but very quickly you would hear some of the ministry hardships that made my concerns seem so much smaller. I once met an associate pastor who had to mop up the mess after their lead pastor committed suicide.

This host couple pastored us and every other couple that came to retreat. The husband would tell jokes and I’m sure his wife must have heard them thousands of times. They would also get together with us individually and they’d pray with us and for us. We haven’t seen then in a few years and with the recent transition, we may never see them again face to face until glory.

I do a funny thing and I don’t write this to get a shout out, it’s just what I do. Churches that I have gotten to know through the looking-for-a-pastorate process, I pray for them and check them out on-line to see if they’ve called a pastor yet. Last week I sent an email to the search chair at a church in Nebraska that I made the short list at. I saw that they had brought on a new pastor and said that I was grateful and that I was praying for them and I’d continue to do so. There’s another church that went through some really tough stuff a while ago and I have remained in contact with one of the guys who was on the search committee. I love the church. I want the church to thrive. I want the church to excel. I want the church to make disciples.

Through the last little while I have also got to know some pastors and pastoring is hard. I was talking to a pastor a few months back and he was sharing some of the highlights and struggles of his ministry and I thought ‘and I want to go back to that?’ Yes, I do. That’s call. You can’t ignore it. Pastors go through hard times. I try to encourage them and point them to Jesus and pray for them. I’m getting together with another pastor bro who will likely be doing the same thing with me this week. When I think of hardships in ministry I think of the Apostle Paul.

[24] Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. [25] Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; [26] on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; [27] in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. [28] And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 ESV)

In all of those struggles the last one stands out…the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Few understand it. Few ever can. One day those who are called by God will have to give an account for how he shepherded.

This post was fuelled by an article I read recently that you can link to at the bottom. I guess I say all this to simply say, keep you pastor in prayer.

 

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/january/why-734-pastors-quit-how-churches-could-have-kept-them.html

Alberta bound

I sit in my new study thinking through all that has transpired over the last number of months. I’ve been in Medicine Hat a few short days, now. I finished work on Thursday and early Friday morning Bonita and the girls hugged me at the airport and I flew off to Calgary. That was followed by a three hour shuttle to Medicine Hat.

Some of you know that I have been pursuing a pastoral position while I’ve been working in factories during the wait. I made it to short lists in Banff, Nebraska, Virginia, and Windsor. I have surfed, sent out resumes, Skyped, written papers, and answered questions on the phone. It can be quite the process.

Back in early August I received a phone called from Crossroads Church in Medicine Hat, a church that I had come across on-line. We chatted briefly and Bonita and I both Skyped with them the following night. There were more conversations, more emails, and then a trip to the sunniest place in Canada.

It was a whirlwind weekend. I got an extended weekend off from work and the four of us flew to Alberta. We met the staff on Friday, went out for dinner with the youth pastor and his wife on Friday night, I had a men’s breakfast on Saturday while the girls had a ladies brunch. That was followed by a three hour tour of the city with one of the couples from the church. Sunday was a full day with a tough-to-sleep Saturday night. I preached in the morning…potluck after the service…q and a…and then I met with the leadership team. That was followed by some late night ice cream with another couple from the church. On Monday Bonita visited the local hospital while I met again with the youth pastor. We then met a real estate agent and then hopped into the rental for a trip back to Calgary and a final meal at Buffalo Wild Wings. (I have since determined that nothing beats Legends wings in St. T.!) We also met with one of the denominational leaders at the airport then the red eye back to London. Because of so little sleep over the weekend the girls said I was acting like I was down to one brain cell…but after the flight home with no sleep I was down to zero!

After that all systems were go but I still had to do some paperwork for the denomination…a lot of paperwork! I completely understood. That was followed by an interview with some pastors in the denomination’s Ontario office. They green-lighted me and here I am typing at my desk at Crossroads Church. (If you want to check us out on-line, we’re at crossroadsmedhat.ca/)

This wasn’t a decision that Bonita and I took lightly. We had friends praying for us and with us. We tried to see our situation through the lens of the Word.

I’ll be back and forth to Ontario in January and February and then I’ll be here full time come the beginning of March. The plan is for Bonita to follow in the summer after Nadia is done high school. The girls both plan on post-secondary in September in Ontario. To say that the transition will be hard is an understatement.

When we look to difficult circumstances in our lives I want to be the guy that looks at those circumstances through the lens of Scripture. A favourite passage of mine that stumped me for years is the following:

[8:1] We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2 ESV)

I often focused in on :2 and divorced it from :1. They were poor as church mice but they gave generously. That should blow us away. I used to see it as simply a human act but then I was clued into :1. It talks about God’s grace. God’s grace in their lives was the foundation for their generosity. God through His grace generated their generosity.

As I look at the transitional period for our family ahead, it will be hard. There is no doubt in my mind, it will be tough. It already has been…but because of the cross we have access to God’s grace. He will help all of us land well…for His glory and for our good. Does that mean all the blanks will be filled in today? Absolutely not. Does that mean that things will turn out exactly the way we want? Not necessarily.

I don’t know the difficult situation that you’ve experienced in the past or that you’re currently facing or the one that is going to stare you nose to nose in the future…but I do know a God who is big on grace…and His grace is so much bigger than any one of our difficulties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

lottery

Wasn’t sure that this link belonged on my blog or on my Facebook page. John Piper has written a short article on gambling but who am I to add to Piper…but I will. I think it ties in with his first point.

Experience has taught me that gambling can be a very addictive habit. I worked in a variety store in high school and a friend would stop in from time to time and we’d split on scratch tickets. Before you knew it a large chunk of my small paycheque was gone. I remember the rush. I also remember the feeling of stupidity after we lost again and again! The power of God brought Christ back from the dead and also has the power to free people from this addictive pastime.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/seven-reasons-not-to-play-the-lottery

an introspective new year

We’ve received a number of messages over the last couple of weeks wishing us a Merry Christmas and a ‘happy’ or ‘prosperous’ or ‘blessed’ or you-fill-in-the-blank New Year. And let me say that I don’ think that there’s anything particularly wrong with that but has anyone ever wished you an introspective New Year? Maybe we should. Maybe we should challenge each other to examine our hearts, thoughts, and actions through the lens of God’s Word.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)

The Word of God makes our sin pop. We see our sin more accurately as the Word exposes our thoughts and intentions and motivations. Have you found that to be true?

I discovered that a couple that we knew fairly well had just made a major purchase. I’m sure it came with a mighty high price tag. When we knew this couple a number of years ago they still had some serious debt from the past and the first thing that came to my mind was judgement. How could they afford this and still have this unpaid debt from the past? He doesn’t make that much money to be able to afford it? Would this purchase be God glorifying when their past debts remain unpaid?

My wife and eldest challenged me in what I was thinking. Maybe they were paid better than what I thought. Maybe they had received an inheritance. Maybe she found a good paying job. Maybe they had won the lottery. (Well, this one should cause me some concern).

As believers we are to be our brother’s keeper and we are to have one another’s purity and God’s glory in mind but a lot of times we see actions divorced from motive…and we know that we can’t know motives.

Through this interaction with two from my family I started to consider my own sin…my own blind spots…some that I’ve been clued into and some that I am still blind to. You will often hear me challenge others to challenge each other and call them out on their sin when they need to be called out. We need to do this. That’s what my daughter and wife did with me. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We are to share the specks that we see in each other’s eyes (Matthew 7:1-6). God’s glory is at stake.

But at the same time we need to address the sin in the mirror. We have our own logs.

[4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? [5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5 ESV)

I have a confession to make. I think I’m better at identifying other people’s sin than my own. Do you have the same problem? Do I see a hand? We are commanded to challenge each other. Two from my family called me out on my wrongful attitude and judgement towards some old friends. But we are also to deal with our own stuff.

[3] For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3 ESV)

Did you catch that? We’re to look on ourselves with sober judgement. When the Spirit of God applies the Word of God to our lives we sometimes say ‘amen’ and sometimes say ‘ouch’.

May the Spirit of God work with the Word of God in your life for a introspective New Year.