Category Archives: Great Commission

Be Gentle!

Friends came to visit the other day with four children, and I found myself saying “be gentle” a lot around Raphael and my instruments.  Most kids don’t ask to play my piano, they just begin banging away. What they don’t know, and likely wouldn’t care, is that my piano is an heirloom. It was custom hand carved in Ontario in 1901, has been fully restored and holds significant value to me because of who gave it to me.

This led to pondering what is really important as far as breakable things, so the next morning I looked up verses that deal with gentleness.  The first one was Philippians 4:4

Let you gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.

In our individualistic expressionistic culture, gentleness is not something we hear about often, but it is something that sets a person remarkably apart.

The Bible tells us a gentle answer turns away wrath.  It is not human tendency to respond to wrath or anger with a gentle answer. David told me of an incident where he was taking significant verbal abuse from some one who had come to work for him.  Rather than returning heated words, he responded, asking;

“What is your name?”

Taken aback, the other stopped and asked; “What?”

“What is your name?”  David repeated.

In the midst of the angry tirade, David firmly extended dignity, offering a relationship to work from, rather than simply fighting around a problem and the situation resolved peaceably.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure and peace loving, it is always gentle…    (James 4:17)

As I thought about gentleness, Jesus showed me a picture through my heirloom piano of how He feels about His children.  Each is custom created and holds significant value to Him – far more value than the rarest instrument and He desires gentleness to mark my dealings with each one.

The broken vessels always seem to have the sharpest edges and must be handled the most gently.  I have come to realize it is the same with people.  I never cease to be amazed at the gentleness with which Jesus interacts with the broken, outcast and lost, flying in the face of culture’s disregard for those outside the circle.

If we are listening when interacting with people, we would hear Jesus say – “please be gentle – that person holds significant value to me.” He is near, waiting to pour gentle grace into my every encounter others if I will see with His eyes.

To be undergirded with gentleness does not mean to be walked on or to turn a blind eye to wrong, rather, it is an undercurrent, directed by wisdom and strength that sees beneath the surface of the masks we wear and says; “I see you, and I care about the person beneath the mask”

We are to be gentle when gentleness does not come naturally.  To be part of mending the brokenness we all carry in a way that reflects accurately, the One who cares the most.

 

 

Check Your Undergarments

You know that sinking feeling when you are dressing for a big day and upon opening your drawer, you realize you have no clean underwear?  I would far rather be stuck wearing dirty underwear than be caught in a mistruth or doing something that casts a shadow on the name of my Jesus.

So where are you taking this?  You may ask.  I have been thinking about the gritty day to day stuff that is the foundation of who I am.  My motives, my attitudes, my thought patterns. The Bible talks a fair bit about character as clothing and the importance of dressing right for life.  It determines how people see us, and how we navigate life.  How we act when everyone or no one is watching and the attitude in which we do even “all the right stuff.”

The definition of righteousness is:

Acting in accord with divine or moral law :  free from guilt or sin.

The thing is, I can’t be righteous on my own.  Its not about being “good enough” or even doing “all the right stuff.”  Its about identifying with and abiding in Jesus moment by moment, day by day.  Jesus made me righteous, and then I must live out my life in that righteousness.

Job, the one God tells Satan is blameless says this:

Everything I did was honest. Righteousness covered me like a robe, and I wore justice like a turban. (Job 29:14)

Isaiah prophesies about the Messiah – our role model saying:

He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. (Isaiah 11:5)

I am learning that doing what is considered the “good Christian things” is empty and gets me nowhere if I don’t have the undergarments of truth and and the robes of righteousness as a foundation.

The catch is that I can’t don these crucial garments without abiding in the One who supplies them.  Jesus is the Truth and only in Him am I found righteous.  It doesn’t matter what others think or say, it only matters what He thinks and what He says.  I can only know what He thinks and says through knowing the Word of God and intimacy with Jesus through His Spirit.  Without a belt, one may well find themselves with their pants around their ankles, and without underwear… well you follow my drift.

People of integrity can be hard to find, and yet, it is the foundation of any healthy relationship.  It is also the basis we build our witness on.  Everything I do should be done fully clothed and with my underwear on whether it be a business deal, an interaction with a stranger, words I speak to my family or words spoken under my breath.

Have you been to the throne room yet today? Have you checked your undergarments lately?

 

But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:17)

Where Have all the Babies Gone?

I burst out laughing as my weary mind takes in the shocked look on Raphael’s little face, elicited by my shocked exclamation as he pees straight into my now cold tea.

Having a baby is like nothing I have ever done. The praying, anticipating, speaking life over this little person I will assist into the world, speaking Jesus’ destiny and calling over their life.  It is painful, messy, wonderful and often puts me far out of familiar.

There is a trend in my generation. We are not having babies. Its uncomfortable, sometimes downright painful, and really, who has time for a baby? They encompass much of your time, and resources, and there is no guarantee they won’t end up resenting you at some point and walking away.

“We have ambitions and plans that just don’t allow for kids” I hear my people say.  The focus of my generation is not on growing strong, young men and women with character who will change the world, it is on our lives and sometimes simply staying afloat is all we can worry about.

There is a mirror of culture in the church. We are not having babies. I mean born again babies. The birth that determines eternity. And I wonder why?

We can say its because things like 3000 people being added to our number like in Acts 2 don’t happen today. But in the hungry places of the world where the Spirit of God is welcomed it does.

We can say its because our culture is hardened against the gospel and not open to God. But every culture and generation has eternity in their hearts and brokenness that cries out for the Healer.

We can say its because there is not as much need in North America and we are a “Christian nation.” But we’re not a Christian nation, Vancouver is considered unreached and hurting people are everywhere.

Although we don’t say it so forthright, I wonder if we have the same excuses as my generation. We are occupied, crafting our lives, living with our own unhealed wounds and worries and don’t have the capacity to add the great commission to our already overflowing plates.

I wonder if our focus has gotten onto “doing the things” and “going to the places” that we forget about THE LOST.

There is nothing in life like participating in the eternal birth of a soul. Partnering with the Holy Spirit to love, speak life over and anticipate the birth of some one God invites us to walk with is the most fulfilling gift I have ever been given.  And I want to do it again. And again.

Like having kids, it can be painful, messy and time consuming.  It requires me to leave my safe life and enter the world of another, constantly obeying the Holy Spirit and loving radically.  But after all, that is what Jesus did for me.  Bore the messy, the painful, stepping into my world to love me before I was lovable.

So I am asking for God to bring people who need to be reborn and give me the grace to do the messy, wonderful work of loving them well.

 

Who Gave You Permission?

As a true blood Canadian, I have a propensity to apologize and worry whether I might be offending or putting some one out.  While this is not inherently bad, the last number of years, Jesus has been relentlessly working to take away the fear of man that stops me from wanting to stand out in obedience to Him.  This flies in the face of my tendency to back down when I sense disapproval from others, making me pretty uncomfortable at times. I am sorry to say, I have not always stood my ground.

Galatians 1:1 says:

I was not appointed by any group of people of any human authority, but by Jesus Christ Himself and God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead. 

Then, a few paragraphs farther:

Obviously I am not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. (1:10)

Then:

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by His marvelous grace.  Then it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me so I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. (1:15)

It is easy to be caught up in the world’s code of established borders and fences around what is perceived as “normal” and “acceptable.”  And while some of us like to venture close to the fence like a wannabe maverick, testing the electric wire, what we don’t know is the grass on the other side can make us truly alive.

I wonder if we realize that like Paul, we are chosen and called for specific tasks God dreamed for us long before we were born.  Inside the world’s invisible fence of permissions, this calling is impossible. Like the fearful cow, afraid of the electric fence, many  never make it to the abundant, fully alive life Jesus planned for us.

Jesus wants so desperately for us to understand that He is the ultimate permission granter; the only one who can qualify and equip us for the tasks He has given us.

If we are waiting for people’s approval, we will never have His.

There is value in hermeneutics, but it can also be our excuse not to step into what we heard Jesus calling us to in the dark solitude of the night watch.

Faith takes the calling into the daylight where others offer challenges and reasonable “outs” and remains steadfast and confident that Jesus will see us through till the end.

Grace is not just what gets us saved – it is the power to finish well day by day.  Divine calling does not make life easy, it makes it significant.

I pray you are never content to live an “ordinary” life inside the fences of society.  In the way you work, play, suffer, rejoice and live, may your life exuberantly shout “Permission granted; fully living with purpose!”

Do you feel qualified for the things God is calling you to? What causes you to hesitate at the fence lines?

 

 

Go Ahead and Brag!

I love talking about my David.  I didn’t realize he was so intelligent, proficient at almost everything, and incredibly capable before I married him.  I am so thankful for his depth of character and speak well of him every chance I get.

But there is some one I love bragging about even more than my beloved.  In fact, I talk about Him and the ways He has influenced and transformed my life whenever I have opportunity.

The other day I encountered a neighbour I hadn’t seen for some time.  She was surprised to see little Raphael, knowing I had been in a wheelchair, trying not to die.  I told her howJesus had taken the Lyme Disease away, and that Raphael was a miracle gift we never expected to receive.

There is no end to the things I can boast about Jesus for in my life:  His goodness and kindness in the midst of suffering.  His faithful provision to care for our needs.  His peace when the world is shifting in uncertainty.  His voice, speaking into our circumstances of His intentions and plans for us, when they were humanly impossible.

When I boast about myself, it is a vain attempt to establish a firmer identity.  When I boast about Jesus, it anchors my identity in the One who sustains and fulfills true identity.

I used to think sharing my faith was intimidating; that I had to know the right words to convince some one they should believe.

But as I get to know Jesus better, I realize, all I have to do is share what He is doing in my life in a genuine way as He gives me opportunity.  I am not responsible for “making some one believe.” that is the Holy Spirit’s job.  But out of my love and affection for Jesus, stories of His faithfulness in my life naturally come out, providing seeds for the God’s Spirit to breath on.  

But let the one who boastsboast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:24)

Not only is this, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

Its hard to offend people with a story and if they are hungry, the conversation will go farther.  I love sharing the truth about who Jesus is for them too, but it often begins with sharing an experience of Jesus or a question about their life.

When we boast in the goodness of God, it puts a picture of Jesus in people’s minds they don’t get from secular media or society.  Few people know that God actually desires a relationship with them and that He is a good Father who delights to guide and bless His kids!  This is something worth knowing and worth boasting about.

What has God done in your life that is worth boasting about?  How are you getting to know Jesus better so His resurrection power is evident in your life?

The Missing Gifts

Imagine you retrieve your car from the mechanic, and he tells you; “There were some parts; I didn’t understand how they went together, so I just threw them out.”  How would you feel about driving your car?

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part.

First are apostles,

Second prophets,

Third teachers,

Then those who do miracles,

Those who have the gift of healing,

Those who can help others,

Those who have the gift of leadership,

Those who speak in unknown languages…

Let Love be your highest goal, but also eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit; especially prophesy. (1 Cor 14:1)

I have been thinking about discipleship and spiritual gifts. What if fear and a lack of intentional, relational discipleship has contributed to the rarity of many gifts Paul seems to think should be commonplace.

If the timeless Word of God tells us to pursue all the gifts of the Spirit, why are we leery of some of them?  Every gift can be misused but it seems, to operate without certain gifts would be like driving your car around without the parts you don’t understand.

Ideally, a disciple learns from a master in a hands on environment. Following generations can take the craft farther as they build on knowledge they received from another’s effort and mistakes.

Where are the healers in the church?  People who lay hands on the sick and they are healed?  Where are the prophets who see things from heaven and relay them to earth or speak words of knowledge for the good of the Body?  Where are the miracle workers who perform signs and wonders that bring the outside world to Jesus? What about the gift of tongues, allowing people to communicate in other languages? Discernment of spirits?

Are we driving down the highway with missing engine parts, rendering our vehicle less effective? What if we discovered how the Maker designed them to work and began putting them back in the engine…?

Fear can keep a Body from moving into new territory, but perfect love casts out fear, making room for mistakes and the messiness of growth.  What would  happen in our community if, rather than being bound by tradition and denominational norms, we focused on knowing Jesus, and intentionally built a culture where the gospel is lived out in power, not missing any of the gifts given by God for the building of His church? (1 Thess 1:5)

They [the Gentiles] were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. (Romans 15:19)

We are not called to focus on the gifts, but on Jesus, pursuing radical love until our lives resemble His.  I am writing this to myself. There are too many times I have been unwilling to take risks of faith and obedience and by default, I have settled for a gospel that is incomplete.

What is your experience with spiritual gifts?  Do you know someone you can learn from? Someone you can disciple?

To Touch a Leper

The weight of isolation is easily born when chosen, but when forced upon you like the rent garments of a leper, desolation eats at your soul like a relentless pack of jackals, hounding a carcass.

It was five years ago I fearfully exposed my flesh to the priest. Five years ago he declared the curse of “leprosy” over me, gingerly handing me the leper’s clapper, as he backed away.

“You must never approach another person.” He spoke emphatically, his face twisted in an odd mixture of fear and pity “You must call out unclean; not allow anyone to touch you. Ever.  You can never dwell in the community as long as you are afflicted”

The deformity progressed, until my hands bent like claws and walking was impossible without the cane I fashioned from an olive branch.  My soul, parched as Gehenna followed in my body’s wake.

Until Jesus.  The day He walked into my life, I knew for the first time what it means to be fully known.  Fully loved. Not as I once was or perhaps could be, but for who I am in this moment, clad in rags, soul shrunken in pain.  At His touch, the shackles of isolation fell away, and the warmth of love, so unconditional it wraps around the gnarliest places in the inner man, flooded my life.  I knew regardless of what happened or did not happen in my body, my soul would never be held in the grip of lonely desolation again.

I can only surmise what the Samaritan leper in Luke 17 felt as he encountered the healing power and transformative love of Jesus. As  grace flooded the deep desire of the soul to be fully known and fully loved only Jesus can assuage.  In some it’s a wild kind of loneliness that calls out “unclean”, pushing away all who would come close. In others, it erects a mask of perfection and togetherness only Jesus can shatter and rebuild into a masterpiece of peaceful imperfection.

As I walk deeper in relationship with Jesus through victories as well as dark watches of the night, He fills the deepest part of that longing and empty feeling of being unknown with an assurance of matching intensity that I am accepted.  Perfectly loved as I am where I am.  Completely qualified and lacking in no good thing simply because I am His.

And as this realization sinks in, and I receive Perfect Love, the fear of  the leper leaves in its wake a confident love that sees the broken as they were created to be, but loves them deeply as they are. I too, can touch the leper and tell them they are known and loved and bring them to Jesus.

One of the 10, when he saw he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting “Praise God!”  He fell at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done. (Luke 17:15-16)

I pray today you know the intimate touch of Jesus that says you are fully known and fully loved as you are but calls you to grow into what you were created to be!

 

The Mountain Where The Battle Was Won

As I learn about spiritual authority, the following memory comes to mind:

The Central Asian landscape seems to reflect the spiritual hardness of the valley we camped in.  Alcoholism, sexual/physical abuse, spiritual darkness and shamanism were only the beginning of resistance we felt toward the gospel message we longed to share with the nomadic people we met in this valley.

Every time we attempted to share the gospel, a distraction from the herds, arriving travellers and countless other interruptions arose and people seemed completely disinterested.  As usual, there was a spiritual dynamic contributing to the closed doors we felt whenever we began to share.  There was a battle to be fought and won before there would be any open doors in this place.

But this morning,  Jesus was inviting my beloved and I up the mountain overlooking the entire valley and the homes scattered through it. Believing God had more for these people than simply lending a hand shearing their sheep and helping with their herds, we began the trek up the mountain.

Surveying the valley below, we worshipped and proclaimed the authority and sovereignty of God over it.  Speaking promises from His Word over our friends, we declared the gospel would take root here before we left. As a symbolic gesture of faith, we planted a small gospel of John under a a rock on the mountain.

We took captive and silenced every unclean ruler, authority, and spirit that Ephesians 6 talks about, forbidding them to operate or influence the minds of the people. We invited the Holy Spirit to fill the valley with the presence and peace of Jesus, and to soften hearts and minds to the beauty of Christ and His gospel of reconciliation.

When we felt peace that the battle was over, we picked our way back down into the valley where our team had been helping a family shear sheep. They had disappeared into the tent for milk tea, and as we ducked inside, to our surprise and delight, we found our team leading the entire family minus one teenage boy to Jesus. Their faces shone as we joined in teaching them how to pray, study the Bible, and resist the demonic attacks we knew would come to test their newfound faith.

Looking back, I see how easy it is to miss what God is saying in the “doing” of every day. It would have been natural to feel badly about not joining in the hot, sweaty work of shearing, and miss the soft voice of Jesus, inviting us up the mountain.

So often, the battle is not won in immersing ourselves in the “work” of the day to day. It is won in listening and obeying the Master. Jesus went off into the wilderness alone to be with the Father continually throughout His ministry. I believe that is where His intimacy and power were rooted, allowing Him to do the things He did.

What would happen if I went into the wilderness alone with Jesus on a daily basis. If I want to see the results of people encountering Jesus through my life, I must first be saturated with His presence and learn to first win the battle in the spiritual realm.

Have you had battles on the mountains? What does time in the wilderness with Jesus look like for you? Do you long for more of the presence and authority of Jesus in your life?

Turn Your Lamp On

Light versus darkness, good versus evil. We see it played out across our channels daily as a few struggle valiantly to turn back the seemingly endless tide of violence, malice and darkness.

Most of us desperately want Light to win. John 1 says of Jesus:

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Further in John, Jesus declares that HE is the Light of the world. Then, He tells His followers that THEY are the Light of the world.

The clash of two kingdoms is a reality we live in, whether we realize it or not. Once we were citizens of the kingdom of darkness, but Paul tells us when we accept Jesus, we are transferred to the Kingdom of Light. But that is the beginning, not the end. That is merely where Gandalf tells Frodo he must embark on his journey.

If we are to become the Light of the world, we too must embark on a journey.

Your eye is the lamp of the body. When your eye is good, your whole body is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
(Matt 6:22)

It is said the eye is the window to the soul. If people could see marks on our souls from every time we took in darkness, would we be be more careful to guard our eyes?  Our souls do reflect what we consume: when we take in light, our whole life becomes filled with light.  Often when we consume darkness, we don’t realize the lives we think are filled with light are actually darkened. Our culture is awash with darkness; if I fit into the culture, I must seriously question if I am consuming enough light to shine in a depraved culture.  We cannot be the light of the world if our lives are full of darkness.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a Light unto my path. (Ps 119:105)

I am the Light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness. (John 8:12)

Following Jesus has become a term to say we identify as a Christian and maybe go to church. This is not what Jesus meant when He said “follow me.” To follow Jesus is to pursue the things of God, and eradicate from our lives things that take us away from His presence.

What we consume builds the environment of our soul.  Light or darkness.  When we consume things that oppose the Kingdom of Light we invite the kingdom of darkness to create our environment.

Do I turn off media that portrays sexual impurity, violence, irreverence for others or worldview opposed to the Kingdom of God? Do I actively challenge the mentality of the world around me and walk in the opposite spirit?  Do I live to fit in, or do I live to shine like a beacon in the darkness?  So often the Church mimics the culture, not the One who calls us.

Who are you following?  What are you consuming? Light or darkness?

Is Your Investment Portfolio Balanced?

Growing up with limited resources, then moving into full and part time mission work, I cultivated what I like to term as a “frugal” mindset.   The “I can’t afford that” line of reasoning.  These days, with energy being tight, it can be easy to use the same mindset on things I can and can’t do.

Reading the Bible after some growth, I am realizing in so doing, I put God in my box of possibilities.

I am not saying we should spend resources wantonly, but maybe its time we believers looked at them differently.

Jesus’ whole life was invested in eternal asset multiplication.  He tells the story of three servants who were given 5, 3, and 1 talents to steward.  I’m sure you know the story.

The servant who received the 5 bags of silver invested the money and earned five more.  The servant with 2 bags of silver also went to work and earned 2 more.  But the servant with 1 bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and buried the master’s money. (Matt 25:18)

When investing, choosing different avenues that build toward a common goal is important.  We the Church could take some eternal advice from something the secular world has figured out, but we must view asset creation from a Kingdom standpoint.

What are our resources?

God gives each of us gifts/assets to produce income to live and leverage toward advancing the Kingdom.  If your gift is multiplying money to invest eternally, do it with joy.

What is that thing you come alive in and are passionate about? Where do your creativity and vision bring multiplication, excellence and results? Invest it there!

We are given spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit.  Many believers don’t even know what inventory the Master has given them in this regard, much less how to invest it. Discover and multiply them.

Time is an asset we are given in equal but limited measure.  How we invest it influences every area of investment.  Investing in a person versus a tv program will bring about vastly different results.  Sometimes the wisest investment is to steal away and be with Jesus alone.  This area of the portfolio is very important, and although money and ability can come and go, time, once gone, cannot be regained.

What we build, invest, and surrender determines what we are left with when we face eternity.  In Kingdom investments, without the Holy Spirit advising, great returns are impossible.  Jesus communicated constantly with His Father and was led by the Spirit; we too only multiply effectively when we are listening.

What assets has God entrusted you with to multiply in the short span you are on earth? When was the last time you sat down with the Holy Spirit and assessed your portfolio?  Where are you wasting assets you could be investing eternally?

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and time do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt 6:19)