mystery

9 09 2008

the more unknown life becomes the more i realize that i’m not meant to live the known life. there is this great mystery in not knowing what is next, where God will shift things in the next moment. it’s a mystery so unique and great that it draws me in to just dwell in it and the God that is behind it all.

as i write this i am sitting in piles of junk, surrounded by a big mess of clutter, not sure which piece to start with as I try to make it liveable again. personally, i am untied from all the normal confines, separated from employment, from cohabitation, from romantic relationship. It’s all one big pile of uncertainty, a mini-mystery if you will.

a lot of the time the idea is that we should be trying to figure out our lives, figure out God’s plan(s) for us, to wrap our minds around the mystery. i’ve just been struck with how wrong this all sounds and seems. God is an infinite being whose very initial definition is the understanding that we cannot really understand. so why then the massive desire to get it, process it, analyze it all, and spit it out in religious language? there should be a need to just soak up the ambiguous nature of everything and trust in God to provide.

we spend so much time wandering around trying out this and that, claiming it to be the will and desires of God. perhaps God would love for us to just spend some time to stop and sit with Him, deepen a relationship of love, and be drowned in mystery. we have this infinite knowledge base in God who chooses to impart some of His understanding upon us, plenty of which we leave untapped. the endeavour should be to soak up God, not to try to run around pronouncing His position as if we are the almighty, infinite, holy and perfect being. this is to resurrect the relationship with God that we were ultimately designed for, and shown glimpses of with the creation of adam and eve.

adam walked (walked!?!) with God in eden and was blessed with such a close encounter with His creator. God clearly defined a boundary with the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but presented Himself to adam and everything else God had made. adam had the creator, the perfect and holy one right there with him who he walked with in relationship. in his basic nature, from the point of creation, adam only knew of relationship with God. the only thing that adam didn’t have was knowledge of good and evil, not knowledge in general. if that’s the only thing adam couldn’t eat, would it not make sense to assume that he had everything else? in relationship at the point of creation, adam had such a rich knowledge from walking with God and soaking it all up.

at the very beginning, God designed it so that we wouldn’t know it all, but that we would have a rich relationship with Him in His creation. so why, oh why, do we go to the ends of the world to try to understand the mind of God through our systems, through our trees, and run away from the relationship? because we can’t bring ourselves to the point of admitting that we don’t know, that we aren’t meant to know it all.

maybe we need to stop pouring into our paradigms, our schedules, and start listening, walking, and soaking up God and who He is in relationship. this is going to look different for you than it is for me, but that’s alright, there isn’t a system to it. but there’s nothing to say that we can’t begin journeying along the path of relationship and uncertainty together. in fact, i would say that we should make a point of doing this together, in community. i think i’m ready to get immersed in a great mystery…





an exercise in trying to find the “sweet spot”

24 08 2008

it seems to be that we, Christians and the Church, have excelled in getting a point across.  we have made it clear that we have a message that we are going to get out, even though it often only hits those sitting in the pews or chairs.  on any given sunday you may walk into a church building and find any number of Christians raising their hands in worship and listening intently to the pastor preaching on the stage.  even during the middle of the week you can come to the church building and attend a seminar or discussion or a fun event that people from the church are putting on.  messages are getting out there and are being communicated in various ways so that the people attending might absorb some of it and grow in their spiritual lives.

but what’s the message?  what are we really getting across?

i have a feeling that the majority of the churches in the Western world have been communicating the importance of belonging, of giving, of many different things.  but what is the main message that we are all trying to get across?  basically, are we hitting or missing the mark?  do we honestly focus on the biggest and most important thing of all, or do we dwell in the small, nitpicky, questionable things that might improve our financial or social lives?

this comes from a message i just heard from Jim Cantelon.  the name may strike a familiar chord as a former pastor, television host of 100 Huntley Street, and currently working in Sub-Saharan Africa with churches there dealing with HIV-AIDS.  the guy has got a lot of credibility and is on the front lines of social justice in the Christian world.

the premise is this: the main point is about what Jesus established as the main point and is reiterated time and time again through Scripture to give us a greater understanding.  the greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbour as yourself.  as i’ve written before, this is the foundation of the Christian life and is the necessity above all else.  but i’m not just writing about sitting on your ass and trying to love whoever sits next to you in church, or the guy that walks by with his dog every morning.  yeah, that’s important, but it’s clearly not the point.

the main point is this: to have a vertical relationship with God based in righteousness, which feeds to a horizontal relationship with humanity based in justice.

as Jim mentioned in his message, the Evangelical community has gotten really good at the vertical relationship, about being able to sing our songs and work on our own devotions, but we’ve abandoned the horizontal relationship.  likewise, groups like the Mennonites have focused probably too much on the horizontal relationship and not enough on the vertical.  in his words, “it has to be about finding the sweet spot”.

in looking at the main point and considering it, one must understand that it calls for more than just giving money to a foreign group, or praying for your church.  a horizontal relationship of justice means that we get outside of our bubble and examine the world we actually live in.  a world that has a very different perception of life than the average Christian in the West.  you’ve probably read all the statistics, so i won’t go there with them, but i do want to throw out the idea that our lives, as much as they are vertically planted, are horizontally immersed.  aka, social justice and the Church or the Christian, need to be working at this together.  social justice should be the heartbeat of the Christian life when we examine our lives with others.

i am blessed to come from a church that has chosen to build into the lives of the widows of our community, the single mothers.  these women are often giving so much of themselves to their children and jobs that they are emotionally and physically drained on a regular basis.  meanwhile, the happily married couple with the three perfect children, and the two perfect jobs, living in the perfect house, going to the perfect church, totally miss the fact that their are people right around them, often more than a few, that could use some genuine care and love from the people that are supposed to have their lives grounded in it.

as the Church in general, and i’m not trying to bash here but just observing, has chosen to focus on the little things like our financial welfare, our need for civility, and potluck lunches, our world around us is suffering and plummeting with minimal to no exposure to the Church and social justice.  what if we started to pay attention and focus our efforts on the HUGE things going on, and the real horizontal relationship we’re called to?

the Church has an awesome opportunity to make a huge difference in this world and see the love of God spread throughout, but we’re not going to get it out there as we sit around and focus on the petty things that could make our own lives better.  we have to make our lives about others, about the widows and orphans, the ones God has said He deeply cares for.

we have to be so deeply immersed in loving God and loving others that we find ourselves in the “sweet spot”, caring about and making a difference in the things that matter to God.

we have to care about social justice as much as we care about our own relationship with God.

we have to love, and do it dangerously.





ever get scared?

20 07 2008

when was the last time you felt the goosebumps going up and down your spine and had one of those “i’m freakin’ out!” moments?

mine came in the form of an old blog entry i was reading tonight.  and when i say old i mean over two years, so back when bloggers were these nuts with nothing better to do.  they have definitely gained “cool” status in the last year since everyone knows someone who is this big blogger.

anyways, got this from TheResurgence, or Mark Driscoll, via PastorHacks.  the following gave me those goosbumps and chills i was mentioning before:

Pastors

  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors’ Wives

  • Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession
  • The majority of pastor’s wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

i am that recent Bible school graduate.  i am planning on going into full-time pastoral ministry.  in some sense, i am in full-time pastoral ministry right now.  and this freaks me out.

yes there are remedies and there are very practical things that are provided for those in ministry to overcome these problems that we are facing.  but it scares me to know that despite all of that, we still have this happening.

i have my own ideas as to why this is the case, but there are bound to be a great multitude of others who have their own thoughts.  personally, the island that is ministry, specifically being either “the” pastor, or a specific pastoral member, is what i believe to be the leading cause in these struggles of a ministry family.  we have come to believe in the approach to pastoral ministry that catapults the pastor from another church, school, or the general population outside of the church into the pulpit.  do you think this might be different if the pastor came from the actual church he started to serve in?  or if the pastor was no longer viewed as the perfectly righteous and holy one, but as the average Joe that he is, along with everyone else who calls themselves a member of the community?

there’s many reasons why this could resonate with me, and several reasons why it does, but as a guy who is preparing to go into this battlefield, do you think i might get a little on edge after reading that?

don’t get me wrong, the benefits of pastoral ministry and what you get to be a part of is beyond comparison (and i’m going to write about that tomorrow likely), but when you see stuff like this you can’t help but be scared.

so tell me, how do we change this?  or is it possible?





jesus’ maturity

11 06 2008

Jesus has a different vision of maturity: It is the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go

i have thought of myself as being rather mature, rather wise in my ways for my age. of course i would never tell anyone else that i think i am mature and especially more than specific people around me, but we all have the thoughts. we tend to suppress these thoughts because it is prideful to hold such a thought and especially to hold it over others. but what if our idea of this profound maturity wasn’t at all what us “mature” people thought we had cornered the market on?

we believe that maturity is all about having the experience and head knowledge to act a certain way or carry ourselves in a specific manner. maybe, however, Nouwen is on to something in saying that maturity is going where we would rather not go. the notion of maturity is that the person can correctly identify where they should go according to human sense, or the logical choice. such a person chooses to stay at home and work for a few years, to “get some more cash” so that they can get started in life, when they know full well that they should be over in Africa. it’s the guy who decides to stay with his girlfriend for years even though he knows it’s not working out but it’s just safest in the relationship. it’s the pastor who preaches the prosperity gospel or that God just wants the best for you because you are good, in fear that he might damage the moral of his congregants and lose his job.

perhaps maturity is doing what doesn’t make sense, doesn’t seem like the wise option, and isn’t necessarily the popular choice, but a deep connectedness with God to the degree that the individual understands what must be done. perhaps we should stop deferring to our humanity all the time and take a risk, take a chance and trust the heart of God and what he may have in-store where he is leading us. so stop rejecting the prompting and jump at what God is offering, because he wants you to seize your life, not sit back and pretend to be mature.





knowing the heart of God

5 06 2008

The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, “a heart of flesh,” in Jesus.  Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begins to invade the human soul, this is not something that comes from God.  This sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any condition or limits

with all the secrets to leadership, the irrefutable laws, and magic potions that we have concocted for leadership in the 21st century, we fail to see the simplicity at the heart of the Christian leader.  everyone is out there looking for the new radical, or the next visionary that is going to change the world on its head and, in the Christian sphere, bring a bunch of people back to Christ.  funny that we go looking for the experience, the know-how, and the typically-bred leaders as the ones that can lead the revolution.

i think Nouwen’s words here are so far beyond us that we don’t even truly understand what is being said.  what if the leaders that are going to make the biggest differences are the ones that are living sacrificial lives on the street, hanging out with the destitute in society, and learning what it means to live the simple life?  as leaders and attempted visionaries, i believe that we have faltered because we have lost the heart of the matter, which is the heart of God.  we need to come back to the simple message that unites all people in all places, because it has the power to change everything: love.

we’ve gone far beyond the heart of the matter and lost our focus most of the time, but there is still time, there still is hope.  but we need to be willing to deal with the heart of God and build from that, his heart of love.  D.A. Carson, in a conversation with a friend of mine this past week, was quoted as saying that the advice he would give to a new generation of Christian leaders is that:

The challenge for each new generation is to address the margins from the center, and not simply assume the center

so profound.  the center is the gospel of love preached by Jesus Christ, and we as new generational leaders must go out and proclaim the center, so that the world might understand a love that truly has no condition or limit.





thoughts on Nouwen

30 05 2008

i’ve recently had this longing to pull out a book that i read a couple of years ago and found to be exceptional. it’s called In The Name Of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. generally i’m pretty wary of the stuff that a Catholic priest has written, i’m not going to knock his stuff when it is some of the best i have ever read.

you know when you read someone and you are struck by the simplicity yet amazing nature of what he has to say? Nouwen fits the bill perfectly.

so i had this thought, how about i take one of his quotes, once a day until i run through what stuck out in the book, and think about it and mull it over. i can’t be any worse off for it and it’ll be a great exercise in learning to see what i might get out of this. so for the next however many days i’m going to reflect on one quote of Nouwen and see where it takes me, and if you’re reading this too, see where it takes you as well.

how about i start with something from the prologue.

God is a God of the present and reveals to those who are willing to listen carefully to the moment in which they live the steps they are to take toward the future

we often find ourselves seeking out the will of God, or the perfect plan that God has for us without really considering what’s going on around us. how much do we get stuck in the future and the past thinking that God’s will is trapped in something we have done or will do, not in what we are doing? something tells me that we might want to practice looking for God in the moment and where we’re at, not just where we’re going. maybe if we want to know what we should be doing with life, who we should marry, where we should live, etc, we should stop and slow down our lives just enough to hear the voice of God calling out to us while we live our lives away.

now that’s what i call a man with the power of simplicity and profoundness.





microtastic living

4 02 2008

wow, that title makes absolutely no sense but it sounds cool so i’ll go with it. in respect to living right now, i’ve got my roommate snoring away beside me right now and i’m sitting here listening to some Foo Fighters and maybe some Hillsong United soon. talk about differing tastes.

it’s been a while since i’ve posted on here, maybe a sign that i’m just really really busy. there is a lot to do right now, but there’s so much other stuff going on in life that i really don’t want to just think about the work. among the things weighing down on me right now are the whole post-relationship tension, summer employment, and life in general. maybe i can think outloud and dialogue about it all right now.

the summer…well, i’m officially going to be done my education come May, and then who knows what. i’ve had my dream for a while to spend that time with a pastor and to be able to just learn underneath him, but i’m not sure if something like that will actually work out or not. the best i can do is just take steps to find out if it will and let God open and close the doors that there are. i mean, God’s got it all in His hands and i just have to trust that He’s over everything, just like He says. i do have to go out and make the effort to do what He wants me to, but in the end, can i really control it? it’s quite the situation isn’t it? but it’s the trust in Him that brings me through it all.

in terms of reaching out, i had the opportunity to sit down and discuss with some guys about what it looks like to be a part of the community as a whole and get involved. so as a tangible way to reflect this, i’m going to make a commitment to head down to Williams Coffee Pub a couple times and just hope that i can strike up conversation with some people, ride the bus a bit more, talk with the cashiers at Zehrs, have a conversation down at Tim’s. it’s nothing radical, but it’s showing people that there are christians out there who care and love the people that are in the world. i think that this is part of what it means to reclaim the hearts of a lost world for God’s kingdom. i can’t say that i personally have any idea on how to do it perfectly, but at least i can try some stuff and see if i can make a difference for the kingdom.

so life is busy, full, and way too over-burdening. but in retrospect, He’s got it all under control.