Church Planting, Discipleship, Mission, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: You’ve Gotta Go

Jesus is full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve got him pegged, he pulls an audible and you’re left asking, “Whaaaat?”

When Jesus toured Galilee, early in his ministry, he performed miracles and taught about the kingdom. He also stared down the Pharisees and called people to follow him. His reputation grew and soon a huge entourage was following him.

He was a pretty big deal.

Which is why it’s surprising that he took a little excursion into a village called Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Nain was barely a town. It was more like a small hamlet with a few roads and some settlements. The entrance to the town was the end of a dusty street. It was pretty forgettable. Nobody who was somebody went to Nain. Nobody would have taken selfies in Nain. The Google Maps car wouldn’t have gone through Nain.

And yet Jesus went to Nain. And what we begin to discover, early in the gospel of Luke, is that Jesus wasn’t influenced by wealth, prestige, or fame. He didn’t have a bucket list of all the places he wanted to visit.

Jesus went to places where others wouldn’t go, to reach people that others couldn’t reach.

As followers of Jesus, we’ve got to do the same. The world is not changed if the church stands still. We’ve got to get out and get moving. Movement – wherever, however – is the starting point for Jesus to bring restoration to hearts and lives. His plan to change the world demands the motion of his church. There is no ‘Plan B’.

I wonder…what might that look like for you? You’ll never know, until you start moving. The starting point of mission is intentional – it is seldom accidental. It begins by putting one foot in front of the other.

If we learn anything from Jesus, mission doesn’t always happen in the glamorous places. Jesus’ feet led him to a village called Nain. It can be argued that Jesus put Nain on the map. Sometimes mission takes place in the mundane, everyday experiences, like when you’re out walking your dog. Or when you’re sitting in your work cubicle. Or when you’re down on the corner picking up your mail.

And sometimes mission leads you to go to costly places. Unseemly, dangerous places. Places that won’t bump up your algorithm on social media. Places that won’t make anybody’s bucket list.

Jesus is looking for people who will go where others will not go, to reach people that others will not reach.

Should this surprise us?

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Flood Assurance

What happens when life hits you with a 100-foot wave? When friends betray you, people die, cancer intrudes, or you lose your job, what takes place? Things get turned upside down. You feel disoriented and out of place – like a man cutting through the women’s underwear section in a department store. Sometimes there’s pain and suffering. Ultimately, you might even question God’s goodness.

In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus described two men who each built their house with a different foundation. One worked hard, dug deep, and build his foundation on the rock. The other dropped his house on the sand. When the flood came, the first man’s house was unshaken, but the second man’s house was torn apart. The first man, Jesus said, is like someone who hears his words, takes them to heart, and lives them out. The foundation that Jesus describes is a heart that delights in doing whatever the he asks.

When you have no foundation, your spiritual house will be shaken. It might even begin to drift. Or be swept away.

But Jesus promises that if your life is surrendered to him, you can be confident when the waves smash into your life. Why is this? It’s because you know, down to your bones, that you are not alone in the flood. You understand that Jesus is the Lord of every flood. He’s the one who walks on water and calms the sea. He can open the floodgates of heaven.

We see this when we read Psalm 124:

If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.

The flood would have destroyed us – if the Lord had not been on our side.

The job loss would have engulfed us – if the Lord had not been on our side

The cheating and lying would have swallowed us alive – if the Lord had not been on our side.

The cancer would have swept over us – if the Lord had not been on our side.

The betrayal, the loss, the let-down, these would have ground us to nothing –

If the Lord had not been on our side

When the flood tides rise, you can have great assurance – if you heart is surrendered to the Lord.  You know that he’s on your side and he’s the Lord of the flood.

Three years ago, when I experienced a very real, life-threatening health challenge, I was paralyzed with anxiety and fear. When the waves crashed, what kept me from drowning was knowing that the Lord was on my side. And through the experience, he drew me into even deeper surrender. It was one of the scariest seasons of my life, and yet one of the sweetest.

Are you facing a flood today? Have you surrendered to the Lord of the floods?

He’s got you.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Radical Love

How should followers of Jesus respond to those who disagree with or mistreat them? In Luke 6, Jesus unfolds a radical alternative to opposition and hatred. As members in his new kingdom community – a kingdom where heaven is breaking through on earth – they are to have radically different values than the world empire.

He says in Luke 6:27-28 (NIV): “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

This was a radical idea. No other teacher from antiquity taught this – not in Judea or any other culture in the world. Jesus was the first to bring it to our world.

When someone hurts us, we are usually faced with two options. The first is retaliation. If you hit me, I’m gonna hit you back. If you take something from me, I’m gonna take something from you. The second option is to refrain. If someone hates you, or hurts you, don’t retaliate. Just walk away. Do nothing. Ignore them, or if you have to, tolerate them.

But then Jesus presents a third option: radical love. This is more than warm sentiment. This radical love doesn’t sit on its hands. It’s a DOING kind of love. If you keep reading in verses 29-31, you discover that radical love doesn’t hold back – it pushes forward. It loves, it prays, it blesses, it gives. And to illustrate this, Jesus uses a literary device known as overstatement. He gives examples of how to love radically, in worst-case scenarios. Turn the other cheek. Give the shirt off your back. He’s overstating in order to drive home the point that to truly love our enemies, we should give, give, and give some more.

Jesus models for us this radical love by how he responds to his enemies. He says to them:

Here is the whip – rip my back to ribbons.

Here is the crown – crush it into my skull.

Here are the nails – smash them through my hands.

Here is the spear – thrust it into my side.

Mock me, reject me, shame me. And I will respond by giving you my life.

This is radical love.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Selective Listening

Here’s the question of the month: Yanni or Laurel?

If you have no idea what I’m referring to, chances are you’re probably not taking your social media intravenously and useless time wasters aren’t part of your internet algorithm. And if you’ve debated this question for more than ten minutes in the past month, then you might need to get a life (and yet here I am, writing about it). If you need to catch up on this question, click here.

There are a few reasons why different people hear different names when they listen to this sound byte. One of these is that we each have selective listening. In other words, we hear what we want to hear, and with a little bit of priming, we’re likely to hear either Yanni or Laurel, rather than bzzgrrphmlgk.

I bring this up because I think many of us struggle with selective listening of a different kind. This auditory challenge occurs more at the heart level – it’s a spiritual kind of listening. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve discovered that I have a tremendous capacity to tune out God’s voice. At times, I’ve turned the volume way down on God because I was afraid of what he was going to ask me. There have been other times when I completely ignored his divine nudging, preferring to live in denial.

In the Bible, listening to God involves more than just hearing him. It means to both hear and obey. It means receiving God’s commands, internalizing them, and then acting on them. It means being faithful in keeping his covenant.

In the days of Gideon, Israel stopped listening to God, and because of this, it led to seven years of trouble with the Midianites (Judges 6:6). Many of us have learned, sometimes the hard way, that one of the clearest ways to make a mess of life is to stop listening to God. Conversely, the way to experience abundant life is to keep listening to God. God has plans to prosper us, to give us a hope and a future. He just asks us to listen to him.

And yet, for some reason, we choose not to listen. We decide that Yanni sounds way better than Laurel. We become selective listeners who filter out everything except what we want to hear.

Here’s something I’ve found to be true: when God wants you to grow, he tells you something uncomfortable. But we don’t like leaving our comfort zones. We’d prefer an easy god. A safe god. A god who won’t cramp our style, who doesn’t swim upstream. A god who looks a whole lot like us and satisfies the itching inside of our ears (2 Tim. 4:3).

So what about you…are you a selective listener? What if you instead became a surrendered listener?

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

 

 

 

Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Doubters Welcome

Doubt much lately? If you have, you’re in good company.

The late Dr. Billy Graham once said: “Doubts are a normal part of life. We doubt things on earth, so it’s easy to doubt things of God.”

There have been numerous times in my faith journey when I’ve experienced doubt. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Like most people, I want certainty. There are days when I wish the skies would part or a scroll would drop from heaven. I’d like the sun to stop for an hour. I want my own undeniable miracle, like a burning bush experience, or the Riders winning the Grey Cup in 2018. Give me something to show me that the object of my faith is real, beyond a shadow of doubt.

Thomas the disciple doubted. But he wasn’t the only one. One of the verses that helps me not lose perspective, in my doubt, is Matthew 28:16-17:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

This scenario fascinates me. Jesus had already risen from the dead. He appeared to his disciples, and just before ascending into heaven, he gathered them together to give them some final instructions. But even after all his incredible appearances – from materializing suddenly in locked rooms to eating a fish in a body still punctured with wounds – the disciples doubted.

Some doubted.

Doubt is normal. No matter how smart, how talented, or how self-assured you are, you will experience doubt during your lifetime.

But Jesus welcomes doubters. When the disciples told Thomas about Christ’s resurrection, he was skeptical. He demanded tangible, physical evidence. A week later, Jesus showed up and gave him precisely what he needed. He didn’t rebuke Thomas for seeking evidence. Besides, didn’t the other disciples already see Jesus? Instead, he met Thomas in his doubt.

If you are wrestling with doubts today, know that Jesus welcomes doubters. He invites you to investigate, explore, reason, and wrestle. He will meet you where you are at, in your doubt, if you are willing.

My church family (Crosspoint) is striving to be a community where it’s safe to investigate and explore the Christian faith. We like to say it’s okay to ask questions, wonder, and doubt. We’ve got people at different places in their spiritual journeys. Some are investigating, others discovering, and still others pressing into the new life that Jesus offers.

Can I encourage you today? If you’re exploring faith, inspect the evidence. Kick the tires. Look under the hood. You might be surprised what you find.

But most of all, remember that Jesus welcomes doubters.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

 

 

relationships, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Lifelong Love

What are you doing to ensure that your marriage not only survives but thrives? Do you have a strategy in place for your next twenty-five years together? The final two chapters of Song of Songs are rich with practices for growing a lifelong marriage.

One of the practices, we will discover, is to bring play time into your relationship. Here’s an example from Song of Songs 7:11-13 (NIV). Here Shulamith is presenting an invitation to Solomon: 

Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages.
Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened,
and if the pomegranates are in bloom—
there I will give you my love.
The mandrakes send out their fragrance,
and at our door is every delicacy,
both new and old,
that I have stored up for you, my beloved.

Shulamith is saying, “Let’s get out of the palace. Let’s get away…maybe visit the countryside together.” Clearly, what she has in mind is more than a sight-seeing tour. She wants to smell the fresh spring air – maybe even explore the vineyards. But she also has something else on her mind. She wants to grow intimacy in their relationship.

An interesting side note here. Notice that she says, “the mandrakes send out their fragrance.” In Hebrew, the word for mandrake means love-apple. Mandrakes were considered an aphrodisiac, a love drug. Unquestionably, she’s offering Solomon something more than long walks and sightseeing. Needless to say, before she finishes speaking, Solomon has already packed his bags and is booking flights on Expedia.

To grow lifelong love, you need to intentionally infuse play time into your relationship. This quality time is so much more than sitting on the couch together, watching Neflix, and brushing hands as you reach into that bag of Doritos at the same time. It means setting aside space and time, free from distraction: no kids, no work, and no social-media intravenous drip. Play time is not only important for your relationship, it’s necessary.

So are you planning play time together? Are you getting away on excursions? What about dates – when is the last time you had one of those?

You might think, “I see my spouse all the time…why do I need to date her?” Because setting is everything. If you take a dinner plate from the cupboard and set it on the counter-top, it’s just a plate. But if you take the same plate and you set it on a luxurious tablecloth, surrounded by cutlery, linen, candles, and a wine glass, it changes everything about that plate. It’s the same thing with your marriage. Setting is everything. A different setting changes the focus, the dynamic, and the conversation. Trust me…it will activate different parts of your brain. New parts of your brain will come alive – old parts of your brain will wake-up. Neural synapses will ignite. All because you decided to change your routine.

Dates don’t have to be expensive. Last summer, my wife Karen and I started biking together. We would throw our bikes into the back of my truck and take off on new adventures throughout the city. One day, we went for a long ride in the river valley. On the return trip to the truck, we passed a fruit stand. Normally, we don’t stop at fruit stands because we’re always racing from appointment to appointment. But on this day, we had bikes! I left my wallet in the car, but I did have some pocket-change. After a bit of haggling, we sauntered away with a bag of peaches and spent the next hour in the shade of the trees, laughing, dreaming, and spitting pits. That was a three-dollar date, but it was the best…date…ever.

The bottom line is, if you are going to embrace play, you have to work at it.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

 

relationships, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Messy Love

In every marriage, conflict is inevitable.

Even Solomon and Shulamith, those twitterpated lovebirds, had their differences. You read about this in Song of Songs 5:2-8. Solomon arrives home sometime past midnight. He comes knocking on the door of Shulamith’s room, hoping for a little bit of “something-something.” But she’s in bed. The makeup is off, cucumber mask is on, and flannel pyjamas have been applied. She’s a bit miffed that he’s shown up a few hours later than he should. So she shuts him down. Conflict anyone?

It’s understandable why couples conflict. In a marriage, you have two very different people coming together, with unique personalities, likes, interests, and families (you never just marry a person…you marry their family). And to add misery to the madness, each is hard-wired to be naturally selfish. It’s a problem that goes back to the Garden of Eden.

So if you’re in the early stages of a relationship, don’t be surprised when you experience conflict. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with your relationship. If you haven’t had it yet, it’s probably because you still have a superficial knowledge of each other, or you’re blinded by infatuation. Trust me, a day will come when your relationship will come crashing head-first into reality. You might not consider divorce, but homicide might seem like a good option (I kid…I kid).

So if you are facing conflict in your relationship right now, don’t freak out. A good marriage is not something you find but something you work for. You’re going to fight with someone for the rest of your life – it might as well be your beloved.

At the end of the day, the issue is not if you have conflict, it’s what you do with conflict.

Here are two warning signs that you may not be resolving conflict. The first is the absence of conflict, and the second, the permanence of conflict. On the one hand, if you are in a relationship that has an absence of conflict, it could be that you are in the early stages of blind-love bliss, but it could also be that somebody in the relationship is being overly compliant, or walked on. This means you are avoiding conflict, not dealing with it. On the other hand, the permanence of conflict can also be a problem. In this case, the same problem keeps resurfacing. Rather that dealing with it, it gets swept under the rug, and never resolved. When you sweep too much conflict under the rug, it results in a bumpy marriage.

Paul writes in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” God wants us to resolve conflict. You have your part to play in this. You can’t determine what your spouse will do in a conflict, but you can determine what you will do in a conflict. You are responsible for your role in bringing about resolution.

Marriages often fall apart, not because of really stupid decisions or irreconcilable differences. They fall apart because couples don’t know how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. The conflicts persist and the relationship experiences incremental degradation: one bad argument at a time, one hurtful word at a time. The relationship erodes, like a shoreline washed away by the sea.

Expect conflict. But more importantly, resolve conflict.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.