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.

 

 

Discipleship, Personal Development, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Before the Bedroom

Before our wedding, my wife (Karen) and I made the wise decision of getting premarital counselling. Our counsellor made a statement that I will never forget: “Foreplay begins in the kitchen.” Before you let your imagination run wild, let me explain what she meant. Her point was simple – as you go about your day, how you treat each other determines if you are moving closer together or further away. Intimacy is something that develops throughout the day.

In short, sex begins long before the bedroom.

Solomon understood this. In the fourth chapter of Song of Songs, he wooed Shulamith with his words before pursuing physical intimacy. This chapter depicts a night in the honeymoon suite (maybe even the first night). Here’s what he said in verse 1 (NIV):

How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead. 

Solomon understood the power of words. He began by declaring his bride’s beauty. In fact, he did it three times in the first seven verses. Then he continued to poetically describe her beauty, working from the top of her head, to below her neckline. While his metaphors could get lost in translation, in his day, they would have been Pulitzer prize-winning prose.

But what’s most astounding is that the couple hasn’t even touched each other in the first seven verses. Solomon didn’t come charging into the bedroom like a caveman, beating his chest. “Me Gronk! You Woman! We make love!” Rather, he understood that emotional intimacy should precede physical intimacy.

Did he want her? Absolutely. He was quite eager to climb his mountain of myrrh and hill of incense, and he wanted to do it all night long (4:6). But even so, he didn’t rush in, grabbing and groping, like a monkey searching for bananas in the dark. Instead, he wooed her.

Sex begins long before the bedroom.

And so, practically speaking, if you are a complete loser during the day, bullying, manipulating, or mistreating your spouse, don’t be surprised if you get the cold shoulder in the bedroom. This applies for both husbands and wives. But if you are tender, kind, supportive, and affirming throughout the day, you will build trust, security, and intimacy. Foreplay begins in the kitchen.

I wish I could take a poll of my friends’ wives and ask them: “What do you think is one of the sexiest things your husband does during the day?” I bet their responses might surprise their husbands. Chances are that flexing your gluts in front of the mirror in your tightie-whities doesn’t top the list. And neither does jumping out of the shower, and shouting “Woo hoo!” while doing the funky-chicken dance. So not sexy.

Surprisingly, the answer(s) might be:

  • When he texts me little love notes during the day
  • When he helps get the kids bathed, reads them a story, and tucks them in at night
  • When he serves others without complaint
  • When he prays with me and spiritually initiates
  • When he hugs me and tells me I’m beautiful – just because

I was surprised to discover what sexy looked like from my wife Karen’s perspective (she’s given me permission to write this). When we bought our current home, I did a lot of renovations prior to our family moving in. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to complete the baseboards. For months, we lived in our home without them, and my beloved was very patient with me as I tackled a demanding new job. Every once in a while, she would kindly hint about how nice it would be to have them installed. Finally, I took time off work and tackled the project. It was about mid-afternoon on the first day that she stopped me and said, “Just seeing you working so hard for us, finishing the baseboards…I am so attracted to you right now.”

Cue the Barry White music. Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

For the next year of our marriage, installing baseboards became a metaphor for something else. To my dismay, I finally installed baseboards in every room of the house. I did consider secretly removing some of the baseboards when she wasn’t looking…

God-honouring sex begins early, long before the bedroom. Intimacy grows throughout the day.

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

 

Discipleship, Personal Development, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Infatuation

Dating? Courting? Crushing? Chances are you will catch a good bout of infatuation early in your relationship.

It’s intriguing that the Bible doesn’t shy away from this very human experience. In the Song of Songs – the big book on relationships – the two main characters are clearly twitterpated. Hear the poetic words of Shulamith, ogling her beloved, as he returns from a time away:

Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.

There are tell-tale signs of infatuation here. Did you notice how she describes him? He’s like a young horse, galloping and leaping across the mountains. It’s like a scene from a Bollywood romance. That’s how she envisions him. And then when he arrives, he doesn’t even make it to her front door. He stops and stares at her through the window. He’s not creeping or stalking – he’s just admiring her from afar. Tongue-tied, doe-eyed fool that he is.

That’s infatuation. The experience is so common we’ve got hundreds of ways to describe it. Star-crossed lovers. Love-sick puppies. Spell-bound. Enamoured. Punch-drunk love.

Did you know that there’s actually a scientific term for this experience? It’s called limerence. It was the psychologist, Dorothy Tennov, who came up with the term. She dedicated her professional career to studying this phenomenon by interviewing thousands of people who were truly, madly, and deeply in love. Her findings weren’t pulled out of Twilight novels or Ed Sheeran songs – they were completely research based. Some of the symptoms she observed included mood-swings, a literal heart-ache (chest pain), an irrational fear of rejection, passion and longing, and constant distraction. Limerence can make you do things outside the norm – like leaping over mountains as a gazelle, or playing peek-a-boo through the shutters.

Infatuation is great. It’s lovely. It’s wonderful. Ever felt it?

But here’s the thing. A lasting relationship cannot be built solely on infatuation, no more than your body can survive on Twinkies and cream soda. Sure they might taste delicious and give you a mid-afternoon sugar spike, but they won’t provide the nourishment you need for long-term health. And besides, you’ll be a diabetic in your thirties if you keep it up.

Infatuation occurs early in a relationship, but it doesn’t last forever. Eventually, it comes crashing head-first into reality. It might happen with your first fight, your first failure, even your first flatulence. But at some point in a relationship, you realize that infatuation isn’t enough. This is why relationships sometimes end prematurely. Some falsely assume that infatuation is the only mark of a good relationship.  And when the infatuation dissipates, they ditch the person they’re with and drive off looking for a new candidate.

Infatuation won’t sustain a marriage. It won’t sustain you through job-loss. Or the demands of parenting. Or cancer. But what will sustain your relationship is sacrificial love: true, biblical, agape love, where you lay down your lives for each other, serve one another, and sacrifice for the relationship. It’s a love that’s committed for the long-haul: for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part. When you live in the love of Christ, and you allow his love to live through you – this is what sustains a marriage.

Can I recommend something? Early on in your relationship, take your foot off the gas. Ease up on the infatuation and instead, take time to build your friendship. Divert that energy toward getting to know each other. Discover more about the person you’re courting.

You pick this up in verse 14. Whispering through the window, the beloved says to Shulamith:

14 My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.

What’s he saying? He’s saying that he wants her to leave the house and talk to him. And more than anything, he wants to see her face (notice he mentions it twice). The face was very important to the Hebrews. It represented a person’s presence. To see somebody’s face was to know that person. This is why they would “seek God’s face.” Your face reveals everything about you: your personality, character, and emotions. He wanted to see her face. He wanted to know her.

What if, early in your relationship, you made getting to know each other the primary goal? What if you focused on building a solid, lasting friendship? I’d recommend asking questions that go deeper than where you recently ate lunch or your favourite episode of Friends. Find out what each other’s joys are. Tell your faith stories, like when God first became real to you. Talk about your fears and your weaknesses. Truly get to know each other.

Expect infatuation, but build friendship.

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