Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scum

Have you ever cleaned a dirty bathtub? I'm not talking about the once a week clean... I'm talking about the once every three months clean. Your once shiny bathtub has accumulated a layer of filth. Soap scum builds up, a scaly monster upon the landscape. Pieces of unidentified dirt have caked themselves onto the surface.

You boldly approach that challenge, with a hopeful heart. But as you begin to scrub, it seems to crawl deep within your skin, burrowing. You feel dirty as you peel layer after layer of dirt off of the tub. High powered chemicals aid you, but even after an hour of hard scrubbing that tub still has caked on dirt. Very few things will actually lift that dirt from the surface, and it seems like it will never, ever come off.

I feel that way often. No matter how much time I spend on my knees, scrubbing my soul and heart out, I just can't get clean. There is always that layer of crud clasping onto me, fusing itself to my very being. I feel weary, worn, and incapable.

The reality of the situation is that I am incapable. I can spend all day scrubbing, but I'm scrubbing with the wrong stuff. I will never be able to remove that crud. I don't have the 'elbow grease' to get it off. I am the one that put it there in the first place. But the news is not all bad, I'm right in at least one thing: I'm on my knees.

Despite all the scum that has caked itself onto me over the years, God doesn't see any of it. His grace, however undeserving I am, covers it all. It renews me, refreshes me, and adds that fresh smell all over again. To Him, each time I repent of my sins, I am brand new.

Amazing what cleaning a bathroom will teach you.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

To all those...

Isaiah 9

To all those who find themselves outside on a cold night, unsure of which was is home. Scared, wet and all alone. Rejoice. A warm fire is near.

To all who are weary, tired from the journey, afraid of the fight, wounded from the enemy. Rejoice. Rest and safety is at hand.

To all those who are distraught, unclear of how to proceed, and disillusioned with where the path has brought them. Rejoice. The path has been set, and your footing is sure.

To all the broken hearts, which were once filled with hopes and dreams, now lost to the waves of time. Rejoice. Hope has come again.

To all the young, with the world ahead of you, and very little behind you. Rejoice. For you are blessed in not knowing better.

To the adult, who feels the world passing them by, and can't help but wish for more. Rejoice. For you will have everything you need.

To all the old, with the weight of time upon your shoulders, and the bright eyed days of your youth long since faded. Rejoice. The weight is lifted.

To all the downtrodden, whose legs will not carry them any further, and who suffer from cuts innumerable. Rejoice. For you will find a warm bath, and healing for your wounds.

To the sinner, whose actions reveal true character and whose judgement lies over the close horizon. Rejoice. For you are free.

To the Church, whose potential knows no limit, and whose character seems endlessly tainted by our flesh. Rejoice. For we are cleansed.

To the saint, who strives to leave this world behind, and go home. Rejoice. Home is at hand.

To the entire world, which finds itself in the mire of it's crumbling humanity. Rejoice. For you will be rebuilt.

Rejoice in a Saviour who has redeemed us from exile, and brought us back into home. That we may find rest, healing, and purpose. And upon him a kingdom has risen that cannot be conquered.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dependance

How often do I want all the benefits without any of the pain? I want everything that my relationship with God should bring, without any of the shaping that comes from a loving Father. I want to be wise, mature, balanced and Godly, but I don't want to have to work for any of it. Wouldn't life be easier if I could just choose what characteristics I want? How foolish would I be.

I am not a wise man. I wouldn't even call myself a Godly man. I desire deeply to be both of those things, but I struggle. I struggle with myself; a constant state of turmoil between my desires and reality. I want to be free from all of this, I want to be wholly dependant on God.

So what does the foolish (or wise?) man do? He prays for God to do just that. Make him fully dependant on God. God is always faithful to answer. Whether you want it or not, the words have been spoken, and the intent expressed.

Each day, I am made to be more dependant on God. Less dependant on myself. And I'm completely resolved to that fate. Each day brings less money, and a little more stress. Each day finds me turning over more, and depending less on my own strength. I have little choice, because I'm running out of options.

Yet I know I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Every part of me wants to leave, to fall back on something easier, something familiar. But there is a still small voice telling me to wait. "Not yet," it says. So I wait, I search, and I turn over every prayer and petition, with faith, to my Father in heaven.

This is a staging point. Every major Biblical (and faith) character had to first learn to depend. Not on their own strength or wit, but only on the Provider. Noah had to build an Ark. Abraham had to leave his home. Moses had to go back to Egypt. The Israelites had to wander the desert. David had to run from Saul's men. The prophets were outcasts. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. Paul was blind. There are lessons to be learned, and God asks for one thing: all of us.

So You have it. Take it, because I can't do it. I never could. I am dependant on You.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Breathe

This is the air I breathe
This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

This is my daily bread
This is my daily bread
Your very word spoken to me

And I, I'm desperate for you
And I, I'm I'm lost without you

The very air I breathe. The food that I eat. These are things that describe God, but do they describe God in you? Do they describe God in me? I wonder that sometimes. Is God really the air that I breathe? Do I really feel I need him that much? I say feel not because of an emotion, but because the reality is that I do. Anything else is foolishness.

Swimming, deep underwater. You've taken a giant gulp of breathe and begun to dive down, as deep as you possibly go. It doesn't take long for your ears to start ringing, and your lungs to start hurting. But there is a strange peace under the water, as all the noise from the world is muffled, and it's you and the water. Peace to think, peace to listen. But you can't stay forever. Your body starts to hunger for pure oxygen, and your blood begins to run thin. You kick to propel yourself up, but it's so far away. Panic starts to set in as your mind dims, and your limbs slow. Desperation sweeps over you as the possiblity of not reaching the surface becomes very real. You NEED air.

And in that instant, there is nothing else on your mind. Not the pain in your limbs, or the peacefulness of the water. Not the other people in the pool, or what is going on later in the day. There is one thing on your mind: "I must breathe."

Your head breaks the surface of the water, and you gasp for breathe, taking in every ounce of life that you can draw. You have never appreciated something you always had so much. It permeates your entire body, as energy returns, revitalizing you.

Do you need God that much? Have you ever had that moment where you're not sure you're going to reach the surface? Where the thought of God overwhelms all your other senses as you yearn for His life giving presence?

That's the norm. He is the air we breathe. Without Him, we are dead, in every sense of the world.

What are you waiting for? Your head is above the surface, breathe.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remember

How much we forget through our lives. It begs the question how different our lives would be if we had perfect memories. Would you remember your first steps? The times you needed to be carried to get anywhere? The first time you tasted sugar? The first time you were on a swing? The first time you got hit? The first friend you made? Your first day of school? The day you first met Jesus?

We forget so much. Some of it is worth forgetting, and some we need to remember. Like that first rush of realizing how inadequate we are in front of God. The complete and total brokenness we experience when we enter His presence. That longing and absolute need for Him in our lives. That time that we forget so quickly as the colour fades from our life.

But not all is lost. Even as we watch the memories glide almost peacefully away from us, we retain some faint residue of those experiences. If nothing more than a thin film of mildew on some remote part of our memories, everyone remembers in some form what those longings were like. And how quickly we are to try to scrub ourselves of it. If we remember it, we are bound to it.

I am. I did. I wish I could say I didn't. But too often I find myself scrubbing furiously, trying to remove any trace so that I can claim ignorance. But I'm not ignorant. I know full well what I have left in my path, and I long to be back there. In that naive chasing after a full God. I want to be a child again. I want to, without abandon chase after a Father who loves me, cares for me, and who I have no reason to doubt. Someone who I feel like I can talk to one on one, without my own sin or my own doubts getting in the way.

I want to stop scrubbing the soap, and start scrubbing the dirt.

My life is inversed. I have forgotten. I want to remember what it means to run playfully through the fields of light once more. I want to leave this dark, damp, musty cellar and burst through the doors into the radiant sunshine once more. But I'm afraid of what I'll look like, what I'll be.

And then I remember. I was never enough. I don't deserve this wonderful gift. But it is offered freely to me. Someone has already taken all of this dirt, and cleansed me from it. Though I have done nothing to deserve it, I am clean. And I come once more, crawling on me knees, towards an almighty God who can strike me down at any moment, black like death, but white like the sun.

In that moment, I look down, expecting to see a pale, frail, naked body covered in soot, only to discover a healthy, clean, robed in white body. I am clean. And in that moment, that fraction of a second, I am clean.

I remember.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Grace

I'll be honest with you, grace has always been a foreign concept to me. Grace is something that does not come naturally to me, and thus fundamentally differs from my core. Not my core beliefs, but of who I am, a schism between two parts of me, if you will.

Yet I have grace striking in recent weeks. While at work, I have plenty of time to listen to music, and I was listening through the entirety of Jennifer Knapp's collection. Have you ever had the music just slow for a moment, as the words jump out at you in a way you've never heard before. You've listened to the song a thousand times, and can repeat every word, but this one time, they smack you upside the head? I had one of those moments.

I've exhausted every possible solution,
I've tried every last game there is to play.
In this search for the Christ like perfection
I'm convinced I've only left my God ashamed
I cry I wonder can He hear my despair.
Afraid to lift my hands afraid he doesn't care.

And if He answers and I fall again
Can I still be His daughter can I still depend on Him.
When I'm down search every mistake, looking for new regrets.
Sometimes I forget, I forget that His grace is sufficient for me.
That it's deeper and wider than I can conceive.

His Grace is sufficient for me.
My convictions seem to fade with desperation,
My hope declines with each and every tear.
My sin an anchor and this grace just an illusion.

The gavels heavy and justice is near.
Up comes the light and finds the stains on my hands.
Up comes my pride, I hide, I know he won't understand.
Cause it's deeper than deep and it's wider then wide.
Why did I ever doubt now I'm dying inside. (chorus).

Wow. That just blew me away. I forget how wide it really is. Scratch that, I forget what grace is somedays. I forget how much I really need it. I forget that I need it at all.

That's a scary place to be in. It's a lot like forgetting to swim in the middle of the ocean. Like forgetting to breathe. Forgetting to eat. I need grace. I need God. Because as much as I like to think I'm autonomous, without the need for anyone or anything's input, I am not enough. I am insufficient to meet the benchmark. And that means the only way I'm passing is grace.

God's grace is sufficient for me. When was the last time you ask yourself whether you're trusting that grace? I have to ask myself daily. And when I answer it, I need to ask for more grace. None of us are perfect, and that is the entire point of it all.

But how often do we forget that? Think we need to be all that. Think we need to meet everyone's expectations? Think that we need to meet God's expectations. Reality check, there ARE no expectations on us. Thus grace. We are given something freely. Something undeserved. Something that we could never, ever accomplish.

That rocks my world.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Here's a Thought

Challenge the day. Never stand still. Always think critically. Push your boundaries. Carpe Diem. How many of us repeat these niceties to ourselves when we get up in the morning? How many of us desire to truly seize the day and make a difference in the lives around us? But when the day is failing, and the night begins to roll over the horizon, have you really accomplished what you set out to do?

Perhaps it was the choices, things left unsaid, things that should have gone unsaid. Maybe you find yourself in a rut working somewhere you don't enjoy, studying something you feel compelled to complete, or with people you really don't like.

Many different things drag us. There are many pits that threaten to drag us down, and keep us in the dirt. But we are called to much more than that. Called to excellence, called to a life that changes those who are around us by simply being. Is that how people describe you?

I have often found myself settling. Going for the things that are easier. Choosing to befriend someone rather than challenge them, despite the latter being the right choice. Staying in the familiar, when God asks me to trek out into the unknown. It is the safe choice. It is the easy choice.

It's no wonder that Jesus chose the analogy of sheep when describing us. Minding our own business. Herded onto the next field. But that is not the only analogy that is used. We are called to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16), salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), labourers in a field (1 Corinthians 3:6-9), children of God (Galatians 1:24-26 and 4:1-7), the Body of Christ (Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27), and the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23-32).

Some of those are analogies of weakness, but a surprising number of them are ones of independence. Not from God, but from the world. They stand apart, they are unabashed. You can't avoid salt or light. You are always related to your parents. A body is inseparable from it's Head. Finally, a bride stands before a crowd, and is to be adored by those in attendance.

So why do we shrink away? There is no real easy answer to the question, but it really boils down to fear. We run away from those things we think will hurt us, or those that will leave us disillusioned. Jesus did describe that the path was narrow and less traveled, and I firmly believe that it is no less true today than when He said it.

Which path are you traveling?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Painting

Have you ever stopped to just reflect on where life has taken you? The ups, and the downs, like a gentle rolling vista at places, and jutting, harsh mountains at others. There's little doubt that each of our lives would make an interesting painting, if only we had the wisdom to portray it.

If I had to paint the last 9 months of my life, it would be a high mountain pass, with thin, seeming impassable trails leading around sharp corners. If you dared look down, there would be the stunning view of forests, rivers and life growing, but you are so far removed from it. You gasp for breath, but not because of how hard you are working, but because of how high you are. Each step is a slow, tedious one as you plan your footholds praying that they don't give way. Without a doubt, falling would lead to a very painful, very awful death. Onward you must go, because going back is not an option. Inch by inch you crawl onwards, clinging to the slick cliff face.

I want to quit. I want it to all end and be back among the safety of the forest, with it's soft underbrush, and the gentle bubbling of water as it cascades down the riverbed. This is a place where animals graze quiety beside you, and the friendlier ones brush up playfully against your leg. It is safe, comforting, and free.

But I am not there any longer, I am high up this awful cliff, with promises of peace and joy unknown on the other side. It seemed like ages ago I set out on this journey, and time just scrapes slowly by. Rocks jab at my shins and thighs, scraping them through my clothes. I clasp tightly to the sparse handholds, and suffer bleeding palms because of it. My muscles ache, my head is throbbing, and my throat is parched. But somehow, I know that I would not be happy down in the forest. It is but a distant memory.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I would capture that in a painting. It would take someone far more talented than me to offer others a glimpse into my mind's eye. There have been times when I have felt a tortured soul. Strangely, however, I have also found peace. Despite Fiji, God has reaffirmed my vision for ministry. Despite Bethel, I have found a new church where I am challenged and grow. Despite Jordan, I will learn to love again, and be loved in return. Despite my job, God has blessed me with another, and one that I enjoy equally. Despite moving, I have a roof over my head and I've made friends.

My hands may be cut, but only so that they are stronger. My eyes may gaze upon the lush forest below, but only so I know how beautiful my new home will be. My muscles ache, but only because they have not been used. My throat is parched, but only so I thirst for the Living Water. My head may throb, but only so I appreciate rest.

Each small trial prepares me for infinitely more in the future. I am blessed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Parent's Love


Stop and look at that photo for just a moment. What are some emotions that go through you? What thoughts do you think?

Sadness. Joy. Relief. Love. All of these feelings flooded through me when I first saw that picture. This is a woman who has spent seven months in Iraq, coming home to her daughter. It's powerful, it's moving. It's one of those photo's that can change the world. It conveys real, honest, raw emotion.

We live our lives behind veils and masks, attempting to mislead others to our true thoughts and emotions. We mask our own pain and hurts from those around us. But there are rare moments, just like this one, where they are transmitted uncensored for the entire world to view. It appeals to everything that is real within us, everything that screams out to be let loose.

A parent's love. All caught up in a single photo.

How much more does our Father in heaven love us? What kind of message does that speak to us about how much He wants everyone to come to know Him? Do we feel this same emotion when someone comes to know Christ?

Because you know that God hurts for the lost even more than that woman longed to see her child. He loves us that much.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Live

Sometimes you have to wonder what is really going through the minds of the people around you. Are they serious? Do they think the same way you do? Are they really as free and happy as they like to let on, or is nothing more than a facade?

It is moments like this that I stop to remind myself that I am not alone. No matter how much I feel like it is me against the world, it does not have to be that way. I choose that path, no one makes me take it. It is a lie. When I am in a room of people, feeling entirely alone, that is really my own insecurities stopping me from reaching out to those around me.

Take a risk, take that leap off the cliff face to say hello to someone you don't know. It is irrelevant how good looking they are, what kind of clothes they have on, how many piercings adorn their face, or what style their hair is. What matters is that they are a human being, not so unlike you, and most likely thinking and feeling the same way.

"What does that mean?", you might be wondering. It means that no matter how many times your inner voice tells you that you are unique, that you are the only one who is feeling this way, and that everyone who looks at you is doing so with scorn, it's lying. That is your voice of insecurity shouting into your ear. It knows your fears, your weaknesses, and it will exploit it with vengeance.

Don't buy into it. Dig a little bit deeper, below those layers that have grown over because the path has not been used in years. Slice through your own inhibitions and find the other voices that have been smothered by your comforts and luxuries. The ones that tell you to take a risk, jump off the deep-end and live your life like you've always wanted to. Free, careless, joyful, and accepting of others.

That is a very real possibility. The only thing standing in your way is you. Your fears, your hates. It is time to pay them back. Smother them in turn, and seal those tunnels shut, marking them for demolition. You don't ever have to go back to that dark place.

Come into the light, and begin to live once more. You won't regret it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Trust? Trust!

I believe in you. I'd give up everything just to find you. I'd leave the ninety-nine to find that one. I would give my life, and my only son so that I could be in a relationship with you.

I don't know if you have noticed, but we have bred a culture of mistrust. The Army of One. A society where each other person is really only out to get you, and no matter how genuine they may seem, it's really just them attempting to extract something from you. Eventually it will come to the surface.

My conversations recently seem to be orbiting around this topic. Every person has their own story, but it always ends in the same statement, "I don't know why, I just can't!" Can't trust, won't trust, afraid of being hurt. Is this really what we were meant to be?

Adam needed a partner. He was alone, and this was not good in the sight of God. The first time in the Bible that God said something was not good. That's pretty significant. Can you imagine if Adam's first thought was, "I wonder when she's going to hurt me?" I bet he would have been heading in the opposite direction from Eve that that moment.

Jesus rebukes he disciples firmly, because they were turning away the little children. The disciples foolishly thought that Jesus didn't have time for these little tykes. Yet he calls the little kids around him, and blesses each of them. Then (are you paying attention?) he turns to the crowd, and says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little ones like these! That must have been such a shock to those listening... "I have to be a little child?" they may have asked.

But I believe that just one aspect Jesus was touching upon here was their innocence. They wanted to come before Jesus. Have you ever watched little children play? They have their nasty sides at time, but they generally are trusting. They trust authority, they trust each other, and are good natured.

Who was the last person you trusted? Did they hurt you? Are you willing to trust again?

I guarantee you that if you want no one to hurt you again, no one will. You can lock the world outside, and have no contact with them, never let them close enough to hurt. But you'll be lonely.

You can live in community, and risk loving and hurting, or you can live alone. Absolutely alone.

Start today. Trust someone, put yourself out on a limb, and you may just be surprised to make a new friend who is not so different from yourself; afraid to trust.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tired of my Tears

Ray Charles

Girl, you better go back in your mind
Try and find yourself a brand new life
I love you but you're toying with me
So if you can't change, go on, let me be

Well, I'm sick of your lies (sick of your lies)
Tired of my tears (tired of my tears)
Girl, if you want me, better tell it like it is

Oh, when a boy meets a Girl he likes
He starts to dream
Before he know it, he's caught right in her scheme
I used to believe every word you say
But realize now, that was yesterday

I'm sick of your lies (sick of your lies)
Tired of my tears (tired of my tears)
Girl, if you want me, tell it like it is

When I'm with you, I lose control
That's why I'm offering you my heart and soul
You better take it now 'cause when it's gone
I won't even answer my telephone

Monday, September 10, 2007

Introspection

Have you ever wished you could have peered into Jesus' head and see what all goes on in there? The day to day thoughts, like what he must have thought when he was hungry, and the group's change purse was running a little low. Did Jesus worry about these little things? Would he have gotten to his knees in true worry about whether he was going to eat, or would it have been in complete and total trust, without even a little bit of worry?

I wonder if Jesus ever stopped to do a little navel gazing. We see at the Garden of Gethsemane that there were torn feelings that were ruled by an overarching sense of trust in the Father, but how often did these moments happen? Did he weep before God about the disciples? About the Pharisees? About himself?

I wonder these things.

Undoubtedly, however, it raises an interesting practice that we so often neglect in our own lives. The practice of introspection. Not the piffly five minutes we spend to say our daily prayers and apologize for any sin that we may have committed, but the honest and true inward looking. Much like the day you finally get sick of your bathroom tub and get down on your hands and knees to clean it. No matter how much cleaner you spray on it, you HAVE to get down there and scrub with everything you've got. Put some elbow grease into it! It's hard work. It's abrasive, and it cleans.

When was the last time you've done that? When was the last time I did that? How often did Jesus do that?

I sat down a few days ago and scrubbed. I scrubbed, and I scrubbed, and I revisited those things that were hidden underneath the soap scum. Surprisingly, it was freeing. But perhaps the surprise only reveals to you how little I have done it. Like standing up and gazing upon a shining porcelain bath tub, there was a sense of accomplishment, a deep sigh was released from within me. Like removing contacts from sore eyes after a long day, I was refreshed.

And God met me. God met Jesus in the garden. God will meet you too.

Start there, and see where He'll take you.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Adventures

There comes a time in all of our lives where we have to take a giant leap off the deep end and see where we land. It's never an easy thing to do, because it requires letting go of all that we hold sacred, and throwing it to the wind. We look deep into the chasms of our own lives, and we question everything that we have avoided, in an effort to clean out the dark, damp corners. And in the end, we are still completely unprepared for what lies ahead of us.

But it's healthy.

Healthy in the sense that we should never cling too tightly to our own castles. Never should we allow ourselves to become 'satisfied' with where we are. Always pushing forward, always growing, always seeking to better ourselves. But we are a complacent people, choosing to rest on our laurels when we should push another mile before the sun sets. So God pushes us off the deep-end with only the phrase, 'trust.'

So trust I will. I will not be the rich man, who cannot follow Jesus, but I will be a fisherman, who drops his nets and goes. God, help me to be a fisherman.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Crumbling Tower

20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

22Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

God knows I have done enough thinking in the past month. There are times when it feels like a mountain is infront of me, and when I get to the peak, it collapses around me. While I slide down the steep embankment, God is faithful to remind me that I am not on my own personal mission, but on His.

That's a foundational difference. God has set before me a vision, and a dream; Any opposition acts as a litmus test for the vision I have in my own mind. Is it from me, or is it from God? What is it that the critic is saying? Are they challenging me based off of the desire to see me bettered, or attempting to hinder the dream at any cost? Are their criticisms valid, or are they flowing out of fear, or malice?

Paul knew exactly what he was saying when he wrote to Timothy. Don't let these people pull you down into the mire, that's not what is important. Keep your eyes on the horizon, keep running that race, and rid yourself of all the things that hold you back. Let your heart rest upon the only true, noble goal, God. This training is paramount to the mission on which Timothy is on, because it rids him of everything that will drag him into the mud.

Finally, and consequently, Timothy will learn to deal with these critics in a very Godly manner. Gently, but not weak. To instruct them in what God has to say, to lead them on to the vision God has placed on his heart. No deterrent. No hesitation. No looking back. Build up and support those who are around you, encourage them in the fight, that we may push the battle lines forward together, and realize that this mountain does not need to be climbed, it can be moved.

Youth is never a hindrance to the plans of God. In fact, the enthusiasm they bring to the table is often a boon. But that is a topic for another day.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rock

The Wise and Foolish Builders
Matthew 7 -- 24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

Jesus must have known more intimately that we can imagine what it meant to be human. We like to glaze over the humanity of our saviour in favour of his Godship. We place him far about the clouds, where we can stand and adore him, and forget that he purposefully came down from that pedestal to understand what it meant to be human.

Thirty years he worked as a carpenter. Building, destroying, planning, hurting. Working in the heat of the sun, enjoying a cool drink of water, hitting himself with a hammer. Sitting down at the end of the day utterly exhausted. Sweaty, dirty, smelly. He was a man, too.

What more this statement must have meant for those listening to him. Jesus, a man that had grown up, talking about the need to build your house on a rock. This was a man (a God-man) who knew what this concept meant, what all it entailed, and why it was so integral to our daily lives.

The Rock. Building our house upon a rock. I'm no builder, but I'd imagine it would be a lot more work to build on that rock. More preparations would have to be made, you'd have to carry heavy loads up the rock so you could assemble them. More effort would have to be asserted to secure the building on it's foundation. It would be a lot of work.

But that rock holds steady in the midst of life storms. No matter what the wind may throw at you, the foundation would cling to your walls and hold it steady. That rock would never move despite all that nature would throw against it.

I'm learning (again) what it means to build my house on this rock. While I wish I could say I only needed to learn something once, and it would be mine for all of time, it is not true. I am but a man, and I find myself relearning the basics far too often. While the winds around me throw their fury against the paper walls I've built, the Rock reminds me where I need to build. It's more work, it's less travelled, but the results are worth it.

When the world shifts around me, and the thunder storms roar, there is a peace deep within my soul. It soothes me when I cry, and it laughs jovially with me in my peace. It listens when uncertainty draws near, and my friends are distant, and it withdraws itself when I begin to take it for granted.

Life is a journey, and there are mountains to be transversed. Remember, however, that your house should always be built upon that Rock.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Moving On

There comes a time in everyone's life when you have to move on. It may be from a relationship, a job, a town, a church, friends or family, but you must move on. A variety of reasons could be influencing your decision, and there may be a momentous backstory that drives you forward. Nonetheless, there is a pulling deep within you that begs you endlessly to stay where you are, to not move on.

Change is never easy.

It is always the easy thing to stay with status quo. "It's good enough," you might say to yourself, and in many ways it very well may be true. But is it the best that you can possibly do? Is this really challenging you, is it's really what's best for you?

These are some of the questions I have been asking myself over the past few months. I poured my heart out into numerous situations, and it didn't pan out. Things didn't go the way I thought they would, and I got burned. That is part of life, you live and you learn.

One thing in particular that I've learned is that you must move on. It's hard, and you fight every ounce in your being, but that clean cut is so important. It allows you to heal, it allows you to grieve, and most importantly it allows you closure. You can reflect, meditate, grow and flourish from that point forward.

Moving on is healthy. It's good. And it hurts.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Feel Like This Sometimes


God, give me the strength I need to keep on walking.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Taking Risks

Safe. A Haven of Rest.

But is it?

What have we created? How have we twisted one of the most beautiful gifts we have received into something mutated and fragile? We push those we need the most away because they offend us, they challenge us, and they make us worry about security. Suddenly the entire world is put into flux, and we are tossed and thrown about, unsure of when it will stop.

But I wonder if this isn't exactly how Jesus wanted it to be. Think about it with me for a moment. Jesus comes from heaven, and spends 30 years observing us. Getting the lay of the land, if you will. I'm sure there were some very remarkable moments in there. At the age of 12 he was teaching in the temple courts, astounding even the learned teachers of the day. When he comes into his own, and begins his ministry, he turns everyone on their head.

To follow Jesus is to drop everything. Your job, your security, your life, your family; nothing is sacred except Him. But we've been here. This is ground that we've tread before. Jesus was not a nice man, but he was great, he was determined, and he was demanding.

Can you imagine? You tell Jesus that you will follow him wherever he goes, and the response is, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Ok, Jesus. Whatever you say.

This is the same man who goes out on a boat, falls asleep and only wakes when his disciples wake him because a storm is going to rip the boat into pieces. Lightning flashes in the backgrounds, another wave rolls over the sides of the boat, as your friends are bailing out water as fast as they can, and it still gets higher. Perhaps he even yawns a little, looks at you, and proceeds to demean you because you have little faith. LITTLE FAITH!? We're all about to drown, and he's sleeping!

Following Jesus is risky business. So why have we made it safe?

Jesus will take care of you. Jesus will wash away all your fears. Jesus will shelter you from the storms of life. Is this really true? Did Jesus himself say any of these things, or are they anecdotes we have made up to comfort ourselves?

Jesus will take care of us, but not always in the way we want. He will do what is best for us, not what is easiest. I'll be honest with you, that sucks. It puts you right in the middle of things, and He'll ask you for everything you have. Gold is purified through fire, and so are we.

Jesus will wash away all our fears. I have been doing some thinking lately, and my young mind has begun to realize that most of my decisions are made out of fear. Fear of losing something, of gaining something, of being something, of being seen as something, etc. Jesus gives us the freedom to choose another option than fear, but he doesn't rip it from our hands. That's up to us.

Jesus will shelter us from the storms of life. Do you know of one great Christian who could testify to being sheltered? Jesus keeps us afloat. Jesus makes sure we don't drown, but Jesus also puts us right out in the middle of the lake. He does this so that we are very clear about who is guiding the boat, and who is in control.

Following Jesus is hard. So why do we spend so much time trying to make it simple?

Taking risks is a core characteristic of following Christ. He will ask you for everything, absolutely everything, and you will realize that you take many things sacred that you never knew about.

The next time you walk into a church service, ask yourself the question, what risks am I taking walking through these doors? What risks could we take to follow after Christ? Am I really sold out for Him?

Just asking those questions is taking a risk... He might answer.

Sometimes It Just Hurts

Sometimes the best things for us are the things that hurt us. When you get shot with a bullet, you must pull it out, and cauterize the wound before you bleed to death. Both of which can be extremely painful. Pushing pincers into a hole in your skin to grab a metal object and rip it from your body cannot be an experience anyone would wish upon themselves. Taking another hot metal object and touching it to their gaping wound to essentially burn themselves is also unpleasant.

Yet both are necessary for survival.

So we move forward in our lives, taking bullets, and healing from them. But none of this makes it easier. Each wound is fresh, and it hurts. Some bullets go deeper than others, and I'm in the process of pulling one right out of my heart. I don't enjoy it, it's not fun. But it is necessary to move forward, upward and onward.

The Fray - How to Save a Life

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defence
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Accountability

I've always wondered why churches seem to be a cess pool for undesirable people. Why pedophiles, rapists and perverts seem to find a home within a church, and often go unchecked until a scandal breaks out... and then is quickly brushed under the carpet. I wonder these things because it doesn't strike me as the kind of Church that Paul, Peter, or Jesus would have wanted. It doesn't align with the way the Israelites were commanded to deal with sin, and no where in the Bible have I read, "Thou shalt forgive others unconditionally."

Let me clarify this a little more, before you begin to think that I have gone off the deep end of my theology. I am not abdicating a system where forgiveness cannot be found. I am not condoning a system where judgement is handed out readily, but only one of fairness and a prudent look at the true character of a person, rather than the naive hope of betterment.

The Bible advocates this method clearly. Jesus himself laid it out in Matthew 18:15-20. And what happens if he refuses to listen? Treat him as though he doesn't belong.

How many churches have you been to recently that follow this simple guideline? Talk to the person one-on-one, talk to the person with others, and if they still will not have a repentant attitude, confront them as a church. And if they still refuse? Discipline.

Perhaps I'm being blunt here, but the church has generally become weak, in it's attempt to become nice. Jesus was not a nice man. He got right to the heart of issues, confronting people with their sin. He had ample time for those who were willing to listen and learn, but he was downright rude to those who's hearts were hard.

Tell me, who do we invite in our doors today? Who do we put in positions of leadership?

Is there accountability in church today?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Relevant

Acts 2:37-42

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."

With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
You have to wonder. The church in Acts was particularly relevant to their church. Our society is run by products and people that strive to be relevant to the culture, and yet when it comes to Jesus, we like to shrug it off and say that we are called to be apart. Yet I struggle with the question how. How are we called to be different? Should we separate ourselves entirely and form colonies for believers? Surely we can all see the folly in that. Are we to always wear suits and ties, and put our best image forward? Are we to avoid all the places where we might be seen with sinners, as to separate ourselves?

Somehow, it seems to me that these actions are those of the Pharisees, not of Jesus himself. Jesus went and dove into the world of prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners. He waded among the common people, attending weddings and walking through towns. He taught thousands of people at a time, all eager to learn more about Jesus.

But why? He was different.

Jesus didn't separate himself from the people, he melded with them. His teachings were radically different (the separation) from the teachers of the day, and yet they were relevant because Jesus got to the heart of matters, and didn't avoid the hard questions. If something was on your heart, Jesus would deal with it. If there was sin hiding in your heart, He would root it out.

Is our church today relevant? With our big buildings and fancy powerpoints, we seem to have all the tools we need to reach out to people. But a chasm is deepening between us and culture with every year. We try to be relevant, and culture pulls away. We try to be hip, and people call us fake. He try to use the latest technology to bring people in, and it fails to convey the real message.

The basics. Jesus was all about the basics. How do you live? Are you following God? Where is your heart at? He was strangely bold, and yet sensitive at the same time. Aslan is not a tame lion.

We as a church need to learn what it means to LIVE our message. Starting first with rooting out the sin in our own hearts, collectively, and consecrate ourselves to be holy. Stop the bickering and fighting and focus on the only thing that matters: God.

Then, and only then, can we look outward to the world around us, and focus on what is on their hearts. We are the salt. We are the light.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

On the Topic of Church

Perhaps it is me. Actually, come to think of it, it most likely IS me. I enjoy pushing people's buttons, and seeing what comes out. Sometimes it is something you never expected to see, and sometimes it is something you hopes you never would see. Christians above all are fun to push outside of their comfort zones, because we design church all around others comfort zones.

You walk in the door, and there is usually someone there to greet you. They have a warm smile, and a ready handshake. But if you don't want to 'confront' the greeters, you don't have to. You can just as easily slip by them. There is a foyer area, with coffee urns ready to give you a free boost to make it through the pastor's sermon this week. When you enter the sanctuary, there are ushers there to give you a bulletin, and point you in the right direction.

You sit down, usually on a comfy pew (because those old, hard ones weren't comfortable), and are free to open your bulletin to inform anyone around you that you aren't too interested in talking. It will tell you what you can expect from the morning service, the latest goings on in the local hospital, and any events you may want to attend (or avoid) for that week.

Shortly thereafter, the music will start, cuing the herding of people into the sanctuary. They will quickly sit down, trying to be as polite in fighting for their normal spots as possible. If you happen to be sitting in 'their' spot, they will politely shuffle towards you, give you a polite smile, and then start polite small talk with you.

Then comes singing. You can expect songs like, "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High", "Great is Thy Faithfulness", "The Old Rugged Cross", "Shout to the Lord", "Shine, Jesus Shine" and other such songs. Don't worry if you don't know any of them, just close your eyes and think about your week. People will be impressed, I promise. You can point your eyes to the front also, where the words will be queued on a giant screen, with beautiful backgrounds. Be prepared, as some people may raise their heads, and if you're in a particularly lively service, people may sway back and forth in some semblance to the beat.

Ultimately, there will be a point in time when some man (most likely) will get up in front of the entire crowd. Everyone will come to a gentle hush, with the strange buzz of practised anticipation. And here's the main attraction, the show. You know what he'll do? Talk. And talk. And talk. Sometimes it'll even be interesting. Some will take notes, some will nod their heads in agreement (we think), and some will sleep. Since you're there, I'm sure you'll try to pay attention. You'll have wide open ears. But after six or seven minutes of listening to a monotone drone, your mind will start to wander. Thoughts of sunshine, dinner, swimming and the ocean will cross your mind. And then it'll snap back as you remind yourself that it's relevant, and important to your well-being.

And then you'll leave. Did it make a difference? Do you remember what it was he talked about? Will you tell anyone about it tomorrow?

Is this the church that Jesus envisioned? Is this really His body? Are we the vehicle to take His message to the nations? Somehow, in it's current iteration, I doubt it.

So what then? I don't know. But I hope you'll journey with me as I seek out that answer.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jumbled

Have you ever attempted to write something that has no meaning to you? It's horrendous. Have you ever attempted to write something that has no meaning to you when your head is filled with things that tear your heart out? It's nigh impossible. I have spent today attempting to give my thoughts a path to drive down, and they decided to go four by fouring.

Not the Cherokee, this is sort of a gravel road kind of offroading either. We're talking through fields that are layered in feet of mud, rocks nearly as big as the car, and tree trunks that have never seen man before. They wander free over the landscape that is my life, and dare me to tame them.

Lack of work, lack of direction, lack of security, indecision, uncertainty, and doubts fill my mind. They tear at me, begging me to lay down. They laugh as they push me round, biting and scraping at me until I fall. But I cannot, I will not give them my will. Remember, we were all bought at a price.

One moment, it seems like I have everything sorted out, and five minutes later the framework has crumbled before me. I'm left back where I started, attempting to piece things together. But it is amazing how a simple conversation can help you sort things through. Amazingly, verbalizing your discombobulation snaps it into order. The reality is that this life is not my own.

So I broke up with Jordan. Someone who I loved, and continue to love right now. That is, by far, the hardest decision I have had to make yet in my young life. Did I have good reasons? I sure hope so. Do they feel like they are enough? Never. But as I talked with someone this evening, the reason why became bright and clear once more, we're at different places in life.

Have you ever tried to drive a standard that's clutch is going? Either you engage the clutch, give it some gas, and it slips out of gear, or you go to put it into gear, and the gears clash, grind and make everyone in the car wince. There is no proper way to drive a car like that, you have to take it into the mechanics to get it fixed, and quickly. If the clutch and the gears aren't in sync, then you go nowhere.

So I don't have a job, and there are no real tantalizing prospects. I don't have an infinite source of funds, and I am looking to God to provide me with passion. And so far, I've drawn blanks. Sure, there are some ok jobs that may come through, but somehow, I just don't find myself energized, I find myself stressed out. So we go back to the topic of peace. Peace is knowing that when everything is falling apart around you, God is in control. And He reminds me of that daily, hourly, sometimes by the minute.

Who needs money anyways?

Lord I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I'm awake
Lord have Your way in me

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Breaking Point

I have a confession to make. It may not seem like a big deal once you really find out what it is, but to me, it's absolutely monumental. You see, I don't know about you, but I spend a lot of time adjusting how people think about me. Perhaps one person is too close, so I pull away just a little bit, or maybe I want them to pull away, so I'll adjust my behaviour. Or maybe I notice that I said something really awkward the last time I was with a group of people, so this time I'll keep my mouth shut, and laugh at all the right times, so they think better of me.

You see, I live a lie. I really wish it wasn't this way, and I have a feeling I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to correct it. I can put all the Jesus mumbo jumbo on it I want to try to justify it or cover it up, but the reality of the situation is that I'm not good enough. I'm deprived, I'm sick, and whether God sees me as perfect or not, I still struggle with the fact that I'm not.

The past month or so has been spent praying. Praying about what is going on, praying for answers, praying for relief, praying for this, or that. Honestly, if you listened to my prayers, you'd think that God was a supermarket, and everything was on sale. "Moaning Young Adult on Isle 3, Cleanup on Isle 3 please!" Supermarkets are great. You go in, you take your cart, you browse a little, take a guilty pleasure stroll down the candy isle, and you leave your money and take everything home.

God is not a supermarket.

No, God is more like going home for the holidays. You show up, you greet everyone, you are amazed at how they look, once you get past the small talk, you start telling them how you're really doing, and then you want their advice. You want to feel loved. This is the one place where the people know you so well, that it doesn't make sense to lie. They saw you naked, and they still love you. They heard your voice squeak, and they only made fun of you for a few years. They were at your soccer games. You don't take what you want from them... you give back too. To talk to God requires conversation.

I'm scared, there's no point in denying it. Everything in my life is in upheaval. Perhaps it's because I've been depending on my old friend, me. Me has all the skills he needs to survive. Me knows what is best. Me can get everything and anything done just when it needs to be done. Me needs to be taken out back and shot.

Enough of Me. I'm sick of me. More of You. Let it all be You.

I've tried to do it on my own. It never works. Let it be a stake in the ground. Here is where I pick up my rusty armour, don my unused sword and begin that journey back Home once more. God willing, I'll see you there.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

No One Said it Wasn't Going to Hurt

Deuteronomy 31:8

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never
leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Jesus never promised to make us happy. He never promised that the path would be smooth, paved and free of potholes... in fact, he promised just the opposite. Have you ever stopped to think about how idiotic that is? This is God incarnate, wanting to establish a new way of interacting with the beings He created, and He tells them that their life will be hell if they decide to follow him. They will be tortured, made fun of, spat at, hated, all because they believe in Him. Who in their right mind would ever do that?

Worse yet, there are times when He, like any good parent, asks us to do things that suck. The plain old, bottom lip out, arms crossed and stomping across the room on my heels as hard as I can, are you looking at me, kind of way.

The difference is, He's not asking us to do the dishes. He's asking for absolute trust.

Have you ever participated in those trust exercises? You know the ones... before a support group starts, there has to be a common trust between everyone, so they put you all through ridiculous exercises like training dogs. You fall backwards into other people's arms. You go through fake-stressful situations so that you learn to 'bond' and 'trust' one another. Do you get the same feeling I do? These don't actually build trust, but merely facilitate you realizing the inevitable: that person you're catching would KILL you if you didn't catch them.

That's not trust. That's duty.

God doesn't need us. He doesn't require our worship to exist. The guy doesn't even sleep, because He created the sun and the moon. He doesn't need us to trust Him.

But we need to trust in Him.

It's a terrible human paradox. We need to be needed, and this is one situation where we definitely are not needed.

I have to learn to trust all over again. I have walked this path so many times before, and each time I look down, it seems like I'm treading the same territory one more time. You know what I've realized? This is not the same turf, but it is the same lesson. You take math for twelve years in school, and each time the grade you're taking builds off of the previous one. My faith is something like that.

It doesn't make it any easier.

I'll be completely honest with you, I'm hurting. More than I can really put into words or express in a tangible way. Father, you are taking me down a path I am unsure of. I feel as though there is a knife in my side, yet knowing full well that this is what you want for me. It gives me a strange peace in this storm.

Trust. I have confidence in what God is doing.

God never said this journey wasn't going to hurt. He promised me that it would hurt me, rob me of my innocence and rose coloured glasses. I didn't expect it to cost so many lives, literally an emotionally. I didn't realize that I would so often feel numb inside, and feel like quitting. I didn't know that I would stand at the front of the battle lines, heaving and thrusting, over and over until my muscles burn and threaten to buckle under the strain. I didn't know that it would rip my heart from my chest so that others could grow. That I would give up everything and everyone I love in a pursuit of something greater.

This hurts like hell. And the frightening thing is, it's all worth it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why I Hate Fixing Cars

It's funny how many people have been commenting on how 'handy' I must be with cars recently because of some of the work that I and Paul, my brother, are planning on doing. Keep that last part in mind, because it's very important. On my old Jetta, we replaced the glow plugs, replaced the cold-start cable and a few other various things. On the Golf (hereafter affectionately referred to as 'Jade'), we haven't done a whole lot together, but that won't stop the future fixing that problem. We plan on dropping the transmission out of her, new wheels, bigger turbo, etc etc. Basically, Jade is going to be one mean lady by the time we're done.

Did I mention that I hate working on cars?

The don't make an ounce of sense to me. If I sit down with a computer, I know that I can always fix whatever problem I might accidentally create. Google is my best friend, and there are no depths that I am not willing to poke. Because I know that I can always dig myself out of any cave in my actions might create. I don't have that feeling with vehicles.

I went yesterday to change the oil. Nothing hard, pop off the engine cover, drain the oil, replace the filter, the oil plug and then refill. It's not rocket science. But we have to get that engine cover off.

The beautiful thing is that all of the bolts holding the engine cover were stripped or broken. Probably by some naive action I had performed in the past. What should have been a 30 minute maintenance took myself and my father nearly 4 hours and a trip to Canadian tire to fix. We ended up having to drill off the bolts so that we could get the cover off.

Then, with my confidence shot, we had to change the oil. Nothing big, but who knows what I can screw up on a routine job.

If only cars had a format option to put them back to factory settings.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A letter to the Global Church from The Protestant Church of Smyrna

Dear friends,
This past week has been filled with much sorrow. Many of you have heard by now of our devastating loss here in an event that took place in Malatya, a Turkish province 300 miles northeast of Antioch, the city where believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

On Wednesday morning, April 18, 2007, 46 year old German missionary and father of three Tilman Geske prepared to go to his office, kissing his wife goodbye taking a moment to hug his son and give him the priceless memory, “Goodbye, son. I love you.”

Tilman rented an office space from Zirve Publishing where he was preparing notes for the new Turkish Study Bible. Zirve was also the location of the Malatya Evangelist Church office. A ministry of the church, Zirve prints and distributes Christian literature to Malatya and nearby cities in Eastern Turkey. In another area of town, 35 year old Pastor Necati Aydin, father of two, said goodbye to his wife, leaving for the office as well. They had a morning Bible Study and prayer meeting that some other believers in town would also be attending. Ugur Yuksel likewise made his way to the Bible study.

None of these three men knew that what awaited them at the Bible study was the ultimate testing and application of their faith, which would conclude with their entrance into glory to receive their crown of righteousness from Christ and honor from all the saints awaiting them in the Lord’s presence.

On the other side of town, ten young men all under 20 years old put into place final arrangements for their ultimate act of faith, living out their love for Allah and hatred of infidels who they felt undermined Islam.

On Resurrection Sunday, five of these men had been to a by-invitation-only evangelistic service that Pastor Necati and his men had arranged at a hotel conference room in the city. The men were known to the believers as “seekers.” No one knows what happened in the hearts of those men as they listened to the gospel. Were they touched by the Holy Spirit? Were they convicted of sin? Did they hear the gospel in their heart of hearts? Today we only have the beginning of their story.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam. Tarikat membership is highly respected here; it’s like a fraternity membership. In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat. These young men all lived in the same dorm, all preparing for university entrance exams.

The young men got guns, breadknives, ropes and towels ready for their final act of service to Allah. They knew there would be a lot of blood. They arrived in time for the Bible Study, around 10 o’clock.

They arrived, and apparently the Bible Study began. Reportedly, after Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault began. The boys tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman’s hands and feet to chairs and as they videoed their work on their cellphones, they tortured our brothers for almost three hours*

[Details of the torture--
* Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times and Ugur’s stabs were too numerous to count. They were disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body parts were destroyed. Fingers were chopped off, their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open. Possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers were likewise tortured. Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, heads practically decapitated.]

Neighbors in workplaces near the printhouse said later they had heard yelling, but assumed the owners were having a domestic argument so they did not respond.

Meanwhile, another believer Gokhan and his wife had a leisurely morning. He slept in till 10, ate a long breakfast and finally around 12:30 he and his wife arrived at the office. The door was locked from the inside, and his key would not work. He phoned and though it had connection on his end he did not hear the phone ringing inside. He called cell phones of his brothers and finally Ugur answered his phone. “We are not at the office. Go to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there,” he said cryptically. As Ugur spoke Gokhan heard in the telephone’s background weeping and a strange snarling sound.

He phoned the police, and the nearest officer arrived in about five minutes. He pounded on the door, “Police, open up!” Initially the officer thought it was a domestic disturbance. At that point they heard another snarl and a gurgling moan. The police understood that sound as human suffering, prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene.

Tilman and Necati had been slaughtered, practically decapitated with their necks slit from ear to ear. Ugur’s throat was likewise slit and he was barely alive.

Three assailants in front of the policeman dropped their weapons.

Meanwhile Gokhan heard a sound of yelling in the street. Someone had fallen from their third story office. Running down, he found a man on the ground, whom he later recognized, named Emre Gunaydin. He had massive head trauma and, strangely, was snarling. He had tried to climb down the drainpipe to escape, and losing his balance had plummeted to the ground. It seems that he was the main leader of the attackers. Another assailant was found hiding on a lower balcony.

To untangle the web we need to back up six years. In April 2001, the National Security Council of Turkey (Milli Guvenlik Kurulu) began to consider evangelical Christians as a threat to national security, on equal footing as Al Quaida and PKK terrorism. Statements made in the press by political leaders, columnists and commentators have fueled a hatred against missionaries who they claim bribe young people to change their religion.

After that decision in 2001, attacks and threats on churches, pastors and Christians began. Bombings, physical attacks, verbal and written abuse are only some of the ways Christians are being targetted. Most significant is the use of media propaganda.

From December 2005, after having a long meeting regarding the Christian threat, the wife of Former Prime Minister Ecevit, historian Ilber Ortayli, Professor Hasan Unsal, Politician Ahmet Tan and writer/propogandist Aytunc Altindal, each in their own profession began a campaign to bring the public’s attention to the looming threat of Christians who sought to “buy their children’s souls”. Hidden cameras in churches have taken church service footage and used it sensationally to promote fear and antagonism toward Christianity.

In an official televised response from Ankara, the Interior Minister of Turkey smirked as he spoke of the attacks on our brothers. Amid public outrage and protests against the event and in favor of freedom of religion and freedom of thought, media and official comments ring with the same message, “We hope you have learned your lesson. We do not want Christians here.”

It appears that this was an organized attack initiated by an unknown adult tarikat leader. As in the Hrant Dink murder in January 2007, and a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006, minors are being used to commit religious murders because public sympathy for youth is strong and they face lower penalties than an adult convicted of the same crime. Even the parents of these children are in favor of the acts. The mother of the 16 year old boy who killed the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro looked at the cameras as her son was going to prison and said, “he will serve time for Allah.”

The young men involved in the killing are currently in custody. Today news reported that they would be tried as terrorists, so their age would not affect the strict penalty. Assailant Emre Gunaydin is still in intensive care. The investigation centers around him and his contacts and they say will fall apart if he does not recover.

The Church in Turkey responded in a way that honored God as hundreds of believers and dozens of pastors flew in as fast as they could to stand by the small church of Malatya and encourage the believers, take care of legal issues, and represent Christians to the media.

When Susanne Tilman expressed her wish to bury her husband in Malatya, the Governor tried to stop it, and when he realized he could not stop it, a rumor was spread that “it is a sin to dig a grave for a Christian.” In the end, in an undertaking that should be remembered in Christian history forever, the men from the church in Adana (near Tarsus), grabbed shovels and dug a grave for their slain brother in an un-tended hundred year old Armenian graveyard.

Ugur was buried by his family in an Alevi Muslim ceremony in his hometown of Elazig, his believing fiance watching from the shadows as his family and friends refused to accept in death the faith Ugur had so long professed and died for.

Necati’s funeral took place in his hometown of Izmir, the city where he came to faith. The darkness does not understand the light. Though the churches expressed their forgiveness for the event, Christians were not to be trusted. Before they would load the coffin onto the plane from Malatya, it went through two separate xray exams to make sure it was not loaded with explosives. This is not a usual procedure for Muslim coffins.

Necati’s funeral was a beautiful event. Like a glimpse of heaven, thousands of Turkish Christians and missionaries came to show their love for Christ, and their honor for this man chosen to die for Christ. Necati’s wife Shemsa told the world, “His death was full of meaning, because he died for Christ and he lived for Christ… Necati was a gift from God. I feel honored that he was in my life, I feel crowned with honor. I want to be worthy of that honor.”

Boldly the believers took their stand at Necati’s funeral, facing the risks of being seen publicly and likewise becoming targets. As expected, the anti-terror police attended and videotaped everyone attending the funeral for their future use. The service took place outside at Buca Baptist church, and he was buried in a small Christian graveyard in the outskirts of Izmir.

Two assistant Governors of Izmir were there solemnly watching the event from the front row. Dozens of news agencies were there documenting the events with live news and photographs. Who knows the impact the funeral had on those watching? This is the beginning of their story as well. Pray for them.

In an act that hit front pages in the largest newspapers in Turkey, Susanne Tilman in a television interview expressed her forgiveness. She did not want revenge, she told reporters. “Oh God, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she said, wholeheartedly agreeing with the words of Christ on Calvary (Luke 23:34).

In a country where blood-for-blood revenge is as normal as breathing, many many reports have come to the attention of the church of how this comment of Susanne Tilman has changed lives. One columnist wrote of her comment, “She said in one sentence what 1000 missionaries in 1000 years could never do.”

The missionaries in Malatya will most likely move out, as their families and children have become publicly identified as targets to the hostile city. The remaining 10 believers are in hiding. What will happen to this church, this light in the darkness? Most likely it will go underground. Pray for wisdom, that Turkish brothers from other cities will go to lead the leaderless church. Should we not be concerned for that great city of Malatya, a city that does not know what it is doing? (Jonah 4:11)

When our Pastor Fikret Bocek went with a brother to give a statement to the Security Directorate on Monday they were ushered into the Anti-Terror Department. On the wall was a huge chart covering the whole wall listing all the terrorist cells in Izmir, categorized. In one prominent column were listed all the evangelical churches in Izmir. The darkness does not understand the light. “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts 17:6)

Please pray for the Church in Turkey. “Don’t pray against persecution, pray for perseverence,” urges Pastor Fikret Bocek.

The Church is better having lost our brothers; the fruit in our lives, the renewed faith, the burning desire to spread the gospel to quench more darkness in Malatya …all these are not to be regretted. Pray that we stand strong against external opposition and especially pray that we stand strong against internal struggles with sin, our true debilitating weakness.

This we know. Christ Jesus was there when our brothers were giving their lives for Him. He was there, like He was when Stephen was being stoned in the sight of Saul of Tarsus.

Someday the video of the deaths of our brothers may reveal more to us about the strength that we know Christ gave them to endure their last cross, about the peace the Spirit of God endowed them with to suffer for their beloved Savior. But we know He did not leave their side. We know their minds were full of Scripture strengthening them to endure, as darkness tried to subdue the unsubduable Light of the Gospel. We know, in whatever way they were able, with a look or a word, they encouraged one another to stand strong. We know they knew they would soon be with Christ.

We don’t know the details. We don’t know the kind of justice that will or will not be served on this earth.

But we pray-- and urge you to pray-- that someday at least one of those five boys will come to faith because of the testimony in death of Tilman Geske, who gave his life as a missionary to his beloved Turks, and the testimonies in death of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, the first martyrs for Christ out of the Turkish Church.

Reported by Darlene N. Bocek (24 April 2007)
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Please please please pass this on to as many praying Christians as you can, in as many countries as you can. Please always keep the heading as “From the Protestant Church of Smyrna” with this contact information: izmirprotestan@gmail.com // http://www.izmirprotestan.org

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

People

It's funny. You got to a different country, and it opens your perspective to what you missed while you were at home. The luxuries that we indulge in everyday and simply take for granted.

But my passions just haven't changed.

I spent the whole day driving around and talking to different people. The FIM board, filling them in on what happened in Fiji, a friend who I've been keeping tabs on, professors, friends, random people. Each of the conversations were excellent, each of them showed me once again where my passions lay: people.

We are constantly changing, never the same. We have different issues, different hurts, different joys. We look at God differently, and through this collective knowledge and amalgamated variables, we have a complete picture. Exactly the way God intended it.

Each of us has something to contribute, something valuable. I love being able to bring that out in people.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

62 Ways to Say "I Love You"

1. Say "I love you."
2. Don't compare them to anyone.
3. Be courteous at all times.
4. Embrace the present moments without fear or guilt.
5. Live by the Golden Rule (Do unto others….).
6. Give them your full attention when talking.
7. Become their biggest fan!
8. Toast each other regularly.
9. Tell them how they bring love to your life.
10. Share funny quotes or events.
11. Talk about your day during mealtimes.
12. Read books aloud together.
13. Say you're sorry.
14. Recall good and bad memories.
15. Let go any bad experience and anger.
16. Encourage health in all its forms.
17. Let the tears flow together.
18. Act silly together.
19. Be lavish in praise.
20. Ask questions about opinions, feelings, thoughts.
21. Forget about labels.
22. Encourage adventures and risks!
23. Show your joy when they come home.
24. Bake cookies.
25. Forget about past mistakes.
26. Use flannel sheets in the winter.
27. Solve problems together - crosswords or war.
28. Show your gratitude for them.
29. Be a good sounding board.
30. Take pride in them. Show your pride.
31. Compliment them in front of others.
32. Spend time with them.
33. Listen to them.
34. Ask for hugs and kisses.
35. Take vacations together.
36. Tell the truth.
37. Use pet names.
38. Practice self-acceptance.
39. Hunt for treasure together.
40. Be interested in their interests.
41. Let go of jealousy.
42. Accept their weaknesses and flaws.
43. Ditch work or responsibilities to play with them.
44. Share chocolates, ice cream sundaes, milkshakes.
45. Ignore slights.
46. Pray or meditate together.
47. Practice forgiveness.
48. Watch classic movies together.
49. Leave notes or send letters.
50. Buy a "for no reason" gift.
51. Don't gossip or judge.
52. Give the benefit of the doubt.
53. Give space when they're in a bad or sad mood.
54. Learn something new together.
55. Go dancing.
56. Keep your promises.
57. Make them laugh.
58. Consider their feelings.
59. Hide a treat in their lunch.
60. Make home a fun place to be.
61. Let them make their own decisions.
62. Say what you mean.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Home

I've finally arrived back in Canada. The travelling was fairly uneventful, and other than one of my bags arriving a day later that I did, everything went smoothly.

I'm still getting over jet-lag, which is really just feeling tired at odd times of the day. I just push through it, and am trying to adjust my sleep schedule accordingly. And finally, home is one of the best places you could ever find yourself. There is family, food, hot showers, warm beds and lots of love. I am comfortable, at ease.

With this, I find great joy, as my heart, my soul can finally relax and just let themselves take a breather. I am home.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Heading Home

Well it's confirmed. I leave Fiji tonight at 10 PM. I arrive 49 minutes later in Vancouver... I WISH! It'll be over a 24 hour transit time, but it will be a good thing, as I look forward to spending sometime with family and friends.

God has used me while I've been here, but I get the distinct impression I may never know the full extent of what He has done through me here.

But I'm going home! YES!

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Final Night

There is a good chance that tonight will be my final night here in Fiji. It's been a wild and bumpy ride, of an extent that I would have never been able to anticipate. Looking back on it though, you have to recognize that God has had His hand in it all. I'm not sure why He brought me here yet, and maybe I'll never know, but do I need to know?

The truth of the matter is that I'm where I need to be, and I always have been. He will guide me, He will direct me to the exact place that He wants me. My job is merely to be there and do what He asks me to do. I would like to think I've done that while I've been here in Fiji. It's not always been easy, and the words are rarely gentle words... reconciling that with my mission has been one of the hardest things I've had to do.

But now I can look forward. I will probably head home tomorrow night. I can rest for a few weeks, and then begin my job hunt. I can take a bit of a breather from the intense stuff for awhile as I look to God for my next adventure.

On the final night, I can honestly say that I leave this place with a peace in my heart. That gives me great joy.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Never Forget

Our life brings us in contact with hundreds of different people. Some of them we will call friends, most we will never get to know, and some we will call enemies.

Hopefully the last of those categories will be the least, and hopefully we will not sacrifice what we believe so that most fall into the first. I would much rather be known as someone who stands for what I believe in than someone who compromises to make another person comfortable.

I honestly have no idea what my life will look like, but I have a small indication that it will not be filled with tea and cookies. There are times when my own pride gets in the way of a relationship, when I seek more for my own good than for the relationship. In those times I am desperately wrong, and I hope that years and wisdom will cull that behaviour out of me, so that it is not my pride, but theirs that hold back the relationship.

What do I mean by that? I mean that if someone calls me their friend, they are willing to face their problems, their own sin and stare it straight in the eye, demanding it out. They will be honest, decent people who are faithful and true. And if either of us are to cut the relationship short, it will because they will not face their own fear, their own sin.

In the midst of that, the desire is only to see people grow closer to God. Whether that be in looking to their past and facing the one thing they have avoided their entire life, or having done so, learning how to interact with God in both a personal and reverent manner. I have no idea what these things look like, I am still sorting them out for myself.

Friends. These people I cling to with a desperate fervour. They are faithful, true and they mean the world to me because of what we have been through. Their words are spoken wisely, and chosen carefully, for they know the impact they have on others. These are the people whom I trust.

As I leave Fiji, there are a few things that cross my mind. There is still much to be done here in Fiji, and I will continue to pray that God will bring about the right people to come here and work with the locals, strengthening the churches here. The people are thirsty for others to teach them from the Word of God in new and creative ways. To be encouraged to carry on in the faith when the going gets tough and make a difference in their communities. They can do great things, if only they had someone to show them the way. But to be here, to live here requires a heart for the people and the nation. It is not easy, and it is definitely not paradise. It has many flaws, and many schisms in the fa├žade of a perfect place. There are many pitfalls, and many spots over which to stumble, and above all, I could not see someone doing it alone.

I hope many people will join me in praying for this nation, because the battle here has only just begun, and the people need as much cover as they can get. It will be long, bloody and furious. We must fight with them for what is right and true, so that they will find out once again what it means to live under the spirit of freedom.

These two things, of friends and battles, we must never forget.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bleeding Hearts

My hope is that in the next few years, God will raise up people who will have hearts for the people of Fiji. I was walking around today, and noting how desperately they need the gospel of Christ in their lives from people who are dedicated to living out the word of God for them. There are tons of ministry opportunities here for working with local organizations and pastors, and networking a giant ministry of churches that are all working together for furthering the kingdom.

They are a welcoming, friendly culture, but as with anywhere you go, there are infinite amounts of pain hiding underneath that smiling face. While the surface seems like crystal smooth glass, the undercurrents are turbulent and chaotic. They need Christians with bleeding hearts to come and show them how God can change their lives in very real ways.

I got up this morning and went to go practice with a Serevi’s rugby team. Man, I’ll tell you something, I could not run regularly in this sun. It’s blistering hot, and I’ve never been so tired so quickly. After about 15 minutes of drills, I was feeling like I was going to lose by small breakfast. Stop what you’re thinking, cause it’s not true!  I have been doing cardio for the past two months while I’ve been in Fiji, so I’m not completely out of shape!

After that, I travelled out to Denarau Island to get onto the internet. They offer free wireless out there, so I made the trip out, and in the end wasn’t sure it was necessarily worth it. I saved myself some money, but it took me a lot more of my time. Afterwards, I walked around town to see if I could find some decent deals on Fijian items, and I was wishing I’d picked up more while I was in Suva. They were higher quality, for less down there. But I’ll have to settle for a bit less!

Preparations are being made... less than a week left.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friends

Good Friday. And I felt like it was anything but. I was up at 8 this morning to be ready for the 9 AM service, sulu and all! While I can’t say the service was anything to write home about (ironic that I should be writing that on a blog... which people from home read), it opened up some new possibilities. Melissa and Serevi invited me over to their place for the day. So after I went to the airport, I walked down to their place.

Melissa is a woman who first came over with YWAM, met Serevi, and they ended up getting married. While I’ve seen them around, I never had a chance to get to know either of them, and I’m glad that before I left, we had that chance. Good conversations, food, laughter and working through the different situations from our different views. These are things that friends offer to us, and I have learned especially now to cling tightly to them.

I spent the whole day there, and I left feeling a little more refreshed than when I came. A little more informed about the situation here in Fiji, but most of all just enlightened and I had a chance to just offload some of my thoughts and then forget about them as we spent time together.

There are many good people here in Fiji, and even while I am gone, they will be in my thoughts and prayers. Friends, each one of them. Different cultures, different worlds, but we share something in common: Christ.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Anticipation

I was all over Nadi today as I closed up some loose ends. There is a flurry of things you need to do when you are unsure of the end date of your stay. One conversation that came out of that was with the pastor at the Dream centre. When I told him that I would most likely be leaving early, he smiled at me and asked if it was homesickness. That raised an interesting point in all of this. I’ve never missed anything back home to the point where it would be the reason for my leaving to go home.

Sure, I’ve had my fair share of missing particular things (milk, hot showers, feeling clean, my car) but none of those things have inhibited my ministry here by being overwhelming in their nature. I have been able to focus on the events and the people that I met while I’ve been here. For that much, I have been thankful.

Now, the anticipation builds. The rush of being back on home soil, of seeing family, Carys, hot showers, homemade food, and the feeling of security. These things I all look forward to, with great anticipation for my arrival at home.

It’s a neat feeling.

This morning, however, I had a chance to speak one last time to the Nadi Airport School for Easter. I took them through a very unorthodox story referring to Jesus taking our place, and ended it with talking about how there is only one way to heaven. So many of those kids are growing up in a Hindu home, and will ultimately end up believing in many gods, hopefully God can water some of these seeds to see it through.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Small Blessings

If there is one thing these past few days have taught me, it’s to appreciate the small blessings that you have in your life. Perhaps that’s hot water, clean water, a roof over your head, food to eat, money to spend, a car, paved roads, friends, family, security, safety, hope, or any other number of things, you have to find that hope.

This morning, after I had my shower, I sat down and had a good chat with Jackson. I am so excited to see and hear of the things that God will do through him in Nadi once he has had some time to spread his wings. His heart truly is in the right place, seeking after God, and he has a heart for the people to whom he is ministering to. Even during our chat, his heart went out to me, and we share a kinship there as look forward to the future. He has been more of an encouragement than I can really put into words, because of the prayers he has offered up for me, and the small words that have lifted me up.

While I was at Jong’s today, I did laundry. As I was talking to people back home, my body literally ached, and my head hurt from all that was running through it. My emotions, my soul and body were connected and they were each feeling the others pain. Imagine my surprise then when I went out to check on my laundry and I found it all folded nicely on top of the dryer waiting for me. I don’t know who did that for me, but such a small gesture was such a huge blessing to me.

These are the things we live for, the small smiles between the storms.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Knowing the Gems

Perhaps these past few months in Fiji have been to show me what it can be like. The question that you ask is what ‘it’ is. This is a very pertinent question, because the entire sentence, indeed my entire thought rests on ‘it’. Our lives will bring us across many people, some of whom will be good, and some who will be inexplicably awful. Perhaps they will do it on purpose, or maybe, just maybe they will do it in complete ignorance. I hope for their sake it will be the latter, maybe then they will have an excuse when they stand before our Father on that final day.

I woke up this morning with a purpose. I was going to dig deep into the word, and then employ a little old fashioned carpe diem. Seize the day and make a difference. Indeed, this was the day to change the world. Until in my surge of excitement, someone tied my shoelaces together, and I fell flat on my face.

After spending 30+ minutes doing my devotions and showering, that fateful moment came. “Stephen, we need to talk.” – breathe deep man; God will carry you through this. Ken once again wanted to have a conversation with me. I quickly got dressed, prayed my heart out, and then went out to meet him. The details of the conversation are really not important. The statements from it are:

You are unfit for ministry

You are an angry person

You have many undealt-with issues

Imagine with me for a moment, as I’m sure you have gotten so good at doing by reading through my blog, that some stranger walks up to you on the street and starts to tell you that you are good for nothing, and the calling that you have received is wrong. You’ll never make it. Now I want you to take that moment in time, and I want you to capture it. Hold it dearly. What emotions are you feeling? How would you react? Where do you think those words are coming from within this stranger, this man?

These are the things I was faced with today. I chose to walk away. I’ll be honest with you, there was pain inside of me, frustration, anger, and much hurt. I was flustered, lost, just like someone took a sword and cut my hamstrings. I was floundering around like a fish.

So I prayed. I prayed hard. And I gathered my things together and set out to carry on my day exactly like I planned, with some small modifications. I was no longer going straight to the Dream Centre to talk to them about helping, but to an internet cafe to consult with those close to me and the situation.

That afternoon I went to the drop-in centre, and talked to them about helping in whatever way I possibly could. I was unsure of how long I was going to spend in Fiji, but just let me help. An opportunity and a glimmer of hope in a very dark place.

The evening came, the time of reckoning. One final conversation, one final opportunity to test what God would have left for me here. I talked to Ken after the Bible study apart from everyone else. Told him the effect his words had on me, and accounted for him the conversations I had with those who are close to me, and to whom I’m accountable. Moving to another church is not an option, and if was not going to work with him, when would I be moving out of the BDC (the place where I am living)?

There it is. The heart of the matter. “Cool, great. When are you getting out?”

Perhaps God shows us what it is like to put our feet on bare coral, to tear them to shreds in the midst of a salty ocean, stinging us to the very core so that we will know what it is like to put our feet on white, perfect sand. Feel it conform to our soles and suck our feet into its warmth. Maybe God gives us these people to reveal to us how much we need to treasure those who support us and give us grace when we need it most.

I will close with this, a simple prayer.
Father,
Thank you for showing me these things.
Place them deep within my heart, and let me never forget the lessons that you have shared with me. Let me treasure with a deep kindred the people who love and support me, and those I will encounter in my future ministry who will be an encouragement to me.
Let me never forget these things. Let me never forget that when I looked back through the sand, into the last two months, and I saw only one set of footprints, it was in those moments that you carried me; and you carry me still. These lessons are like fire.
Thank you for them.
Amen.