Saturday, May 30, 2009

hmm... not sure what to call this one

So, the other day I came across a link to a YouTube video on a friend's blog. I found it quite amusing when I watched it and thought about posting it right away . . . but held off because it could also be something that people find offensive, not because of content but because of the approach to the topic. After watching it a few more times, I have decided to post it . . . with a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: This video is a satirical look at CCM (Contemporary Christian Music). It has taken the song by Nickelback that is a parody of the life of a rock star and made it about the life of a CCM artist. While there are lines in this song that made me think, I want to be clear that this is not the way I think about all of this. In my opinion, it is a good laugh that also leaves one thinking.

I do honestly hope you enjoyed that video if you took the time to watch it. And that you weren't offended by it in any way.

There are some lines from it that have made m think and they may become the subject of a blog post in the future . . . but we'll see about that.

Note: If you are curious to know more about the song, you can click on the YouTube logo in the right hand corner to go to the video on You Tube. On the right hand side of that screen, you'll see an option for "more information" and clicking on that will give you the explanation from the creator of this video.

Monday, May 25, 2009

the authority of Scripture

I was reading in 2 Timothy earlier today and just stopped on a passage that is well known to many people, but I started thinking about it seriously today.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

I started wondering whether we actually believe that in the church today. And, then, if we do believe it, do we live like we do.

I think we do believe this - we believe that all Scripture is from God and that it is useful. But, I'm not sure we always live that out. We can say it and we do say it often, but too many times our actions don't line up with what we say.

Think about it for a moment. If ALL of Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, why do we seem to pick certain parts of it that we will do our best to make a reality in our lives and ignore other parts? I know that as fallen humanity we will never be able to perfectly live it, but should we not at least be applying all parts equally to our lives.

If we are going to tell other Christians that they should not be judging others, should we not also be loving our enemies and those who seek to do us harm? If we are going to say that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, should we not also be following Jesus' example of being a servant to all? If we are going to listen to Jesus' teaching on how to pray, should we not also be taking the Great Commission - the command to take the message of the Gospel to the world - seriously and not just leaving that task to a special few who are called to be missionaries?

I wonder how we have made these distinctions. And I don't think we have done this on purpose. Some of them just sound and seem easier than others. But, if all Scripture is God-breathed, then it is all just as important.

Friday, May 15, 2009

the influence of others in our lives

So, I have apparently been in a bit of a reflective mood the last while. First with the Tribute to my Mom. And now an article I read on a website I frequent has me thinking about some of the people who had an influence on my life when I went to summer camp as a kid. So, let the reflecting continue . . .

I have many memories of summer camp and the fun that I had (at least most of the time). I remember games, activities, skills, crazy skits, crafts, all other kind of fun . . . but what I remember most are some of the counsellors I had in my cabins. They were very often the people who made that week at camp each summer so good. They always seemed to know just when to have fun and act crazy, and when to be serious. And I didn't doubt that they were glad I was there that week.

Over nine summers as a camper, I had a few different counsellors, or cabin leaders as they were called in the later years of my time at camp. Some of them I remember more than others. I considered it a privilege to have been camp staff for a summer with some of them when I became too old to go to camp and was on staff for three summers. It was the amazing cabin leaders I had when I was a camper that made me want to be camp staff myself and showed me the kind of cabin leader I wanted to be when I was one. And, working as camp staff for a few summers also gave me a new appreciation for the love they had shown me when I was a camper. It's a tiring job to be camp staff . . . but also rewarding to see campers grow over the years they return or when you run into them in years after camp and hear a bit about their lives since camp.

As I've thought more about this, I've realized that all through-out our lives we meet people and interact with them for short periods, or longer times, and they can have a huge impact on our lives. We may not even realize it at the time. It may take us years to truly recognize the influence they had on our lives - whether good or bad. And I guess that means we have that same kind of influence on the lives of those we interact with.

What kind of an influence are we having on people? Depending on the situation, the amount of influence we have on others may change, but we have influence on people. What kind of influence do we want to have? Who are the people who you are glad have been in your life - either in the past, or who are in your life now? What kind of influence are you having on people in your life now?

These are just some of the questions that are running through my head right now as I reflect on some of the camp counsellors I was privileged to have in my years as a camper. They may never know the impact they made, but they made one. And we have that same ability in our lives today.

Monday, May 11, 2009

the church

So, I'm on a bit of a roll tonight . . . second post . . . relating to the same book . . .
OK, so I just finished reading the book Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. It was a good read - not always an easy one, but good nonetheless (as may be evidenced by my feeling the need to use it in two posts in one night).

In the past while I've been wondering if we really understand what the church is supposed to be all about - if we really understand why it exists. In our consumeristic culture, we seem to have gotten caught up in the whole idea of just looking for what the church has to offer us, and maybe in the process, we have missed some of what church is really supposed to be.

The Bible makes it clear that the church is the Body of Christ, which would imply that we are to do more than just receive from it. The church is to be a community of believers who serve one another and the world around them. At least that's how I've always thought of it. Once again, I appreciated much what Wright had to say about this in his book Simply Christian.

"One central biblical way of saying much the same thing is to follow Paul and think of the church as the 'Body of Christ,' the single body in which every individual, and every local community is a limb or an organ. 'The body' is more than merely an image of unity-in-diversity; it's a way of saying that the church is called to do the work of Christ, to be the means of his action in and for the world. The tree, rooted in ancient Israel, standing straight up in Jesus, branching out with life in all directions, is to be the means of implementing his work, of making his achievement real in all the world.: (pg. 201)

If every person, every local community, is an organ or limb in the body, then it becomes pretty obvious that we need one another - that we need the support of community. But, the community is there, so that we go about the mission that Christ left us in this world. Namely that of bringing His Kingdom in the here and now, not of getting people saved so that they go to heaven when they die. The message we have been left with is so much more than that! And taking this message means we must go - not that we should always be looking for how the church can satisfy us.

I really appreciated Wright's explanation about why the church exists. This is a bit of a longer quote, but bear with me. I promise it's a good one.

"The church is first and foremost a community, a collection of people who belong to one another because they belong to God, the God we know in and through Jesus. Though we often use the word 'church' to denote a building, the point is that it's the building where this community meets. True, building can and do carry memories, and when people have been praying and worshipping and mourning and celebrating in a particular building for many years, the building itself may come to speak powerfully of God's welcoming presence. But it is the people who matter.
"The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world. You can and must worship, and work for God's kingdom, in private and in ways unique to yourself, but if God's kingdom is to go forward, rather than around and around in circles, we must work together as well as apart.
"The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship. . . .
"Worship, fellowship, and the work of reflecting God;s kingdom into the world flow into and out of one another." (pg 210-211)

The church is so much more than a building and what we can get out of going there. It is about the people of God meeting together in community to strengthen and encourage and pray with one another. And then moving out into the world to make a difference. Church is not primarily about us!


I just finished reading this book that made me think and also made a lot of sense. It's Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. In some ways I felt like I was back in my Bible college days, reading a textbook for a class that was challenging, but also good at the same time.

In one section of the book, Wright talks about worship. He has a chapter on worship, and there were some things he had to say that really made me think. He talked about two "golden rules at the heart of spirituality" (to use his words) that I thought were really good.

(1) "You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship." (pg. 148)
(2) ". . . because you were made in God's image, worship makes you more truly human. When you gaze in love and gratitude at the God in whose image you were made, you do indeed grow. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive. Conversely, when you give that same total worship to to anything or anyone else, you shrink as a human being." (pg. 148)

We become like what we worship, and worship is what makes us more truly human. That just seems to sum up worship and what it should be so well.

Wright also talks about the importance of worship and why we may not be drawn to it in the way we should be.

"Worship is at the very center of all Christian living. One of the main reasons that theology (trying to think straight about who God is) matters is that we are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It matters that we learn more about who God is so that we can him more appropriately. Perhaps one of the reasons why so much worship, in some churches at least, appears so unattractive to so many people is that we have forgotten, or covered up, the truth about the one we worshipping. But whenever we even glimpse the truth, we drawn back. Like groupies sneaking off work to see a rock start who's in town for just an hour or so, like fans waiting all night for a glimpse of a football team returning in triumph - those who come to recognize the God we see in Jesus, the Lion who is also the Lam, will long to come and worship him." (pg. 148-149)

I think Wright hit the nail on the head about why we're not always drawn to worship, and about the truth that will continue to draw us back in worship. May we learn to not cover up the truth about Who we are really worshipping!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

tribute to my mom

I'm sitting here at 11:21pm, the day before Mother's Day, thinking about my Mom. It's just starting to sink in to me that this will be (to the best that I can remember) the first Mother's Day I haven't spent with my Mom. She's just not in town this weekend. It's a strange thought - even though I know I saw her just a couple of days ago and I will again in a couple days, it seems a little strange not to be seeing her tomorrow.

To put it quite bluntly, I'm pretty sure that I couldn't ask for a better Mom. I'm serious! She is one of the hugest blessings in my life. I know that she is always there for me when something goes well and I'm excited, or when everything seems to be going wrong in my life. I know I often take that for granted.

But, I'm also incredibly grateful to know that she's always there. I've been a little more conscious of this fact that she is there in the last few months. My Mom was in a car accident, and although she walked away from it, it was the first time I thought seriously about the possibility of losing my Mom. And, it has made me all the more thankful for and appreciative of the fact that she is still here - that she is still only that quick phone call away.

I know that my parents' desire was for my sisters and I to grow up with a love for the Lord and a desire to follow and serve Him. And they modelled that with how they lived as we were growing up. My Mom was always encouraging me to get involved in serving - not just through words, but also through action. When I think of people who have served God and loved Him that I want to be like, my Mom is definitely one of those people. I admire her for that, especially beacuse I know that doing so hasn't always been easy for her in life. But she has persevered, and I want to be someone who perseveres through the tough times too.

My Mom has always seemed to be the "un-shock-able" kind of person. That makes her someone you can talk to easily about things. I know that, even if she thinks I'm out to lunch in what I say, I can't shock her and cause her to totally freak out. She's not afraid to say if I'm out to lunch ;) but she won't freak out on me. It makes her easy to talk to about so much of life. And it means that in many situations she is the first, or one of the first, people that I want to talk to and get advice from.

I appreciate that I can phone my Mom up and go for dinner, or dessert, or just go over to her house and "hang out." One of the favourite things for me is that every Sunday night that it works for both of us we meet at the grocery store and go shopping for the week together. Growing up, I always went grocery shopping with my Mom and I appreciate that we can still do that together, even though I no longer live at home. And while we shop, we always share about life - the stories of our weeks, what's coming up in the next week, what we're thinking about. It's a highlight of my week!

I also appreciate that whenever I'm over at my parents' house and I say that I need to go home, she responds with the words: "but this is your home!" I bug her about it all the time, but it reassures me to know that I always have a place of belonging there and am welcome there. It makes me feel loved beyond all I could imagine in life.

I have disagreements with my Mom and times she drives me up the wall, but even with those times I wouldn't trade her for anything in the world. She is my hero. Honestly, when people ask me about my heroes in life my Mom is one of them. I love her a lot! And I couldn't ask for a better person to call Mom.

[OK, since she reads this blog, she may be embarrassed that I would post this on here, but I'm OK with that. I want the world to know how great my Mom is and how much I love her! So, I will post this Tribute to my Mom, because I'm not sure I always let her know how much I mean it when I say I love her, because I mean it with every fibre of my being and to the depths of my heart.]

Friday, May 8, 2009

love sincerely

I was listening to a speaker talk about 1 Peter 1:22 the other day. The verse talks about loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. The speakers sent a large portion of time talking about the phrase in that verse that says we to "have sincere love for your brothers." I also have spent a lot of time thinking about what sincere love is since I heard the message.

The original Greek word that has been translated sincere in this verse means "inexperienced in the art of acting, without a mask." The kind of thing talked about in this meaning makes it clear that the love being talked about in this verse is not just something we pretend or fake. It needs to be something that is real. Part of living out the Gospel in our lives involves us loving all people. This verse would say that, particularly when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we should not be faking it, but that our love should be real.

Those words were challenging to me. I wonder how many people there are that are much like me - we have become very good at pretending to love someone when we really don't. We fake it when we're around certain people, but it's nothing more than that. I've definitely done that . . . and I would imagine most people have.

Hearing this message and doing some more study on this verse really did challenge me in my own life. Who are those people that I only fake love for? Why do I just pretend to love certain people? What would it look like for me to have sincere love for others?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

ranking the importance of our jobs

I was having a conversation with my room-mates last night about work and how we see different jobs that we could have. It got me thinking about how we seem to rank our jobs in terms of importance. And I started wondering if we should be. Is it right that we see some jobs as more important than others? Or should we be seeing all jobs as at the same level?

Sure, I know that for some jobs there is a lot more training required. Some people have spent years in school learning and training for their job, while some jobs seems to require just a few hours or days of on-the-job training. But, does that really mean that the former is more important than the latter? I'm not so sure it really does.

[rabbit trail here]
At least not if we look at all our jobs as being our mission field - our place of ministry. We have this tendency to hold up pastors, missionaries, and those who work in other Christian organizations as being called to "full-time ministry." I think we do ourselves a great dis-service by doing so. Absolutely, pastors and missionaries are called to a high calling, but I really don't think they are the only ones called to full-time ministry.

Pastors and missionaries may earn their paycheque from ministry work, but I honestly believe that all followers of Christ are called to full-time ministry. The doctor, the accountant, the school teacher, the retail cashier, the electrician, the mechanic, the nurse, the fast food worker, the server, the cook, the student . . . and any other person doing any other job are called to full-time ministry. There is a reason why Jesus called us salt and light in Matthew 5 - because we are supposed to be that in our world! If we are to truly be salt and light, then we need to be out in the world, and we need to see the world that we interact with each day as our mission field.
[OK, back to what I was talking about at the beginning]

I wonder if sometimes we look at jobs that require more training or are more dangerous as being more important than other jobs. We talk constantly about moving up the ladder in our work life, and get concerned when it seems like we're moving down that ladder. But, does it really matter? Yes, we should always be striving to do our best in our job and that often helps us to move up that ladder; but I think we must be careful we don't get so caught up in moving up the ladder that we miss what God may actually be wanting us to do in our work.

I wonder if our pride gets in the way of going where God wants us. We feel like we're doing something important and we're helping people and making a difference where we're at, but God is calling us to work somewhere we don't feel is as important and so we resist. Our pride keeps us in the job we think is important by the world's standards, and we miss how God wants to use us and grow us in a job that we deem as less important.

[OK, to try to tie this all together]
I think maybe our attitude about our work, wherever we are, is what needs to change. Instead of looking at how important our job is - at how much training it required to get to where we are - maybe we need to look at our work from the viewpoint of serving. All that we do should be in service of Christ and of others. This isn't easy - it's counter-cultural to think this way. But, I think looking at our work in this way puts all jobs on a level playing field.

How am I serving God in my work?
How am I serving others in my work?

The answers to those questions may not be obvious at first glance, but I think we can all answer them, no matter what job we do.

Even looking back over some of the jobs I've had, I know it's not easy to answer. Quite honestly, at first glance seeing how I was serving God when I was working in fast food or in the cafeteria at college is hard. But, I know I was serving others through what I did, and as I served customers or fellow students with a smile (most of the time, definitely not always) and just tried to be a bright spot in my day, I was serving God as well. I was taking a few moments with my attitude to be salt and light and point people to Him in a job that I could have seen as nothing more than a way to make money to pay for school. At the time, I wasn't looking at those jobs in this way, but when I look back at them now I can see how it would have been helpful for me to think about those questions as I worked.

So, I think I've come to the conclusion that I don't see there as being a way of ranking the importance of our jobs. All followers of Christ are called to full-time ministry no matter where we earn our paycheque. And, in all our jobs, we are to be serving Christ and others, no matter what we are doing. I really do wonder how much our view of work and jobs would change if we started to think this way.