Monday, July 27, 2009

just an amusing phrase i saw on a sign

So, no reason to post except that I saw something on a church sign as I was driving past that I found amusing. This church sign sometimes makes me laugh, sometimes make me think, sometimes make me wonder . . .

For your enjoyment . . .

Laying in bed yelling "oh God" is not the same as going to church

I'm not going to debate the merits of the sign or anything of the sort. It just made me smile when I read it, so I thought I would share. That is all for today.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

religion of niceness?

A friend gave me a book a while ago that I've just got around to starting to read in the last week or so. It's definitely a good book - a challenging one too. The book is Jesus Mean & Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God by Mark Galli. The title definitely grabbed my attention when I saw it.

The book is based off of the parts of Mark's Gospel that we so often like to just skim over when we read or study it. This book takes a look at the times when Jesus said or did things that were hard and may have offended people. We so often look at the loving, compassionate side of Jesus that I think we sometimes get this picture of Jesus as a meek, mild, quiet, crowd-pleasing person, when in reality Jesus was anything but. Jesus called people to love their enemies, to give up everything (including their families) to follow Him. Jesus called the religious leaders of His day on their hypocrisy. Jesus fashioned a whip and cleared the Temple of vendors and money changers in anger. These aren't the things that we like to focus on, but they are just as much a part of Jesus as the loving side. We need both.

There was a section in one of the chapters that really got me thinking, and unfortunately, realizing how true it can be of those who claim to follow Christ today. The book puts it better than me, so I will just quote it.

Today we are adherents of the Religion of Niceness. In this religion, God is a benevolent grandfather who winks at human mistakes, and it goes without saying that he always understands - after all, it is human to err, divine to forgive.
Christians are often fascinated with the Religion of Niceness because it appears to champion biblical virtues such as humility, forgiveness, and mercy. This religion so permeates our consciousness that when we hear someone quote the second Great Commandment, the epitome of Christian ethics, we tend to hear: "Be nice to your neighbor, as you would have your neighbor be nice to you." (Jesus Mean & Wild, Mark Galli, pg. 62-63)

I have seen this play out many times, and in many situations in my life.

It is the easy way to operate - the easy way to live. But, our being nice for the sake of being nice all the time, is not what we are to do. There times when "being nice" is probably the last thing the people we are being nice to need us to do. There are times when we may need to say things that aren't nice for the good of others. A little later, Galli says, "Simply put, when Jesus is not nice, he's trying to get people to do the right thing." Sometimes we need to say things to one another that aren't nice in order to help them get back on the right track.

Galli closes the chapter of the book on this with the following that I think it is also important that we remember.

Two qualifications are in order. First, most circumstances call us to be civil, courteous, patient - nice. We're not going to get much of a hearing for the Good News if we are rude and uncivil. While we need some prophetic, even angry, voices, to remind us of sin and injustice sometimes, we also need those who call for civil and patient conversation. Niceness may not be a synonym for love, but it is the usual (if not the only) way that love is expressed.
In addition, we must note that more is at stake than behavior modification.
. . .
Jesus was a sharp judge of character, and he employed anger even when he was aware that it wasn't going to do any good. Why? Because sometimes the most honest and truthful response to foolishness or evil is anger. Jesus couldn't have integrity if he was indifferent. The person who is always nice, always decorous, always even-keeled is likely a person who ultimately does not care about what God cares about. (pg. 69)

Just some of the things I'm thinking about these days: Have I been caught up in the "religion of niceness"? Am I willing to speak up when it is appropriate to do in a way that may not be nice? Or do I keep quiet because I want to be nice, even when it may be to the detriment of someone else?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

when life goes crazy

So just over 24 hours ago life in my area has gone a little crazy. Just before 3pm yesterday afternoon a forest fire broke out just across the lake from Kelowna - near the area where I grew up. Friends and the family of one of my roommates were evacuated shortly after that, as the fire was very near to a heavily residential area. In the next few hours, the fire jumped the highway and began threatening more homes as it continued to grow. Then later in the evening another forest fire broke out in an area not to far from the first one, prompting more evacuations and danger to more homes in another residential area.

The response from people has been incredible - offers of places to stay for people and for pets, help with necessities that were left behind, etc. It's only been 5 years since the last time this happened on the Kelowna side of the lake, so the memories are still fresh. And this area is once again showing its community spirit and pulling together to help people. It's inspiring to see! Even in our normally individualistic culture, people still rally to help when people are in need.

Watching this happen from the other side of the lake and knowing there is little I can do to help friends affected by this is hard. There are some people who I care about who are facing some major fears right now. But, as I hear from them, I'm amazed at their strength in it all. They are standing and trusting God - and while they worry for their material possessions left behind, they are glad to have all the people they care about with them. There is an incredible strength that comes from their choosing to walk the journey of this life with God, and to trust Him even when life seems to be going totally and completely wrong.

As I watch the way a community is pulling together to help, I wonder why it takes a disaster like this for people to be moved to this kind of action. I wonder why we can't be people who help in the little ways when we meet people in need each day. Why do we wait for lives and homes to be threatened with destruction before we offer of ourselves to help others? Sure, the needs are maybe more obvious now than they are at other times, but why do we always wait? Just some questions going through my head right now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jesus loves me

Don't we all need the reminder of the simple truth of the song we usually think of as a children's song: Jesus Loves Me.

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven's gates to open wide
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in

Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me; He will stay
Close beside me all the way
He's prepared a home for me
And someday His face I'll see

Yes, Jesus loves me
Oh, yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
For the Bible tells me so

As I stopped to really think about those simple, yet weighty, words today, I was overwhelmed by the incredibleness (OK, my spell-checker says that's not a word, but I don't care) of Jesus' love for each of us.

Maybe, like me, you are somebody who enjoys listening to things like this as you stop to think about it. Here's a recording of it I found on youtube to listen to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

the church (part 2)

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the church that you can find here. This post is sort of a continuation of that one, sort of not . . . and quite possibly may not have too much different from that post to say. ;)

I had lunch with a friend today and we ended up getting into a conversation about this church - in general not any one church in particular (Side note: This is not a conversation to get into when you have a time limit if you are both passionate about it. Needless to say we lost track of the time and I took a little longer lunch than I usually do and ended up working late because of it. Oops! Okay, back to the blog now . . .) As we were talking, I realized that I am a lot more passionate about the church than I thought.

I will not deny that there are serious problems with the institution of the church, but I do not agree with those who see walking away from the church as a solution to those problems. I think that just adds to the problems instead. I honestly wonder if some of our problems come from how much we have institutionalized something that was never meant to be an institution.

Ultimately, the church should happen any time believers gather together in community. I think, especially int he West, our abundance of resources to own land and a building and pay staff, has cause us to see the church as a place to go for singing and a sermon on the weekend, and maybe during the week for a Bible study or service targeted to a specific group of people. We have lost sight of the fact that the "church" can and should be happening anywhere believers gather together in community.

But, all that being said, I still feel that there is a definite need for the institution that we call the church. There is a need for their to be a place where people of different generations gather together to learn and grow and serve. There is value in having someone preach the Word and hearing that regularly - to help us grow and challenge us in our lives. There is value in corporate worship - to bring the people of God together to bring glory and praise to His name. There is value int here being a place where the limited resources of individuals are brought together and used in a greater way than would have been possible individually.

Are there things the church, as an institution, does poorly? Yes. Are there things that may need changing moving forward? Absolutely. But, if we want that change, then we must work to make those changes. Walking away does nothing to bring change.

Yes, it may be frustrating sometimes and you may feel like no one is listening. But, I believe our task in those times is to go to God in prayer and seek His face, and keeping making our stand and talking about it. If we just shut up and walk away, we will never make a difference. And if we do not pray and seek God in it, we run a huge risk of making things worse, rather than better, with our calling and working for change in the church.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


So, it's been a while since I've written . . . and I have no set idea of where I'm going with this blog. I wasn't even sure I was going to write anything and then felt like I maybe should, although I'm not sure about what.

Sometimes it amazes me how people hold if together and move on after things that I don't think I could make it through. I think of people like friends of mine who had their first child - their son - spend the first year and a bit of his life in a children's hospital, on more than one occasion not being sure if he would make it. And yet, they keep going . . . and now a little over two years later have their son home, but with a life that we would call anything but "normal". But, you can still hear the joy of following God and their trust in Him when you talk to them.

Or people like another friend of mine who lost her husband in a tragic accident just 10 short months ago. She was pregnant with their second son at the time, and is now raising two young boys without their father. And yet, she keeps going. She's not afraid to admit that it's hard some days, but she keeps trusting God and following Him . . . and makes it through one day at a time.

In both of these situations, these were people who I had the incredible privilege of working with at summer camp a number of years ago and then attending Bible college with them. I had a feeling at the time that there was something about these people that was pretty cool. And I think I'm seeing what that is now. The way they have all kept going, kept trusting, kept serving, kept loving through all the tough stuff in their lives inspires me. I consider myself privileged to call them friends. Their perseverance through the tough times has encouraged me many times that with God on my side I can make it through anything, no matter how impossible it seems to my human mind.

James 1:2-4 is a verse I have heard lots, but I really like the way the New Century Version (NCV) puts it:
"My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be
full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will
give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then
you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need."

I have often wondered how exactly you consider it joy to face trouble in life, and I'm still not sure I completely understand it, but I do wonder if through these friends I have been allowed to get a bit of a better understanding of how you do. Watching them walk through their own troubles, and walking beside them as much as I can when we don't live in the same city, I really do feel that I have seen an example of people who persevere through trials in life because of the hope they have for what is to come. I pray that should I find myself in situations like the ones they have found themselves in, I too would be able to persevere and to find joy in the midst of it all. I pray that for you who read this as well.