Com’n Church

Well, I just finished several hours of conversation with a wonderful Christin man here in my city. We have known each other for many years, even decades. So, a long coffee and a chat about an upcoming event that I will not be able to participate in because I will be in the nation of Vietnam. However, he needed someone to bounce things off of and give feedback and suggestions regarding what is being planned.

During the conversation I was thinking about how out of touch with reality – today’s society, culture, and younger generations – the Church really is. I spoke up and shard what I was thinking and what I know by experience as I speak with both believers and non-believers. I shared because I honestly think we need to be much more aware of what is happening around us and what the current trends are so that we don’t continue to be, in many ways, irrelevant in the eyes of the world.

A positive example of an organization that is recognizing reality and grappling with it is the Canadian Legion. They have come to realize that their membership is dwindling rather quickly as those who fought in World War One and Two and other lesser wars since the end of World War Two die off. So, they have begun to advertise in the media for new members. You don’t need to be old. You don’t need to have been in the armed forces or have fought a war. If you want to help with their programs and be a part of their corporate life then you are welcome to become a member.

In Canada there are several negative examples of being out of touch with the world. Radio Shack use to be a key player in the electronics business – even selling some of the earliest desktop computers. However, they did not keep up with the times and their stores closed one after another. Some underwent a major revamping and became Circuit City but the major role that the original company played was never recovered. The business is a shadow of what it once was.

A second example would be the Christian Church – especially denominational churches. We are living in challenging times. Our society here in North America is post-Christian. Our world is now centered around instant communications and social media. We don’t wait until 11:00p to watch the evening news. You can watch it on-line any time you want. We text. We don’t often call. People shop on-line … yes, even for a church to attend. You can get better music and worship on line than in the local church. The same can be said for teachings. And yet we often simply do what we have always done and wonder why the results are dismal. The Church is thus seen as irrelevant and, like the dinosaurs, something that will soon die off. So, Com’n church – it is time to change.

Again, to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with non-believers today is totally different than 40 years ago. In fact vastly different than even 10 or 5 years ago. The younger generations no longer enters a church building for wedding or funerals. Most take place in alternate facilities. The younger generations do not have a Bible or have really never read one if they happen to possess one. The Bible is not seen as inspired or even God’s Word to people. Common church words like sin, sinner, repent, justification and sanctification simply have no meaning and no reference point to even glean some meaning from them. We need to adjust our approach (methods) accordingly. Not the message. Just the methods we use to share the message. 

And then you read in Acts 17 where it talks about disciples of Jesus entering the city of Thessalonica and the townspeople panic because those who have turned their world upside down are coming to their city.  (Acts 17:6)

We need to become aware of what is happening around us and then change so as to respond in a meaningful, in-touch way. Thus we would actually be able to influence and impact where we are living with the Gospel of the Kingdom. We need to become a counterculture and no longer settle for being a subculture. Jesus was a radical revolutionary who hated religion and loved people. We should follow in His footsteps as we take the good news to those He loves and died for on the cross. 

So, com’n church! If we want others to find Jesus we need to speak into where they are at. On a daily basis people struggle with depression, addictions, loneliness, financial issues, relational stress, paying the bills, and a multitude of other issues. They are not thinking about the mark of the beast and the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15) with the approaching of the end times and the rapture. Com’n church! Let’s get real and become aware of what is going on around us outside of the small and closed off church world that we find so comforting and safe. Let’s speak into our culture and society and talk about things that matter to those who are not saved. 

Teach Us To Pray

It is amazing what we think the Bible is saying when really it is not. So many passages become so familiar to those of us who read it daily and have done so over the years, even decades. So, we read the words but they don’t speak to us because we assume we know what they say. We know the story. We know the teaching of Jesus. We have been here, read that before. It is almost like we are wearing “religious glasses” that prevent us from seeing old truths in new ways. And, that definitely prevent us from seeing any real new truth. 

But God’’s Word states that it is living, active, alive and working inside us.

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Passion Translation: “For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts.”

So, maybe, just maybe, we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to remove our traditional or religious glasses and give us new eyes – spiritual eyes – to see new truths and even old truths in a new light.

One personal example I have recently experienced is found in Luke, Chapter 11…

Luke 11:1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place and when He finished one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.’”

Notice it does not say “teach us how to pray,” which is often misquoted. It says “teach us to pray.”

The disciples had been with Jesus in one of His times of prayer. And, as they watched Him and listened to how He was praying and what He was praying they recognized something. There was a revelation. Something deep inside these young men who were following Jesus clicked and they realized that what they called prayer was really nothing like what Jesus experienced as prayer. They came to the realization (revelation) that they totally misunderstood what prayer was and how prayer worked. So, they realized that there were, in Jesus’ terms, prayerless.

So, they turned to Jesus and said, “teach us to pray.” In other words, obviously what we have been doing over the years – the traditional prayers of the Jewish faith – is not prayer as you experience it, Lord. So, teach us to pray. Not “how to pray” but “to pray.” Basic reality.

I would suggest that this is a dangerous, powerful prayer to pray. We should not pray this request unless we really mean it, because God will often use trials and hardships and difficulties to teach us to pray. He will totally change what we view as prayer and revolutionize our time with the Father that we now call our “quiet time” or “devotional life.” 

I, for one, want to have Jesus totally stir up and change my prayer life. I am praying “Lord, teach me to pray (as you prayed and continue to pray today at the right hand of the Father.” 

Come, Follow Me

The Church has lost the message of “Come, follow Me,” replacing it with … what? “Come and listen to me.”

That is not what Jesus said or did. In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” The Passion Translation renders this verse as: “Come and follow Me, and I will transform you into men who catch people for God.” So, the obvious points here…

1> If we are not fishing (sharing the Gospel) and love of God with others) we are not following Jesus. We are literally deceiving ourselves that everything is alright between us and God. It’s not, unless…

2> As we follow Jesus He will be forming and transforming us into people who attract others into the Kingdom. He will be working on our character, our values and morals, our perspective on life, as well as our daily life-style. So, if we are not changing, growing, maturing then we are obviously not following Him. We are not disciples. Fans, yes! Disciples, no!

3> This is a process which takes place over time as we follow Him and, in the Scriptures, see how He relates to people and how He shares the love of God. We are then to follow His example and implement changes that allow us to become more like Him. So, there is a desperate need to study the four Gospels examining in detail the way Jesus lived His life and how He treated people and built healthy, Kingdom relationships.

4> We learn by studying His actions, attitude, and His relational skills as recorded in the Bible. But, it is more than information. What we observe and learn must translate into action and life change in us. Or, as James wrote, we must be doers of the Word and not just hearers. Faith without works is dead.

5> We need to become sensitive to His voice (the voice of the Holy Spirit) so that He can speak directly to our hearts and minds as we follow Him and go about our daily activities. Opportunities are there to share Jesus each and every day as we “go into all our world.” We need to slow down so we can see the opportunities and take advantage of the doors God is opening.

6> Obedience is necessary – For disciples this is not an option but a command. Whatever He says to us we must obey and do. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” Very plain and seriously blunt. 

7> Obviously, we need to make a decision to walk closely with Him and follow Him regardless of where that might take us and allow Him to transform us. Give Him permission to change us. This means trusting Him with everything we are (our inner life), everything we have (our outer world) and all that we do. 

8> Following Jesus will certainly take us out of our safe, secure, and comfortable place and seriously challenge everything about our life; stretching us mentally, spiritually, relationally, socially, and emotionally. No stretching going on then maybe you are not following the biblical Jesus – the real radical revolutionary we read about in the four gospel accounts of His life. 

9> “Come, follow Me” is an invitation to a life-long journey of becoming which does not end even when we die and enter Heaven. There is always more to know about Jesus and thus more personal growth and development as we apply what we are seeing and learning to our daily lives.   

10> This means we need to stop seeing salvation as the destination. We have our ‘fire insurance’ and we are good to go. That is a ‘salvation culture’. We get saved, we come to church, we learn, we go home. Repeat. We need to embrace a “Kingdom culture” where salvation is seen as the start of a long journey as we join the great cause of establishing the Kingdom of God in every corner of every nation. We don’t come to just listen, we come to grow and be equipped so that we can then “go.”

Let the change begin now. Let it begin with us. You, me, and the corporate “us” known as the Church. 

There Is No Off-Season

The year we have just entered is a year when the Gospel will be setting more people free than any other year in your lifetime. As we pray and the Holy Spirit works opportunities will open for us to share the love of God. And, that love is discovered and received through the finished work of Jesus the Christ. So, we need to be ready to share the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) as doors open allowing us to do so. 

The key to being ready to plant seeds and bring in the harvest is preparation. Always being ready. The most excellent athletes in the world have this principal down pat.

Every sport has an off-season. This is the time when players who have been enduring a long, exhausting season take a break to relax and rejuvenate. All sports have these designated periods of rest. The best competitors will take a few weeks to allow their bodies to recuperate, but then they’ll use the rest of the time to prepare for the next season.

They train.

They lift weights.

They run.

They go through drills.

They push their bodies to the limit so that they will not only be ready for the next season but will also be better than the previous season.

The Bible clearly states that there is no off-season for an ambassador of God. And we are all ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul wrote to his protégé, Timothy, “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Notice this wasn’t a casual suggestion, but a charge. A strong command for all believers – not just pastors – to be ready to preach the Word anytime, anywhere, to anyone. When it’s convenient, and when it’s not. When it’s easily accepted, and when it is adamantly rejected. Our circumstances, situations, or surroundings do not alter the charge.

The mandate is still the same – no matter if you’re in Southern California, Mexico City, Bangladesh, South Africa, or any other region of the world: preach the Word!

God’s Word is precious. It is everlasting, unchanging Truth. We as believers have been given the awesome responsibility to become stewards of the Word of God. It is our duty and spiritual obligation. Now is the time to preach the Gospel … more than ever before. It is exciting to anticipate Jesus’ return to this earth – but until that happens there are specific mandates God has made clear to every Christian.

Receive the Word. Be faithful with the Word. And preach the Word as often as you can. 

To preach the Word simply means to share the love of God with others you relate to and those you don’t. It is more than helping or serving someone in a physical way. It must always include speaking God’s Word to them – sharing your experience of being born again and set free by the Cross of Christ. You will, of course, need to be familiar with the Gospel of the Kingdom. You will also need to learn how to share that good news with others in a way that they can understand and receive it. And, you need to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s work and let Him do what He does best – convict the person of their sin (John 16:8-10). So there is some training to undergo. 

And, as important, realize that when you are speaking to another generation – that although the message has not changed the method by which you share it must. You need to approach each generation differently and be sensitive to where they are at in their understanding of spiritual truths  and in their spiritual journey.

We are mandated to be ready to share. But, there is a season of intense preparation and I believe we have entered that season here at the start of 2020. 

If your church is not teaching you how to share the life-changing Gospel of the Kingdom, change churches. Find one that believes in being born again and that teaches, trains, and equips believers to share the Gospel with others. Find someone more mature than you are who is “going into al the world and making disciples” and ask them to teach you how to do what they are doing. It is your responsibility to fulfil this command that Paul writes to Timothy about. And, everyone of us will be held accountable for what we have done in this regard. 

Born Again or Bored Again

The Barna Group found that 68% of unbelievers would describe Christians as boring. I can’t handle that statistic. Jesus was many things, but boring was not one of them.

  • Boring people don’t have five thousand followers flocking to hear their boring message
  • Boring people don’t get approached at weddings to make the party better
  • Boring people don’t get crucified for their boring beliefs
  • Boring people aren’t greeted with palm branch parades when they enter cities
  • Boring people don’t inspire martyrs to give up everything for their boring cause
  • Boring people don’t change the world

My point is simple: Our God is not boring!

The world altered its calendar and gauged human history by everything before Christ (BC) and after Christ (AD). His life made a mark. His life made a difference. His life was everything but boring.

So obviously the question is: If the Christ we follow isn’t boring, why in the world are we?

If you look around at those who claim to follow Jesus – believers – they really are generally very boring. They lack angst. They lack a faith that cost them anything. But, I think the situation is far worse than it looks.

I don’t think Christians are just boring. I think Christians are bored.

I think many older Christians were once born-again Christians and now they are just bored-again Christians. They are waiting on the next message, the next conference, the next experience that will ignite their faith. All the while the Great Commission is at their doorstep. The reality is, we are bored because we are disobedient. I bet painters that don’t paint are bored. I bet dancers who don’t dance are bored. I bet writers who don’t write are bored. And I am convinced that disciples that don’t disciple are bored (and boring).

There is a true story I read just a few days ago. It is about a dog named DeSoda. When the owner’s children were young, he got them a puppy. This puppy, like all puppies, had a ton of energy and lacked a lot of wisdom. DeSoda always tried to run away when the door opened, always tried to jump on any stranger who walked in the home, and always barked obnoxiously. Then a decade went by. DeSoda was now an old dog and no longer a young puppy. His energy was gone. He desire for adventure was gone. Heck, he didn’t even care when a stranger walked in the house. He would just lift his head from the mat, give them a nod, and go back to sleep. In dog years, DeSoda was really old. The family was pretty sure he was going to die soon.

So the kids, now young teenagers, asked their dad, “Dad! Dad! Can we please have a new dog? DeSoda is so boring now! He never plays with us anymore. He just wants to sit around the house all day.”

The Dad conceded and got the family a new puppy. And the process repeated itself. The new puppy, Beau, had a ton of energy and no wisdom. Except one difference was, their puppy Beau had DeSoda to show him the way. Beau and DeSoda became really good friends; they were like peas and carrots. All the puppy passion and energy in Beau would get DeSoda to do things he normally wouldn’t do. DeSoda was playing outside again. He was modelling for Beau where to go to the bathroom. DeSoda was now wrestling with Beau. He had a renewed energy, and the kids could tell.

The dad noted, “The crazy thing is we thought DeSoda was going to die that year. It just wasn’t looking good for him. But he ended up living four more years. And I’m convinced it was because of Beau.” Then he said a profound thing we have all heard before but never in this way. He said, “You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but you can give an old dog a new purpose.”

I just wonder how many old dogs in the Church are bored out of their minds, and their lives would be radically changed if they’d just find a young puppy.

That is what the Great Commission is all about. “Old disciple, go into all the world and make a new disciple (or two). Find a puppy and end boredom.”

Church of England (Anglican)

From: Stand Firm – Faith Among the Ruins ….  www.standfirminfaith.com

The Martyrs and Missiological Damage
by Matt Kennedy | Dec 18, 2019 | Anglicans, Apostasy, Biblical Illiteracy, LGBTQIetc, Theological Liberalism

It is no secret that the Church of England is in trouble. Several years ago, I likened the contemporary English Church to the Episcopal Church in 1999. That was my first year as an M.Div student at Virginia Theological Seminary. I remember thinking at the time that while there were many powerful people promoting same-sex blessings, formal approval of such arrangements would be a long time coming. There were strong, smart orthodox leaders still exercising influence and authority and the vast majority of Episcopalians despised change and just wanted to be left alone. It would take a tectonic change in the status quo for the Episcopal Church to formally embrace same-sex sexuality I thought. But I was wrong. I had not noticed that the ground which felt solid if a bit soft at the edges, had been sapped. The once-solid platform of biblical fidelity, confessional integrity, and institutional conservatism had been steadily undermined, consistently weakened by decades of theological compromise. Just the right blow at just the right moment and the whole thing would collapse. Gene Robinson was that blow. (consecrated as bishop – first openly gay bishop)

In England, his name is Stephen Cottrell presently Bishop of Chelmsford soon to be Archbishop of York. In an article on his upcoming elevation, the Church Times reports, (Archbishop of York is second in the worldwide Anglican Church to the Archbishop of Canterbury – the Anglican “pope”)

“Bishop Cottrell has also warned that the Church’s stance on same-sex relationships means that it is ‘seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set’ and has suggested that prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships — ‘perhaps a eucharist’ — should be offered. In a diocesan-synod address in 2017, he warned of the ‘missiological damage that is done when that which is held to be morally normative and desirable by much of society, and by what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country, is deemed morally unacceptable by the Church…And, though I am proud to confirm that all of us, whatever our views on this matter, are united in our condemnation of homophobia, we must also acknowledge that it is of little comfort to young gay or lesbian members of our Church to know that while prejudice against them is abhorred, any committed faithful sexual expression of their love for another is forbidden. . . Our ambivalence and opposition to faithful and permanent same-sex relationships can legitimise homophobia in others.”

The Christian Institute expands on the partial quote above as follows, “I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set.”

These are astounding words. That one so educated, soon to be so elevated, so highly respected could evince such ignorance so publicly without embarrassment is, well, I am not sure what to call it. On the one hand, he is, of course, worthy of censure. But on the other, that his words are published so widely and he is still embraced so warmly without any apparent sense that something is amiss, what does it mean? Is the indictment more damning to him or to the ecclesial prelates or to the Church of England as a whole?

Has the Bishop taken even a semester’s study in church history? Does he know that Christians have been called haters of mankind, cannibals, atheists even because from the first the Christian Church has refused to bow to the idols of the age? What would Bishop Cottrell say to the Ugandan martyrs who refused to let themselves be sexually corrupted by a homosexual ruler for the sake of Christ? Were these children missiologically obtuse? Ought they to have embraced the “normative and desirable morality” of the king and his court? Men and women and children have been devoured by wild beasts, burned alive, beheaded, and crucified precisely because they refused to adopt the morality of the age and yet it is by the blood of these martyrs, not by the supine compromise of English clerics, that Christ builds his Church.

And we need not even look to the history of the Church. Has Bishop Cottrell read even a single Gospel? Does he know that Jesus was crucified? Was Jesus crucified because he was “seen as moral by the culture in which he was set”? Was he arrested and tried because he embraced what was “morally normative and desirable”? Not at all. Jesus scrutinized the traditions and laws of the day by the law of God and found them wanting. He refused to submit himself or his disciples to the rabbinic sabbath regulations, the washings, the dietary restrictions imposed by men and not God. And his “community” hated him for it. He has a demon, they said. His miracles are empowered by Satan, they said. Jesus was not crucified because the people loved him and he affirmed all of their ways.

But, for all of his faults, Bishop Cottrell, as quoted in the Christian Institute article linked above, provides a succinct summary of the revisionist project,

“…he warned of the ‘missiological damage that is done when that which is held to be morally normative and desirable by much of society, and by what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country, is deemed morally unacceptable by the Church.’”

Yes. That is theological liberalism in a nutshell. What do most people believe right and good? Whatever it is, the Church must preach that thing with verve and vigor, join the march, catch the wave, ride the momentum. I suppose it goes back to Hegel and God unfolding himself in human history or, more directly, to Schleiermacher and the adolescent need to be wanted by our cultured despisers.

At present, our cultured despisers demand sex, and lots of it, with no borders, boundaries or limits. Whatever you wish to do and to whomever you wish to do it (excepting, for the brief and quickly passing moment, children), it is good. Having already said “yes” to this demand, the compromised Church mumbles, weakly, about “commitment” and “monogamy”. We must walk down the broad road of destruction, she says, not run.

Bishop Cottrell teaches that homosexual relationships are good. The Apostle Paul teaches that they are vile, the final stage of idolatrous rebellion and that those who engage in them without repentance will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven (Romans 1:26-27, 1st Corinthians 6:9). Faced with this apostolic opposition, Bishop Cottrell, “…did acknowledge biblical passages spoke about the issue, he said they were merely ‘part of our story and our inheritance’. ‘But what we can do is recognise that what we know now about human development and human sexuality requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.’” The Apostle, you see, was bathed in ignorance, a product of his times, not a herald of Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Who do you believe, the Apostle appointed by the risen Christ or the English bishop who cannot think of a time when Christians have had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral?

Those who, wisely, accept the authority of the Apostle will call those engaged in such relationships to repent and trust in Jesus who loves them, who died for their sins, and will cleanse them of all iniquity. Those who believe Bishop Cottrell will bake cakes and say “prayers of thanksgiving for their relationships” and affirm them to hell. This is not an issue about which Christians can agree to disagree.

This is why Bishop Cottrell’s elevation is so significant. The Church of England has, up to this point, formally embraced the biblical view of sexuality while informally allowing its opposite. It is one thing to have a sitting bishop teaching false doctrine and not do anything about it. That is the abdication of Jesus’ command to beware of wolves, a passive dereliction of duty. It is quite another to elevate the same teacher to a position of high authority. That requires that his very public and widely reported teachings be, if not “approved”, at least tolerated as if they stand within the pale of orthodoxy. This is an act of apostasy. The teaching that men can be with men sexually and women can be with women and that the bible is wrong with regard to human sexuality has now been formally accepted by the Church of England. Yes, this teaching has been accepted informally for years now. But this makes it official.

Grab Hold Of Your Life! – Part Four

We have mentioned “margin” in this short series of blogs. We can only truly give from margin. Financially,. Emotionally. Vocationally.

Purposely living below our means and not buying everything the world says we need – and maybe saying no to an extra cqar, or a bigger house – leaves margin in our finances. It leaves space. We are spending less than what we have, so we have margin. And when we have margin, we have freedom. Freedom to give, freedom to invest, and freedom from stress.

Same goes with our time.

Don’t spend all the time you have. So you can be free and use it to serve.

When we read through the Gospels, some of the craziest stories about Jesus happened because He lived with margin. Because He had margin He let Himself be interrupted. He wasn’t in a hurry. What He was on His way to do could wait. He was open to the Spirit’s leading.

Most of us today schedule the Holy Spirit right out of our calendar, so we don’t have space to be ready to serve in the ordinary, mundane, unnoticed ways.

So many love to be busy. Volunteering at a scheduled service project. Taking a mission trip (and never seeing the people again after we leave). Leading a small group (but never seeing any of them the rest of the week).

I believe passionately that my street and neighbourhood matters. That we are called to live in those places and in those stories. And furthermore, within those ordinary places, we are called to live in ordinary moments as we go through our days, and to specifically and purposely create space (margin) so we have time for them. And for the people we live with. And next to. And see over and over again.

I wonderful, as do other leaders I relate to, if our busyness with ‘big things’ or ‘big dreams’ or the Great Commission (Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 to go into all the nations and “make disciples”) is actually our excuse to not have to know the people who live next door?

When we hear the words Great Commission, we immediately think of going out from the call of Jesus to do superhero-type work in a big, loud way. I mean, Jesus Himself said “go and make disciples of all nations,” right?  

But have we somehow forgotten that the person across the hall, and the mailman, and the neighbour, and the barista qualify as people and live in a nation? So why do we have to go do some crazy big thing for God, when the command He gave us can be fulfilled by just being faithful and loving well over and over again?

We probably buy into this lie because we don’t remind ourselves that the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, are a highlight reel. It’s the memorable stories of the early church, compiled to pass on the teachings of Jesus and tell the story of the first-century movement. But it covers just under a hundred years, and it’s a pretty tiny book!

Christianity did not become a movement that turned the world upside down because a guy named Paul was crazy, brave, adventurous, and bold and travelled the world to tell others about Jesus. That contributed, sure. But the world got turned upside down because there were thousands of people who loved Jesus – people we will never hear about or whose names we will never know – and they ate dinners with the people around them.

They said hi to their neighbours.

They lived as witnesses in their daily routines.

Ministry is not just heading out to preach and teach in a church somewhere. Ministry is not just being ordained and having a position and title. Ministry is not this huge, public, notice me event that we plan and execute with precision. Ministry is simply living daily life aware of God’s presence, walking in His peace, releasing His power as we are led in the details of that daily life by the Holy Spirit. We need to choose to have a relatively “boring” life full of incredible richness and meaning. Not one overloaded with activities and events lived on the edge of exhaustion and collapse.

But, to have real life and thus real ministry to the people we come into contact daily we must first have margin. 

Seneca (an ancient philosopher) wrote that one of the more complex and truly confusing things about our human experience is how we treat time. And how we weirdly treat it so much differently than other assets or things under our rule. He said,

“No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbour can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives – worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers. You can only hand so many hours of your day over to other people before there is nothing left.”

Even if there is something left, you may have lost the clarity, the energy, and the capacity to do anything with it. 

Grab Hold Of Your Life! – Part Three

As a believer we need to realize that “time” is not a renewable resource or a replaceable asset. It cannot be bought, rolled over, transferred, or cashed in. It can only be stewarded or wasted. And by “wasted,” I don’t mean being lazy. I mean the opposite: wasting time by being busy and over scheduled. When we treat time the same way we treat the earth – something to exploit, use, and squeeze every last drop of life from – that’s truly wasting time. 

Time is sacred. It’s not something in a petri dish or beaker to be measured and broken apart. We are not in control. Time is something to be submitted to. A table to sit at. Where every moment is holy and beautiful and special.

I have been recently been relearning to carve up my time wisely. God first, me second, family third, close relationships fourth, community involvement fifth, and then ministry (and I am carefully selecting which invites to say yes to and which I say no to). And, I make sure that there is always margin (see first two blogs in this series) to be able to listen to God’s voice so I don’t miss moments He puts in front of me to interact with my neighbours or people at coffee shops.

After that, the clock hits zero. The asset called time is drained. The biggest change in me after embracing this formation is that now I’m simply willing to admit that my time is limited. I hold no illusions. I cannot do everything asked of me or everything I’m able to or want to do. In fact, isn’t it weird we think that at all? Recognizing that limit, in my opinion, is the first step to what feels like a superpower – much more meaning-focused spiritual work, and much more anchored and loving presence of being.

It’s not about being selfish or weird or introverted. It’s about creating a life centered around priorities we care about most, making sure they don’t fall by the wayside. There simply isn’t time for everything. I personally don’t feel restrained by that. I once did. I now come alive because this realization gives me permission to be all in with me (personal time and space), my family, Jesus, close friends, my Church, and my neighbours and community.

So if you want me to hop on a phone call or listen to your new idea, you’ll have to tell me which person or thing on my priority list you’re more important than, and then maybe we can talk. And that not even me trying to be mean. I now view my day as a jar of rocks already full. Rocks represent those things that are important to me. So for your rock to fit in, one must come out. 

It’s okay to believe we have a finite amount of time. It’s okay to believe we cannot add anything else to our schedules. We reveal ourselves with our asks – and how we respond to others’ asks. Thinking we have all the time in the world is costing us something. Our sanity. Our family. Our health. Our joy. If you don’t have enough time to do nothing, then you don’t have enough time. (Reread that last sentence – it’s important). 

We aren’t God. And so we should stop acting like we are. Being human means embracing the limits, not trying to cheat them. 

Not many of us recognize – and rarely do we wrestle with – how much we actually love chaos and franticness and busyness. We don’t admit that it does something to our soul and we enjoy it. It gives us purpose and meaning. We feel needed. We feel important.

And, most of all, we implicitly believe the lie that we need to take care of ourselves, because God just might forget about us. But I believe God takes care of His people – even more when they are honouring Him and trusting His design and Spirit. And He’s been doing this since the beginning of the story. 

More next time…

Grab Hold Of Your Life! – Part Two

Hurry is violence to the soul.”  That is a good phrase or slogan to remember in 2020. And to remove “hurry,” as we saw last time (Part One), we need to learn how to say that little but powerful word “no.”

For most of us our default answer to requests is an automatic “yes.” We seem to believe that time is a more abundant resource in the future than It is now. We have our plate full now with just regular life and yet think that somehow later we will have some free time. That spare time will magically or miraculously appear on our crowded schedules. We refuse to believe that the time we have today is the same time we will have next week and a year from now. But it is not a more abundant resource in the future.

So, we are asked:

      • Want to come over for dinner? Yes.
      • Can you meet for coffee? Yes.
      • Want to come and minister to our people? Yes.
      • Can you bring the snacks to the next meeting? Yes.
      • Will you lead a small group? Yes. 

And it is not just the people who say yes who suffer from “the YES Syndrome.” Their family and close friends suffer too. Our individuality is only a small part of a web of relationships and interpersonal communications that affect our work and our day-to-day lives – and the resources we have available, especially time.

I have to apply this approach almost daily. As I am asked to travel to various places to minister it is always my desire to say yes. It is what I am called to do. It is how the Lord has wired me as I love to teach, prophesy, and minister. But, I need to be aware that to teach then means preparation time now. That travelling then means being home now. 

Another example: I get asked for coffees constantly. People want to meet with me. People want to speak to me (FaceTime, Skype, Viber, WhatApp, iPhone, and on the list goes). I now ask what it is they want to talk about. What is it that they want me to do for them. I simply no longer have coffee just to have coffee. I don’t answer calls simply to talk on the phone (I hate phones). So, what is it that this person thinks I can do for them? What are they wanting from me? I want to invest my time wisely and not just spend it or waste it. So, I don’t say yes until I know why they want a piece of my time.

Remember, you can’t save time for the future. You either invest it, spend it, or waste it. But it is always now.

Here is what I had to learn: It is nor selfish to say no. This is about having time to love ourselves and love our neighbours better. So we practice and get really good at saying no. In our world, if we don’t learn how to say no, we will lose, simply because we have access to more things than ever before.

I have had to learn to say no in two different areas, and both have not been easy.

The first is saying no to the incredibly, awesome, “once in a lifetime” things. And the other is saying no to the daily micro-mundane asks and decisions that eat away at our flourishing like water damage in a house. Slow and steady, and methodical and toxic.

Don’t buy into the lie that a full schedule means productivity or holiness, or success, or achievement. It is okay to turn the cell phone off mid-evening so you can have some quiet time. It is definitely alright not to turn it on as soon as you get up in the morning. Admit it, we can be called, texted, tagged, snapped, voice memoed, commented to, FaceTimed, DM’d, private messaged, Voxed, e-mailed, WhatApped, and more anytime. While we are sleeping. When we are on a day off. When we are on vacation. When we are cooking or cleaning or going to the bathroom. We literally cannot escape someone trying to communicate with us. And it can be almost anyone. Because we live in a culture of reachability and access when we demand, in nice Christian ways, of course, access at all times to other people. 

I receive a large number of “messages” daily. Because I work here and on the opposite side of the planet, where they are 12 hours ahead of us, they come in all day and all night. And, often if I don’t answer an email right away I get a text telling me they just sent me an email. Or, they write a Facebook message and if I don’t respond in an hour or two I will get the same message by email. If I don’t return a call within an hour, they call again. So, I have had to learn to say no to an immediate response, period! I get to them when I get to them. When I have time and am not rushed I answer them if I know them. The rest may get an answer if time allows. Instant access simply exists for a very select few and only if they don’t misuse the privilege. 

We often don’t get to control how much people ask of our time. Thankfully, though, we do have control over our yes and no. It is time to learn to say no more often.

Conclusion next time… 

Grab Hold Of Your Life! – Part One

Well, it is into the middle of the first month of the new year 2020. And, we are all busy back at our regular routines. Christmas – both the western version and the eastern Orthodox version – are over and done with for another year. And, New Year’s celebrations have become a vague memory. We are back to normal, whatever your normal is. Even in the world of ministry everyone is back to ministering. Normal has returned. 

However, regardless of what you do, it is a good time to remember that if we always do what we have always done, we will get what we have always gotten. So, it might be a good time to look at making some changes. After all, 2019 was not the most fulfilling year of your life. You finished the year in a different place than the one you were originally aiming at. Things did not work out the way you planned they would. 

There is a word that I have been using a lot more recently. It is an easy word to know, remember, and speak. It is a one syllable word. Simple and easy. Practice it with me. “No!” That it. But, this simple word will change your life allowing you extra time to think, pray, and journal. To just be instead of always doing. After all, you are a human ‘being’ and not a human ‘doing’. To be a human being and have a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus you need margin in your life.

In his best selling book Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson defined the term ‘margin’ as “the space between our load and our limits.” What we are currently carrying is our load, and our capacity to carry that load is our limit. 

Sadly most of us have erased that space entirely. We live with zero space between our load and our limit. We are living on the edge with nothing to spare. Many are at their breaking point and have nothing left to give. We are just one small decision away from the load circle and the limit circle overlapping on top of each other perfectly. When our limits become our load, that’s when we experience personal (and professional) burnout and depletion.

But  this gets tricky in Christian culture, because we often encourage the idea of being busy to the point of leaving no margin in our lives. How do I know that? Because I hear such statements as:

      • You are doing the Lord’s work!
      • He will fill you up and sustain you!
      • You need to be doing big things for God!

And, these statements are spoken when, no matter what job you are doing in the world, you express that you are tired, broken, over-worked, frustrated…These words are meant to encourage you because you are a Christian and God will support and encourage you. Nonsense! He only supports what He has asked us to do – and He certainly has not asked us to burnout and live without meaning and personal space and time. We were made for more and better than what we are experiencing.

If we allocate 100 percent of our time, we have nothing left over – so if something unexpected happens in our days (which we can count on to happen), we are left trying to rush to the next thing. We are now hurrying ourselves – and those around us. And, we need to remember, Hurry is violence to the soul.”

One of the quickest ways to curb that violence to our own humanity is learn to say “no” in a world of “yeses.”

If you’re not saying no to good things, you’re probably not saying no enough. With the increasing access we have to each other, we have to make sure we’re saying no frequently. I have personally been trying to starve my schedule a bit more recently. I discovered that whenever I feed it, it seems to only grow plumper – needing more and more food the next week and the week after. More activity, More involvement. More appointments. 

Since I first read Dr. Swenson’s book (and I reread it at least once a year) I have placed a ruthlessly high value on space and margin. I fight for it relentlessly, which takes an enormous amount of work. And, at times I still fail and book more ministry and more appointments and more writing deadlines than I can actually comfortably handle and still maintain margin – personal space and time. But I am working on it on a regular basis and moving forward in maintaining margin.

I find it weird that people admire others who are extra busy. But honestly, can’t everyone do that? Last time I checked, it’s easy to fill an entire week. I’m now more interested in people who schedule as little as possible, only what is essential and best for their flourishing. THAT takes work. And commitment. Focus. Vision. That’s countercultural to the society and world in which we live. And totally opposite to the Christian and church culture.

When we don’t make this decision to live with margin and follow through then we will learn the hard way. You will learn from the great teacher Burnout. You will first spend time with Master Overwhelm. You will continue to do things that seem great and awesome and important (which is what hurry feeds on best), but you end the week feeling unfulfilled. Burned out and a little more on edge. Depleted and wound up. 

It is time for Christians – and especially Christian leaders – to be asking ourselves: Why do we have a full schedule? Why do we think we have to do these things? What stuff is necessary to live and what stuff isn’t? What if we prioritize doing nothing? What is “being” becomes more important than “doing”?

And, how will al this happen. Ready for it? Make your default answer no.

That’s it. Without realizing it, most of us make our default answer yes. So, a simple switch from ‘yes’ to ‘no’ and you will, over time, regain margin in your life. And thus regain and reclaim your real life. 

More next time…