Prophet, Priest, King, Baby…

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Twice I’ve had the honour of having little babies at Christmas time. Those were special days that I cherish in memory, as it gave me a sweeter understanding of Mary’s plight. I also remember savouring deeply each coo and smirk my soft little babies made as I contemplated the absurdity of a baby God.

A long-awaited Prophet, Priest and King in the form of a delicate and defenceless babe.

God would have to be sovereign to do it that way. He’d have to be intricately involved in every detail of every nuance of this story for it to go well. Because a teenage mother whose unplanned pregnancy made her the scourge of her community isn’t exactly the best case scenario for the flourishing of a saviour. Not many of us would choose that path or write that cosmic story.

At the same time the plan is brilliant. Isn’t it?

The weakness of that King revealed God’s upside down Kingdom. It not being one made up of heavy-hitters or high achievers. The lowly, defenceless and diseased would be what this Kingdom consists of. It’s perfect. His little helpless presence is a picture into the wisdom and stature of his Father.

The Son of God putting on flesh and becoming what He created in order to show perfect mercy. Not just mercy. But perfect mercy.

Because only a good Prophet proclaims truth in love, humbly calling the sinner out of the dark and into the light. A good priest mediates for the people with deep understanding of their turmoil within. A good King will lead others by personal sacrifices, not afraid to get in the dirt for the sake of others.

When Christ was born in a manger, it was the beginning of a perfect, blameless and yet acutely challenging life. He’s not a Prophet, Priest or King who doesn’t know and understand our mortal pains and sufferings. He knows them intimately. He’s the best kind of Saviour. The only kind that makes any sense.

The absurdity of it all remains…but for different reasons now. I no longer wonder it happened this way.

Now I’m gripped that He would do it at all. I’m stirred with gratitude for the sacrifice. It’s shocking, not because it’s a strange story, but because our King has come and He’s come for us. For the sick, sad sinner. For me.

Christmas comes each year beaming good hope.

And not just a good hope for the well, affluent and cheerful. It’s for us. For the ones hurting, lonely and sick with sin. It’s not about perfectly posed smiling faces sitting on Santa’s knee or precisely planned activities. As lovely as all that is. When we pull away all the happy wrapping, Christmas is a day of remembrance. Remembering a cold night in a barn. A night with very little fan-fair and a great deal of looming war.

But this is exactly why we sing. We sing rhythms of remembrance and we ought to sing them with joy over that great hope.

I believe Mary’s song is the best Christmas song of them all. She perfectly express’s all the richness of God’s upside down Kingdom in Christ’s coming. So lets read and remember that an immaculate Prophet, Priest and King came down to us as a baby that first Christmas so long ago.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Luke 1:46-55

Merry Christmas!

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Posted in Christian Living, Devotional | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Let Your Pastors Wife Be Herself: This is good. Above all, please remember that your pastor’s wife is human. She will make terrible mistakes. She will say stupid things. She will have days when she is selfish and self-centered. She will go into spiritual slumps. I know because I do all of this and more. But, one thing that keeps bringing me back to a biblical focus is the grace and goodness of the church of Jesus Christ.

Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media: I’m willing to bet by now most of us have experienced some terrible pit-falls of social media. Of course it can be used for so much good and yet it also has come destructive tendencies. Watch out for these three.

Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends: This is all too real for our family right now. For those of us in ministry who have suffered (or are suffering) from this affliction, I think we need to do everything we can to discover and embrace an applied theology of weakness. Even the Apostle Paul said that it is in weakness that we discover the glory, power, and grace of God. This is how God works. He is upside-down to our sensibilities. Better said, we are upside-down to his.

Prince Of Heaven – Hillsong Worship: Every now and then Hillsong writes a song worth listening to. This is one of them.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Life, Ministry, Music, Uncategorized, Video's | 1 Comment

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Top 10 Misquoted Lines From C.S. Lewis: Well this is interesting. And sure makes me want to do better at checking my source when quoting someone.

You Too; A Call To End Violence Against Women: Violence against women is a pervasive issue, and the women in our churches are not immune. Mary Kassian writes about how violence against women is an affront to Gods creation…and yet we all sin this way, both male and female.

Polarizing Issues And The Departure Of Nuance: This is an important one. Its written by my pastor and friend, and you need to read it. We are not owed Christian values in our society but rather we are called to love God, love neighbour, and live in such a way that causes the watching world to say, “I want that”.

Only Jesus – Austin Stone Worship For Kids: If you want to throw in some worship time with your kids during family devotions, here is a great resource. I’m a pretty harsh critic of kids worship music and I heartily approve of this one. I actually listen to it on my own too.

Good Good Father – Zealand: You may be sick of this song already, but just in case, here’s another one for the kids. My kids love doing the actions to these.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Music, Parenting, Uncategorized, Video's, Womanhood | Leave a comment

Hollywoods Reckoning Is A Reckoning For Us All…

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We live in interesting times, don’t we? Particularly right now as a sexual-assault reckoning sweeps across the glitzy streets of Hollywood, rocky hills of politics and sunshiney nooks of the morning News. With every new day comes a new story of sexual abuse or inappropriate behaviour. All of it happening behind the scenes of smiling faces who provide entertainment to the masses.

And I think most of us (Christians that is) have had a similar thought linger with us through it all. It’s about time.

Vindication. Right? I’ve read conservative blogs that have this tenor to them. They ask the question…why are we surprised when depraved Hollywood elite, who tout terrible violence, nudity and foul language in their movies, act depraved in their personal lives? And I think we read these thoughts, and node in agreeance. Ya, their not morally superior. It’s about time the veil is lifted and the world see’s them for the deviant people they are. 

Have you felt this way?

I have. It feels like a long-time coming. They speak like their the moral judges of our time at award shows and gala’s and therefore we’re all just supposed to take our que’s from them? Because their actors? Really?

For so many (particularly conservative) folks, this cultural set-up has been infuriating. Which makes the current reckoning seem so satisfying.

Listen though…it shouldn’t be.

That is exactly the place we ought never settle into. That place of us against them judgement with sick satisfaction in all the grief and shame. When we sit in that seat and get comfortable, we’re no different than them. Because we truly are no different then them. You may read this and get angry. But its true.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” ~ Romans 3:11

We’re not morally superior to them. Yes, even those of us who love Jesus. Because listen, none of us were accepted by Christ because of moral prowess. Not one of us. And although we’ve been justified by what He did on the cross and have been grafted into His family, that does not make us better.

However what it ought to do, is make us the most gracious people on the planet. Because we were offered grace in the midst of our sexually immoral, inappropriate and deviant lifestyle. And its a miracle, that God would accept us at all.

Because of this, what right do we have to get cozy in our judgement?

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” ~ Psalm 1:1

The terrible truth is that the church is no stranger to these exact same kinds of allegations. And if we think for a second that this same grand reckoning isn’t on its way to us, we are terribly naive. As much as we think these sins are inevitable for the “bad people” in Hollywood, the same goes for the church. Why? Because bad people hang out there too.

Indeed we’re all bad people.

Deeply infected sinner’s. All of us liable to fall in one way or another, if the conditions were perfect to do so.

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? ~ James 4:12

So as this cultural veil is lifted and the accounts pile up, how should we respond? It should go without saying, that our compassion should rule the day. Our empathy and care for the victim’s should be the quickest reaction and first response. We ought to mourn with those who mourn. And be people who seek and pray for true conversion, reconciliation and restoration for all.

We must take the plank out of our own eye, before removing the speck out of another (and only if that another is a Christian). And we must remember where exactly we came from by taking note of our own indwelling sins, before we ever open our mouths to speak on someone else’s.

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. ~ Luke 8:17

This is just as much a warning for us as it is to the Hollywood elites, lest we lie to ourselves and operate as though it’s just for them.

We can’t live in the dark on a couch with the scoffers. When we’re in Christ, we stand in the light, with truth and grace bringing lost ones to the only One who can deliver and redeem them.

The same great One who saved us.

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Putting Aside Bucket Lists For A Longer Vision Of The Coming Glory…

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While scrolling through Facebook I came across a story that made me take pause both because of its tragedy and commentary on the culture at large. It read “Saskatoon Mom With Terminal Cancer Continues To Check Things Off Her Bucket List.” This woman is 30, healthy looking and beautiful with a daughter at her side. Only her living reality is every mom’s worst nightmare. Yet, trying to stay positive and move forward she’s working on a Bucket List.

And she’s succeeding; checking off her list one by one, making her dreams come true. It’s a lovely thing for her to spend her last days making memories with her husband and daughter in all kinds of exciting experiential ways.

It’s becoming more and more common to have a Bucket List even without terminal illness looming. Mainly because most of us have a fundamental understanding that life is precious yet short. Any of us could go at anytime. For this reason we write long lists of aspirations to check off. And even if we don’t have a written catalogue, most of us still have one or a few things in our mind that we’d like to accomplish before that fateful day.

“I want to go to Ireland before I die”, “Hiking the Grand Canyon is on my bucket list”, “If I could just go to Disneyland once, I’d die a happy person.”

Everyone has their “thing”. Because when we die, the perception is that all those wonderful opportunities die with us. And what a sad reality that is.

But is it true?

For the Christian, it is not true. For the reason the Bible calls, heaven. But see, most of us don’t like thinking about heaven. And I think it’s because we believe it’s too abstract and confusing. Sure it will be great, but we don’t know exactly what that means, so we avoid thinking, studying or even imagining it at all. We don’t want to be like the seemingly selfish folks who dream about heaven being an endless game of golf (because I guess that sounds good to some people). Yet we also want to ward off the notion that heaven is just one long worship service that never ends.

So what is it then? What will it be like?

What if it’s both and neither of those two examples? What if after we die, there is much to do and see? What if this life isn’t the only life we will have experiences in? And what if that kind of closeness to God includes worship and excitement mingled together?

How does dwelling on that possibility inform the way we view our desires for our lives this side of heaven? And how does it change our need to create lists of things to do before our day of death?

Revelation 21:1-4 says,

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Scholars disagree on the nature of how the old earth is removed and new earth is made present. But regardless of how that happens, what we see is that earth, our world, is a part of our future after we die. It will indeed be different, much like our bodies will be different. But it will in fact be there. Physical. And better!

Sin will no longer be present, evil’s existence gone, sickness and sadness triumphed over. The lovely that we see here on earth will be made brighter by the absence of all Satan’s corruption. God Himself, will actively live and move among His people; the most jubilant detail of them all!

Picture it! Let your imagination run wild with all of Scripture’s particulars directing your mind’s path. Your allowed. Go ahead!

Ponder the fact that there’s a good chance the New Earth will be familiar to us. After Jesus rose from the dead, some of the disciples didn’t recognize Him at first. Until they did. He was different and yet the same. The new earth in its resurrected form will indeed be new, but will likely be very similar to what we already know.

Randy Alcorn in his Book called Heaven says,

By calling the New Earth Earth, God emphatically tells us it will be earthly, and thus familiar. Otherwise, why call it Earth?… The Greek word for translated “earth” is ge, from which we get “geology”. It is used of land, soil, and the world itself. Walter Bauer defines ge as “the surface of the earth as the habitation of humanity.” Ge connotes physicality, It’s not a figurative, airy, symbolic, or abstract word. It’s tangible, concrete. It speaks of an earthly realm where there are physical human beings, animals, vegetation, and natural resources. 

With this physical New Heaven comes so much possibility. What if we’ll still be able to travel the new earth? What if we will indeed be able to play golf (if you actually like golf)? Or visit a resurrected Grande Canyon-esq site? What if?

In all likelihood, this could be the case.

We’ll definitely see sunsets, watch flowers grow, and enjoy the beauty earth reveals to us now. And what we know for certain is that there will be a great city; a functional and familial community, with Christ at the centre. All of this should be enough to invoke excitement for those who love the Lord, shouldn’t it?

It’s just that we don’t often think this way about death? We live as though all there is, is this physical life. We function as though all we have now is all we have at all.

Yet, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Right? Why did Paul say this in Philippians 1:21? He was differentiating between two worlds. To live is Christ means that however long God gives us life on this earth, we must spend it proclaiming the good news of Christ. We live as a vessel of God. We proclaim Jesus, and we live to glorify His name. To die is gain means that when we pass on from this earth into the next, we inherit the reward of Heaven and get full communion with the Jesus we proclaimed.

Bucket Lists are not evil. Don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing in Scripture condemning them. And people with terminal illness’ are more than free to intentionally and systematically create memories to leave with their families in the form of a Bucket List.

However, I’m thinking through its necessity for the everyday Christian. Because I do believe the very existence of the Bucket List reveals a sign of the times in a way. And it may just uncover a deeper heart of misunderstanding. There’s an element of it that can be, perhaps for some, self-centred or self-seeking.

Yet, this side of heaven (or the next for that matter) isn’t about me. It’s not about me ticking a list of desires as fast as I can as I wait for death to take me away from the joy this world grants. As a follower of Jesus, I’m called to spend my life living for someone else. For Christ. To live is Christ.

But that’s not the end. When the Lord decides to end my days on earth, I begin a new life. One that is engulfed in the fulfillment of all I proclaimed about Jesus. One that is absent of all that made life on earth unbearable. One that involves God, adventure, excitement and joy.

It’s gain.

The knowledge of that should make the Christian relax a little on the need to fit in all our most urgent aspirations this side of heaven. Because the Christian who dies young doesn’t miss out on anything.

They just enter into an entirely new and holy escapade.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Devotional | 3 Comments

Let Me Direct You Elsewhere…

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Its been about a hundred years since I’ve done one of these. But in my defense over the last two months I’ve started pastoral work, fostered two kids, done the back-to-school insanity and took care of my family in the process. It’s been a scene man. This little blog is last on the list when life gets that way. But I’m back now. I think. We’ll see.

Being A Pastor’s Wife Is Good For Faith, Bad For Friendship: Geez, this is sad but true. Speaking from experience, friendship is very hard when your husband is a pastor. It can be a lonely place. The lesson here? Love your pastor’s wife and don’t expect her to be perfect!

Be Patient With Your Slow Growth: If your finding yourself in this place, be encouraged. We value speed today far more than we realize, and that makes the painfully slow process of our sanctification and personal transformation confusing and frustrating.

How Not To Be Led By The Spirit: We all want to be led by the spirit, to only move where He wants us to move. Here are three ways not to do it. They are simple and yet often neglected in favor of feelings. I know this, because I hate to admit that I can so easily fall into these bad habits.

Strahan – Mountain: A dear friend showed me this song awhile ago and it has helped me get through a difficult time. Perhaps you need it too.

Sufjan Stevens – Mercury: And here’s just another song that’s kinda relaxing that I’ve been enjoying.

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Let Me Direct You Elsewhere, Ministry, Music, Video's | 1 Comment

The Mystery Of Evil’s Final Mark…

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Theres a lot of discussion about end times these days among Christians waiting and watching for Armageddon. With hurricanes, forest fires and earth quakes the world we love is in distress, and it’s hard not to watch the news and wonder if we are indeed living in the last days. Will Christ return soon? And, if so, what will that really look like?

Scriptures speaks to these questions, and there’s been much exposition written on the topic. Opinions tend to run hot when the conversation comes up. Its been the source of earnestly written fictional christian books and poorly acted films. Yet it all begs the same pondering; when the end comes, what ought we look out for?

Revelation 13:16-17 is a place many Christians put their stake in as one of the main telltale sign of the end.

“Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast of the number of its name.”

John, who received this revelation is talking about a distinctive marker of how the world will respond to the end of all things as we know it. This is apocalyptic prophetic literature given to us to help us understand future realities of Christ’s return and the cosmic war between God and Satan.

And the mark of the beast is clearly an evil mark, symbolizing satan’s dominion with human-kind. No one would argue with that.

However what will that mark be? Is the inspired Words we read in Revelation meant to lead us into conspiracy theories or fear of falling into cultural traps? Often we wonder if this distinctive mark has something to do with modern technology as we see it today. Computer chips are indeed being inserted into wrists at business’s for the sake of convenience. And tattoos are on the rise, even tattoos on foreheads. Is this the mark?

Surely these fads mean something spiritually significant in a world that ruthlessly denies the things of God with great enjoyment. God is most certainly handing us over to the evil things of the world. So this must be a cultural mark we ought to look out for. Maybe even the mark of the beast?

One thing we have to recognize about Revelation first and foremost is that it is a book detailing future events with heavy symbolism. And a lot of the symbolism relates back to Old Testament Jewish symbolism in the Prophetic books. Reading Revelation with that helpful lens will make interpretation so much clearer.

In chapter 13 we see the first beast rising; giving foresight to a future opponent of Christ in the days to come. It’s important to note that this beast resembles the four beasts that appeared to Daniel in a vision (Daniel 7:1-8) and reading those texts gives us insight into the beast of Revelation.

Then in verse 11 of chapter 13, the second beast is revealed and he’s described as being a liar. Often referred to as a false prophet with great influence. This beast even has “signs” or miracles that persuade earth-dwellers into submission. And people will ultimately find themselves branded by a marker, one that express’ their allegiance to this beast. A mark that is specifically said to be imprinted on the forehead and right hand. This kind of specificity requires some digging. Why the forehead and hand?

Now would be a good time to consult Old Testament prophetic literature as an aid to this question.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is given the greatest commandment that he is tasked by God to share with His chosen people. And it is called the Shema, which became a daily prayer for the Jewish people. It is a beautiful statement about who God is, “Hear o Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” And what that truth means to His people. “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Then Moses goes on to admonish the people to wear these words on their hearts and teach them to their children.

They were also instructed in this way…”You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”

The hand and the forehead.

Did this mean they should somehow wear these words on their hand or tattoo them on their forehead? Is this as literal as we think?

No, actually Jews at the time would have known exactly what this means. The frontlets between your eyes (or forehead) would have easily been known to mean your mind. Meaning, what God’s people think in regards to who God is matters. Binding on your hand was known to speak of God’s people’s actions and how their behaviour reveal what they believed about God.

In thought and deed they were to love the Lord their God, and this was a sign of true belief.

With all that in mind, lets look back at Revelation.

What we see now is that the mark of the beast is more likely to look like people living an evil life in thought and deed. They will have put aside the great Shema, for the folly of the beast.

People of every wage bracket, and socio-economic category will fall prey to a debased mind and sinful action. This will be a sign unto us that the beast is at work. This will be the revealing marker of whether someone loves God.

So the real question now is, does the Shema live inside your mind? Is it engraved in the frontlets between your eyes? Do you think about who God is; His oneness? How’s your affection for this God? Is it ever present in your heart, soul and might? Are your actions a reflection of this unbridled love?

Jesus reaffirmed this great commandment in Matthew 22:34-40, giving relevant emphasis to this command as still being priority to Christians today. This command is all-encompassing and requires total devotion to God, which includes obedience to the rest of the commandments. Heart, soul, mind means complete allegiance to Christ and loving your neighbour as yourself (which Jesus adds in 22:39), is the embodiment of head and hand love for the Lord.

The end is indeed near. We will never know the day and moment of its finality as we know it, but we should take notice of what’s happening here. We should recognize that this world is not merely physical but deeply spiritual. All around us a war wages for our soul.

And now we know just how important our love and belief of God is crucial to where we will stand on that last day.

Will your head and hand be marked by the beast, or by the Shema?

Posted in Christian Living, Culture, Theology | 5 Comments