Thursday, 29 December 2011

Progress in 2012?

To me, this picture represents progress.  It might not look like much, but given all that has happened over the past several years, this picture is a masterpiece.  When Josh brought home this picture a few weeks ago, Suzanne and I were thrilled.  That he could even hope to compose something as wonderful as this, even with supervision was unthinkable just a couple of years ago.

I often make goals for myself in the New Year.  Some I accomplish.  Others, I don't.  And I often measure my success in life by whether or not I have made enough "progress" over the past twelve months.  But then something happens to remind me of what is really important--and what is important to my heavenly Father.  How does He see "progress" in my life?  By how much I accomplish for Him, or by how closely I've walked with Him? 

I often forget that God sees me just like I see Josh.  My "paintings" might not be all that fancy, but if they are done for His glory, I know that He cherishes them more than the Picassos that other, more talented people might paint.  It's not about how much I can do in Christian service--it's about how much I truly do for Him.  And whether that's in a public setting or in the privacy of my own life, God is truly pleased with that which is done for Him with a pure heart.

Josh's painting represents that unadulterated purity of loving expression.  And it gives me great hope.  Not that he'll necessarily completely shed all of his challenges, but that he'll be a vibrant part of my world.  And that's what my heavenly Father wants from me.  To be a vibrant part of His world.  By allowing His Spirit to fill me and use me to compose wonderful paintings just for Him.  Most of these deeds will be known by only a few--perhaps only He will know.  But if my works are acceptable in His sight--if I have a pure and clean heart that is growing in holiness, I know that I will make great progress in 2012.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The power of Christmas

Today, after I dropped the kids off at school (and snuck a McDonald's breakfast :D!), I drove by John Pritchard School.  As I looked at the sign, I noticed that they were advertising their "Winter Concert".  My first reaction was sadness--so many kinds were filing into that school as I was driving by and I wondered how many of them had no idea what Christmas represented.  But I was also convicted.  Because for far to many years, I have been one of those Christians who looked at the moral and spiritual degredation of our society and only had negative things to say.  "We're living in the last days" I'd sigh.  And then I'd go on with my life.

But recently the Lord has been changing my heart.  I still believe that we are living in the last days, and I also believe that we are seeing a free fall in moral and spiritual decay in our country.  But something else is happening as well--something wonderful and glorious.  Out of the ashes of the old Christianity that I grew up with has come a new and vibrant shoot.  Just yesterday I was talking to a colleague of mine in southern Ontario who planted a church on Oct 1.  He has a special needs child just as I do, with issues that are even more challenging than those I face.  And he has faced great discouragement and difficulty in ministry.  But a new day has dawned!  And the response to this new church has been nothing short of miraculous.  And he's not the only friend and/or colleague who is seeing this revival.  I know of other churches and pastors who are seeing young men and women being moved by the Spirit of God back to the Word, back to a place of sacrifice, and back to a real purpose for living.  In other words, the gospel still has the power to save, even here in Canada!!

I fear that we Christians have become deceived by the Devil.  We feel that people don't really want the gospel any more.  So we mostly just tune out attempting to share the Good News with our neighbours, classmates, co-workers, and family.  Or we are ashamed of our church because we don't sense a passion for God in our hearts any more and we fail to invite people to come with us to a service.  Even the Christmas season no longer moves us the way it once did.

But then something happens to shatter our thinking.  God starts moving--and the power of the gospel; the power of the Christmas message takes root in the hearts to those we thought we totally closed to the good news.  And we are reminded again that it is "'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the LORD of hosts." (Zech 4:6)  The power of Christmas is the power of the gospel--the POWER OF GOD.  The hope of salvation from the penalty and power of sin is that the gospel is available to all who would believe.  And many men and women are being moved to salvation!  And God is currently raising up for Himself a generation of young men and women who are abandoning everything for His sake.  I see it.  I feel it.  And I want to spread the word that God is not done with us!  Let's join Him in His work!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Crazy love

One of the most influential books I have read in recent months has been Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  At first I thought that this book was one of those new postmodern hippie cool books that seem to dot the Christian publishing universe these days.  But I was attracted to the title and the synopsis of the book seemed to be speaking to my heart's greatest desire these days--to know God more; to love Him more than anyone else or anything else in this life.  Upon reading it, however, I was pleasantly surprised--and thoroughly convicted.  I realised how little my love for God beats in my soul sometimes; how lukewarm I have become in my thoughts and attitudes.  But at the same time I was so wonderfully encouraged!  Here was a man my age whose sole desire was to love God.  He was doctrinally sound and yet wasn't the stereotypical theologian who is all about head knowledge and is wasting away in his spiritual heart.  Francis wants to want to know God more; in fact, he is so completely committed to following God that he was even be willing to give up the pastorate of a mega church because he felt that God had so led him. 

In recent years, God has led me on a journey where I have felt as if I have indeed "walked through the valley of the shadow of death".  The challenges of raising a severely autistic child are, at times, almost overwhelming.  This was especially true in the early years of Josh's life.  How many nights did I cry out to God for the healing of my son?  There were many days where I asked the Lord why He had answered my prayers for the healing of some who were almost perfect strangers, yet when it came to my firstborn (and at that time my one and only son) His answer was either silence or "no".  For five years I grieved every day for Josh.  This was especially true during his many tortured nights where he would wake up and scream for an hour or more straight. 

But it was only through this painful experience that I began to realise a greater truth: that my Father in heaven really understood my pain.  He too gave up His one and only Son.  And He too heard His tortured cries throughout the night in Gethsemane.  And He too had to give up His most precious possession in order that I might be saved.  I have found that it's not the things in the Bible that I don't understand that are the most challenging, but the things that I do understand.  What Christian hasn't memorised John 3:16?  But how well do I comprehend Jesus' words?

I want to be a child of God who is crazy in love with my Father.  I want to be a husband who has a reservoir of love for my wife that goes beyond human capacity.  I want to be a father who is known by his children as a man who loves God more than anyone else--and from that love I can love my children more completely.  I want to be a pastor who leads his congregation into a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ.  I pray that this will be my story in the next few years.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A new beginning

I'm not really certain if this blog will become part of my daily life, or if it will start and fizzle.  But I thought that it might be a good opportunity to share with others the journey that the Lord has set me on.  Things are going to change in my life in a dramatic way in a few weeks.  After Christmas I'll be taking on a full-time position in my church.  And to be honest, the road ahead seems murky.  I know that God has led me to pastor EKBC, but I'm not certain what the Lord's will for the church looks like--at least not with clarity that I would prefer.  I don't have any "plan" or "strategy" other than to say that I want the church to be passionate about Jesus.  But of course that means that I have to be passionate about Jesus.  And recently the Lord has been revealing to me how dispassionate I can be toward Him.  And I'm being greatly convicted.  This fills nme with doubts.  Shouldn't I be the leader here?  I've been saved for almost forty years--you would think that I'd have a handle on this.  But the disappointements of the past few years (specifically my oldest son's autism) have in many ways rattled me to the core of my spiritual being.  I've been asking myself, "Do I really love God"?  And there are days when I can definately say "yes".  But other days, the answer is well short of what God demands.

A new beginning awaits in ministry.  But the same old journey is continuing as well.  As Francis Chan points out in his book Crazy Love, I want to want to know God more.  And today this is my prayer.