Thursday, May 28, 2009

the dark side of my spiritual gifts - how i get in God's way

we had our church community's seed group night last night and we spent a chunk of time talking about spiritual gifts, their relation to one another and the potential "dark side" that might be viewed in utilizing them. we spent some time with individuals taking the lead in answering those types of questions about themselves and my turn came along last night.
my spiritual gifts are in mercy, encouragement, teaching, prophecy and some others that i didn't really address last night. i spent a good deal of time talking about the potential dark side of utilizing my gifts. i was "encouraged" that encouragement was/is high up the list because i've been trying to hone that gift with some extra use over the last few years. i also have been trying to hone the gift of prophecy in me and i'm finding that it is within these 2 gifts that i see the danger of the dark side.
let me begin with a definition of what i think the gift of prophecy is because ... it's got a really bad rap. prophecy isn't being a fortune teller like is the reaction of many when they think about this gift. prophecy is less about being Karnak, and more about the gift of a teacher. prophecy is more about bringing to light revealed truth than it is about trying to predict future truth. i'm not at all comfortable at all with the idea of predicting what could happen and on the one or two occasions where i've thought that God was trying to bless the hearers of whatever prophetic utterance i've had i've been scared sh**less that what i had to say was just Ian talking and had nothing to do with God whatsoever. that is not my general experience with prophecy though, most of the time my prophetic voice speaks in conjunction with my encouraging voice as i try to bring to light a truth that helps a person to a better place.
a follower of Christ should be a "dispenser of HOPE" and that is where i see encouragement and prophecy working hand in hand. often my first contact with people is as a dispenser of hope. i'm a welfare worker so i use my mercy gift regularly but as i try to give hope to the individual i'm finding i'm seasoning my mercy with a good deal of encouragement and the revealed truth of prophecy. there are realities that the individual has to deal with as they try to choose their path. i'm only trying to help the individual to a better place and i'm finding that i can be misinterpreted in motive.
i can be a bit random and i wonder what value my randomness has in revealing truth. innocuous conversations are viewed as arrogant (i'm sure), flirty (possibly), or just plain inane. just try and encourage someone of the opposite sex and see if you can avoid looking "flirty". just try and speak confidently to a situation and avoid looking "arrogant". just try and speak to a situation with a slant that is outside the acceptable worldly norm and see if you can avoid looking the fool and inane.
for all the times people look at me like i'm talking the part of the fool then i wonder if maybe God is trying to say something to me or through me. perhaps the community's reaction more often should be "why do we have to do it that way? because that's how we've always done it? should we be choosing another path?". i wonder what place random prophet types have in that moment or if even i might be a random fool sounding off on a stage (signifying nothing).
i'm sure i get in the way. i'm sure i look the arrogant, flirty fool but i'm trying to stretch this stuff in me. my faith requires growth so maybe we should choose to sound the fool more often, at least that way we'll confound the wise.
bless you fellow traveller.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Humanity ascended

I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek. It’s not like I speak Klingon as a second language or something and I’ve never attended a convention but that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to this stuff. One of my favourite stories was written by H.G. Wells called The Time Machine. I like that sort of stuff because I’d love to go see some very cool things for myself as they happened in history. One of the things that I’d love to see is the Ascension of Jesus, it’s just ... very cool. I want to see that sort of stuff. I’d love to be there on the morning of the resurrection, I cheer Thomas on in his unbelief because I’ve sat in his chair; I want to walk the Emmaus road and I want my own eyes opened as He breaks the bread.
Did you ever wonder why the gospel stories talk so much about Jesus’ body being human and not spiritual after the resurrection? Why is it significant for them to point out that he ate some fish, that he broke some bread and that they could touch him? I think it may be because early into the Christian church they had to deal with a group that were holding that Jesus’ body was spiritual after the resurrection. In many ways, we’re still dealing with the same question today.
If you had to guess what the most quoted Old Testament passage is in the entire New Testament, what would it be? Isaiah 53 perhaps? No, it’s Psalm 110:1 “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” It seems that the early church focused on the Ascension, probably because they began to have to deal with Gnostic folks who were trying to argue that Jesus was spiritual only after his resurrection. They built into their stories that Jesus was human before and after the resurrection.
The days that came after the resurrection must’ve been a whirling dervish of events. Every day somebody must’ve thought, “what are we really seeing here?” I know I’d be thinking that. Eventually, Jesus takes the boys to the mountain and before their eyes he ascends into heaven. For whatever period of time He had been reinforcing with them that yes, it’s true, yes He’s human and yes everything will change now. Then this human and divine ... leaves. Let’s set aside how cool that must’ve been to see that because that’s not the point. The point is that a fully human deity ascended to God and he now sits at the right hand of God to be our intermediary with God.
What does that look like? What does that mean? Where is He? Why is that important? Well, I don’t have a lot of answers here. God is invisible (see Col 1:15), so He doesn’t have a “right hand” for Jesus to sit at but that’s not the point either. It’s more important to dwell on the fact that he “sat down”. It’s figurative and it is to signify his coronation. He sat down as Lord over all things and all things are put in subjection to him. That’s the point of the Ascension. The thing that must be remembered here is the humanity of Christ. All things were already in subject to God, they have always been so, but now all things are subject to a human too. Everything that matters and everything that doesn’t matter is now subject to a human as well as being subject to God. This fact in turn helps the human heart relate to God as we realize that our heart can relate to a human. Jesus has experienced all the sorts of things that we have experienced and yet, He was without sin ... IS without sin (see Heb 4:15). Does that make your burden lighter? One of my favourite lines in one of my favourite Grain of Wheat songs is “someone that I know has walked here before” so I know that this principle lightens my load.
The Ascension is important. It relates the individual to the holy through the personhood, the humanity of Christ. Jesus ascended as a human who was divine and he sat down to minister for us with Abba. The early church emphasized his Ascension as an integral step in living its daily life. So should we. It makes a difference to me when in the middle of my struggles to know that I’m not alone here and my guide has travelled this valley before.
I want to close with what I think is the coolest of the Ascension stories, we find in Acts 1 verses 9 and 10.
9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
How cool is that? Who's with me on the time machine thing?
Even so Lord Jesus come.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

the newest member of the family

it is with incredible joy that i mention this, we've added a bouncing baby bass guitar. it's an acoustic bass that has already brought a ton of fun to our lives as we "jam" in our living room. my wife is inspired by music, it brings incredible job to her life. that in itself brings joy to my life.

i started guitar lessons over a year ago and i've tried to stay on top of what i can over that period but this addition is a "gift from God" in more ways than on the emotional level. it's fun just to play and sing together. Wendy named the bass "Honey" because it has a honey coloured look to it and the look and sound certainly is sweet.

we're excited. i've already started to plan a get together for our church community where we can all sit and play our instruments for the evening. we're tentatively planning something for June 13, a premature celebration of our 18th anniversary on the 22nd. that'd be sweet! honey sweet!

thank you God for little joys like this.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jessica Fletcher - the Grim Reaper?

it's an old show but my wife watches "Murder she Wrote" on Vision TV simply because there are so few wholesome type shows worth watching on tv period. she also has a favourite in "Monk".
the reason i bring this up is because Murder She Wrote is based on a premise that Jessica solves all these murders as they happen around her. first of all, who would want to be friends with this woman because everywhere she goes someone dies and usually a friend is implicated in the murder? seriously, how does she keep her friends? you've got to think that maybe one of these days she wouldn't be able to figure one out and some innocent friend gets sent to the big house.
secondly, why does death seem to follow her around? really, somebody dies every week around this woman. i realize that she's old but come on, nobody that i've ever seen or met has this much death running circles around them. it's like she's a black hole of death, who would want to be friends with that?
Jessica Fletcher is the Grim Reaper. well, think about it. have you ever seen them together? of course not.
it's kind of creepy that the show always ends with her and a big smile. it's a big smokescreen my friends. beware the Reaper, you won't see her coming.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

fear and passion

i've found a couple more blogs i like. one is for an emergent American at The Corner that i've never met and .... probably would love to. i was reading his blog when i came across a link that he himself posted about. he quoted extensively from Trent Yaconelli from Morphine Life in the post and i've since added both guys to my reader and as links.

my reaction was simply, "wow". i don't know what more to say about it, just "wow". so here's The Corner quoting Trent Yaconelli.

Fear is always near like an ill advisor to the king whispering rumors of conspiracy, war and betrayal. We brush him away and try to listen to the wise and thoughtful but Fear’s voice is insidious and persistent. Fear is always there; ready to shove another folder of misinformation in your face. He is ready with pie charts, graphs, audio and video tapes of past conversations, past mistakes, and a list of damages. He is always whispering, “Sir, I really think you should take a look at this” and more often than not we do. In our heads we study the charts, we watch the video, and we listen with headphones to the audio – trying to gain new meaning, some new understanding.

But passion, passion is different. Passion comes into the room knocking over pie charts, dropping popcorn all over the place while watching the video, crashing into tables full of surveillance photos the whole time unaware of the seriousness of the situation. He moves lightly. His beard peppered and untamed, his hair clownish and unaware. His eyes sparkle and dance like sunlight off of the ocean. He moves through the room saying “wow! What a great pie chart! Hey, who took this picture? Is that you? Wow you look great.” He bounds up to your throne. Fear is there; dressed in his black three-piece suit, white starched shirt and red “power tie.” Passion pats fear on the back, “hey good to see you again” and then quickly turns away and focuses on you. Fear is showing a video of you at a talent show singing off key at 13 but with conviction. Fear is trying to teach you why it is bad to take chances. “Think of all the horrible things kids said about you behind your back. Remember all of the ridicule you received” he hisses. Passion smiles, “Hey I was with you when you did that. Man, that was great, you really knocked’em dead kid with that one.” He watches the video of you at 20 when you decided to take a month off and cross the country. “God that was a fun trip, it was just you and I back then. We were so free! Woo hoo! What an adventure that was.” Fear is whispering in your ear now, “but sir, remember you missed out on 6 months of managerial training. You could be further up the ladder by now if you hadn’t listened to him. Your bank account would be far more impressive. Now you are so far behind.”

Passion throws you a backpack and says, “lets go.” You look around the room, what is he talking about? You shout “are you insane? Didn’t you read the report? We can’t go out there. I could lose everything! I could be ruined!” Fear Whispers with his cold lips, “Sir he is obviously an idiot. He has no idea of the risks, the danger, and don’t forget the very real chance of DEATH. I mean seriously sir, just look at him.” Passion is on the floor sitting on a pie chart and spinning in a circle. Passion jumps up walks straight and confident and says, “Come with me.” All is quiet in the room. His eyes smile at you. Fear leans in towards you his lips once again against your ear but this time Passion silences him with a stare and a raised hand. Like a child pleading with his parents for one more ride on the roller coaster he grins a reckless grin and says, “Come with me.” The room is quiet, even the sun awaits your reply.

How many times do we choose to stay in our decaying castle, rotting, but maintaining our illusion of security? How many times do we listen to the voices telling us it is too dangerous to try, too unsafe to venture out, too reckless to dream. We think we are being safe. We think we are making the wise decision but in the end we disintegrate waiting for an attack that never comes, building our fortress ever higher never realizing that we have locked ourselves in.

i miss Larry Norman

he's been gone over a year now but i want to throw this down because i continue to miss the man. there have been a handful of folks that have affected me significantly over my formative years and beyond but Larry is definitely a "significant" guy from my history. i think that maybe i got a bit of indignance with how the poor are treated in this world from guys like Larry Norman. i'm probably more political in protecting the poor because of guys like Larry Norman. i probably vote on the left because i see that a society is judged by how it treats its poor.
i had a period where i was a long-hair and i probably did so out of a desire to rebel from the staid approach of the church. i know i wanted to shake it up a bit and i still do. i'm a social worker (a welfare worker) because i saw how much the poor needed so much help and there were so many barriers in their way that unless men and women of good intention stepped up then little would be done. i don't see the church doing nearly enough about this and i still think that much of the church (almost any church i've taken even a cursory look at) has way too much of an exclusivity and an inner myopia that only gets them concerned with issues that don't go any broader than the steps of their own buildings.
Larry Norman fought that. "Why should the Devil have all the good music?" smacked up against all sorts of Christian perceptions about what it meant to be a Christian in a world that needed and continues to need relevant Christians.
"Shot Down" is a song that has always spoken to me simply because its mostly about how other Christians had treated him. essentially there are well intentioned folks who think they're being adamant about protecting God's holiness when it turns out their busy protecting the cultural trappings that we've built up around the church. i've never understood the desire to tear a man down because they believe that he's singing to a beat that they don't prefer.
be more inclusive my friends.
i want to leave you today with the lyrics of one tune that could very well speak to the heart of Larry Norman's message.


If God is my Father and you are my brother. Then why can't we bother to reach out and love one another?
Why do we keep on acting the way we do? The way we treat each other it just breaks my heart in two.
Once we were happy, oh, yes, once in the garden.
But then a lie broke the stillness, and our hearts began to harden.
And hoping to be wiser, man has reached too far.
Sometimes I think that we've advanced, but then I look at where we are.

i miss you Larry and i still have my mp3 player loaded with like 60% of your tunes. i love you my brother.

Friday, May 8, 2009

an interesting social experiment

this is so incredibly normal and yet it's incredibly fascinating. i found it amongst the blogs of note here on blogspot. essentially it's very simple, someone put a camera on a food conveyer belt and then you just get to see the reaction. there isn't all that much significant but i also couldn't pull myself away from watching the goings on in some sushi restaurant in Japan.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

a fragmented gospel

i've been doing some surfing for some bloggers i like and i've found one in Delta BC that is doing a good bunch of challenging me. i've linked him on the side as "Waving or Drowning" and his name is Mike Todd. i've COMPLETELY copied one of his posts below and in it he quotes another so ... don't go thinking these are any of my words. it is a real kick in the pants though, and you need that. i know you need that because i need that and you're just like me.
without further ado, here's Mike Todd "Waving or Drowning?".

I was going through my notes this morning and came across this quote. I've posted it before, but it seems appropriate to bring it to your attention again, hot on the heals of A Fragmented Gospel:

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
(Wilbur Rees: Leadership, Vol. 4, No.)

It's time for us to become what we claim to be - The People of God. This is opposed to the role we seem to prefer - The People Loosely Affiliated With Some Vague Notion of God.

Monday, May 4, 2009

i love it when she laughs

my wife has the best laugh in the world. seriously, best laugh in the world. i change rooms at a party just to be closer to her when she's laughing although, i don't have to change rooms. her laugh is so big, so hearty, so wonderful in a curiously cackling sort of way that i don't have to change rooms, i just do.

not everybody likes her laugh mind you. she's been "chided" in the past for having such an inappropriate laugh in an office environment (for example). however, everytime i've heard something like this i've jumped to the rescue because i NEVER want that to die. I LOVE THIS ABOUT WENDY and don't you DARE try to squash this.

to laugh is to enjoy life and i need her to enjoy life. my heart sinks when she's struggling and it flies when she can laugh with me. my own failures don't always keep her happy but it's not like all of life is supposed to be a lark either. at any rate, i love it when she laughs.

last week i sat and listened to her talk on the phone with a very good friend. it made my day. it's not a giggle, it's a full blown, get out of your chair, what the hell was THAT sort of laugh. i LOVE it when she laughs.

hmm now i have Bruce Cockburn running through my head. Listen for the Laugh, that's good advice.

someone that i know has walked here before

i'm preparing a homily for Ascension Sunday and i've been really struck by the importance of the humanity of Christ in the early church. i got some pretty key information from a post by a Regent College prof about the Ascension and the humanity of Christ. the gist of it is that the most quoted OT scripture in the NT is Psalm 110:1 "The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." and that speaks to the importance that the early church put on the Ascension and coronation of Christ. there are all sorts of post-resurrection stories pointing to the fact that Jesus had a human physical body that took sustainance and could be touched. it seems obvious from those scriptures that the early believers really wanted to emphasize the fact that Jesus was human and there was no need to spiritualize his resurrection work.

one of my favourite lines in one of my favourite Grain of Wheat songs comes from a tune called "Here by the Water" by Jim Croegaert. it says, "blood on the road wasn't mine though, someone that i know has walked here before" and i find the humanity of Christ very comforting. Christ ascended as a man; a God-man but a man nevertheless, and he "sat down" at the right hand of God to minister as a priest and a king.
the fact that all things are subject to a human King allows my heart to relate to God. all things have always been subject to God but now they are subject to a human also and that fact, the sacrifice by that man, allows me access to God. I CAN AND DO RELATE, AND HAVE ACCESS TO GOD.
i'll post the homily up here on or after Ascension Sunday but in the meantime i just wanted to throw down some of these thoughts.