Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Every time I drive to Hamilton on Highway 403, I am amazed as the route takes me down the mountain.  Over the crest and down I travel safely and smoothly.  It was not always that way.

Our friend Al Saunders remembers working for an engineering company as they surveyed the land and planned for a smooth route down that mountainside.  They made a way for millions to journey through.

When John the Baptist echoed the prophet Isaiah he talked about preparing the road that Messiah would come in on.  Every valley needed to be filled in.  The bumps and mountains needed to be brought low.  A straight road through a rugged wilderness meant the King could arrive.

In the path of our lives, there are many low places--- insecure, dark valleys that God wants to raise.  We also have some proud, rocky outcroppings and insurmountable obstacles that must be carved away or tunneled through. 

With the mighty machines of the Kingdom, the road is being built.  We may tire of the endless detours and delays associated with road construction, but time proves the necessity of having a good road.  It will be better when a good road is in place.

I remember some detours and unfinished roads in my life eight years ago.  August 2002 was remarkable for the path of broken roads I journeyed.

Detour #1

John McVicar was a young pastor I knew in Blenheim, Ontario.  He died suddenly as a major artery suddenly blew apart.  He was 28 years old and his death came as a surprise.  When he lay in the hospital bed with a heart blowing apart, his brother David came and asked, “What are you doing in this hospital bed?”  John replied, “There must be kryptonite around here.”  Shortly after that, he was taken into emergency surgery and never came back to consciousness in this world.

Detour #2

Within days of that tragedy I was at Bethel Park Camp with my family participating in an inner city kid’s camp.  I discovered that I knew how to do the Heimlich maneuver.  An 11-year-old named Rachel was choking on a hard candy.  I was passing by her cabin when her little friends came out and frantically told me she was choking. When I entered the room, she was bowed forward.  She was not coughing or wheezing.  The candy had lodged sideways and restricted all airflow.  She was walking around unable to breathe.  I assumed the rescue position and it applied the move.  It worked!  She swallowed the candy and breathed freely.  I felt like a hero for saving her life and was once again struck by the fragility of human life.  Eternity was closer than Rachel or I knew.  Why do some live while others die?  Either way, the road is dangerous.

Detour #3

The next day I awoke with some discomfort that soon changed into the worst pain I have ever felt.  The camp nurse and a trip to the hospital confirmed that I was experiencing the movement of a kidney stone.  The pain was one stiffer reminder that eternity was closer than I had thought.  There is a fragile balance that keeps us on this side of it.  It’s a fine line that separates you from suffering, trials and even death.

Each of these experiences was equalizers.  Low places were being filled in and high places smoothed down.  God was using the rough terrain as a foundation upon which to do his work.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


 Pastor Rielly let us all know on Father’s Day that he doesn’t always understand the hype surrounding holidays.  But Friday was another day of remembrance.

Happy birthday Rielly!  This week he turned twenty-nine and we had a conversation in which he seemed to mope, just a little.  I could sense the spirit of Scrooge over him whispering, “Bah!  Humbug!”

At twenty-nine he is realizing that he is not a kid anymore.  With his youth disappearing in the rearview mirror, the road ahead appears long and foggy.  As a brother twenty years further down the road, the trip has been a grand adventure with an ever-changing landscape.  There have been some dark stretches and patches of fog, but overall there is much to see and experience in the uniqueness of who you are becoming.

Let me say that we thank God for the day you were born.  Your birthday matters because God designed you as a gift to the world.  We receive the gift of who you are.  As God’s grace continues to grow in you, there is a deepening wisdom and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. 

Birthdays are the mile markers on our road home.  They remind us how close our destination is.

Could we maybe pause here and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?  If only I had a Sunday School birthday pencil to give to you…

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Matthew 12:
 1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.  2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
 3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  5 Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?  6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.  7 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.  8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

If only the Pharisees knew the verse about God desiring mercy, not sacrifice-- they were too busy listening to themselves to listen to God.  And in doing so, they ruined the song.  That which was good turned into that which condemned.

They had condemned Jesus and his band by insisting that the song be played their way.  It was more than a matter of taste or opinion.  It was more than theological correctness. 

They had made it about sacrifice and Jesus made it about mercy.  What is the difference?

A life focused on sacrifice is all about paying off your debt.  You know that it will cost you and so your delight is on a spreadsheet instead in reality.  The expression towards God is always in light of proving your statistical performance.  Think of it as being more interested in your mortgage payment but failing to live in the house you are purchasing.  Faithfully paying for the car but never driving it—what is the point? 

The Pharisees knew all the scores but were lousy players.  They held critical views of everyone else and continually dissed the ones who should be their band-mates.  Their sacrifice mindset made it impossible for them to accept the faulty performances of others.  What did they lack?

The life lived in mercy is also aware of an incalculable debt.  How could there ever be enough rams and goats sacrificed to earn a good standing with God?  The life lived in mercy understands that this immeasurable love is the only suitable response to others.  The bread of Presence is given to people simply because they are hungry in a pure-hearted way.

The Pharisaic way enslaves people to a frustrating, circular system of failure.  J.R. Briggs [i] illustrates it this way:

You are invited by Jesus to a new circular pattern.  Honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Keep your day with God as His merciful gift to you.

In her book ‘Practicing Our Faith’, Dorothy C. Bass says, "The Sabbath is not a running away from problems, but the opportunity to receive grace to face them."[ii]

Karen Burton Mains says, "Observing Sabbath is like wearing an engagement ring."[iii]

The late Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the last century’s most notable rabbis and Jewish philosophers.  With insight that supports Jesus’ view of Sabbath he wrote, "The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living."[iv]

At least that is God’s intention for the day.


1.       1.  What does the Sabbath mean to you?  Have you discovered the value of it in your life?  Explain.

2.       2.   Some of you are very busy on Sunday playing music, teaching classes, running sound and so on.  You are sometimes like the Old Testament priests whose Sabbath day was a lot of work.  How can you preserve the value of Sabbath when you are busy serving God’s people?

3.       3.   How have you experienced the endless cycle of religious enslavement?  What frees you from it?

4.       4.   When does your life feel as if you are ‘noodling’-- playing too many notes in disregard for what the arrangement calls for?  When do you know that you are too busy?

[ii] Dorothy C. Bass, Practicing Our Faith, p. 83
[iii] Karen Burton Mains, Making Sunday Special, p. 163
[iv] Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, p. 14

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Matthew 12:
 1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.  2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
 3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  5 Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?  6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.  7 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.  8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

This is a theological discussion according to Jesus concerning the very nature of God and not just an infraction of a rule.  The Pharisees in true pendulumic fashion have made the Sabbath about measuring the performance of personal discipline.  They have been so focused on filling in with their technical noodling that the song has disappeared behind the scales they play.

Jesus cuts out the excess and returns to the heart of God’s Creation song.  On the seventh day God rested.  What is Sabbath for?  Why are we invited into God’s Sabbath rest?

In the childhood song of Bible history, Jesus sings the verse about David and his pals walking in to the Temple and eating the holy bread.  Technically it was for the priests, but a unique situation arose.  David and his companions arrived at the Temple very hungry.  They were on assignment from the King and were famished. 

The priest did not have anything but the Bread of Presence, an offering put daily before God.  In poetic styling, the bread offered to God is shared mercifully with those who were not entitled to it.  Mercy is very much like that.

And then Jesus sings the next verse about the priests working in the Temple on the Sabbath, and not guilty of Sabbath-breaking.  Mercy understands the heart of the matter and expresses the truest melody.

Mark 2:
27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 
Simply brilliant…  God created a pregnant pause in our life in which we could rest and be renewed by His friendship.  God created the Sabbath for us.  It was not all about Him.  It is a precious gift to His people.  Why do we want to reschedule our appointments with God?

Sunday, June 20, 2010


It seems that most holy and good things suffer from ‘Pendulumitis’.  It is all to the left or all to the right—obsessed upon or disregarded as meaningless.  We are trapped in time and motion like the pendulum of a clock… never stopping… always ticking.

Each present moment is already gone into history.  You cannot keep the past firmly in hand.  Each present moment aches for the future.  We are trapped in a looping cycle of linear progression.

God is at rest from the time trap.  He is eternal-- above and outside time while hidden in the midst of each moment.  Sabbath is our invitation to behold the Eternal One and rest in His timelessness.

But then there is Pendulumitis. 

The Pharisees obsessed on rules to the point of building a hedge of by-laws and policy about every conceivable violation that breaks the Sabbath.  God’s Law was not enough for them.  They insisted on complicating everything to the point of no longer being meaningful.  What God intended for the wholeness of His people, Pharisees turned it into obsessive theological noodling. 

Instead of giving life and freedom, the Law became overwhelming and impossible for common people to live by.  Jesus brought ‘rest’ back into theology.  His voice was not trumpeted on street corners and political platforms, but whispered in the awkward, empty places of the soul.

Friday, June 18, 2010

1 2 3 4 5 6 rest...

I’ve got the music in me.  No… really!  From the age of fourteen, I have played guitar and created music.  I’ve played in a variety of band configurations, performed solo and recorded several projects. 

On the Birkman Method[i] personality assessment, I scored 99 out of 100 possible points in music as an area of personal interest. 

I have more than 13,000 songs on my iPod.

I taught music and corporate worship twice as a distance education instructor for Master’s College & Seminary.[ii] 

Even when others could lead the worship at church, I have chosen to do most of the leading because I love to.  It is fair to say that I enjoy—no, probably obsessed with music!

I have had many philosophical talks with fellow musicians and writers about what makes a great song and a good arrangement.  A reoccurring discussion has to do with when not to play.  The silence of a voice or instrument in an arrangement assists greatly in the presentation of a song.  It seems that some players are more interested in filling the pallet of sound with their part rather than listening to or valuing the part that others play.  We call the over-indulgent player a ‘noodler’.

Band-mates and fans alike get weary of the player who never takes a break but fills every available hole in the song with their noise…  noodlers.

There are times when the band collectively leaves an empty spot in a song.  Musically, not playing or voicing is called a ‘rest’.  There is something powerful about a pregnant pause in a song followed by a dramatic return.

As players and singers in God’s band, the arrangement calls for us to not fill life with ourselves, but wait patiently while others sing and play their parts.  Each will work together and support the others as they shine. 

The arrangement calls for the band to stop abruptly at a precise interval.  Silence takes center stage.  This is one way I understand the notion of Sabbath.

In Genesis we read about our God working creatively for six days and then…  God rests.  He calls His children to join in the Creation song.  Work hard for six and then stop.  No noise, no sweat, no filling of time— just a day to enjoy God’s company and dream of what is to come.

Marva Dawn is a teaching fellow at Regent College[iii] in Vancouver.  In her book ‘Keeping The Sabbath Wholly’ she writes:

"To keep the Sabbath means that we embrace a wholly different set of values from those of the world around us. In the first place, we embrace intentionality: we choose carefully how and why we do what we do.  We live deliberately in order to embrace a quality of life that is possible only in relationship with the Lord of the Sabbath."  [iv]

How is it then that we often devalue the practice of Sabbath in our lives?  Why do times of contemplation, worship and rest get bumped for more urgent activities and responsibilities?

[iv] Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting, p. 145

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


New Song Church has embarked on an ambitious endeavor to train and equip people who feel an impulse to work among the poor through church ministry and social agencies.

We have had a distant admiration for ministries like JPUSA, Tony Campolo, Urban Promise, New York School Of Urban Ministry, Yonge St. Mission, Evangelicals For Social Action, The Foundry in Nashville, and a handful of others.

A question for Canadians interested in moving downtown is where to get an experience that also has an academic component.  Through a partnership with Global University, we are beginning a one year internship program that includes 10 Bible College courses recognized internationally by the Pentecostal Assemblies Of Canada and the Assemblies Of God.

We have a site with lots of details.  Check it out and feel free to write or call me if you want to know more.

Go to:  http://urbancryschoolofmission.blogspot.com

Monday, June 14, 2010


There is another side to riches, even the wealth of Heaven.  Wealth attracts pirates and thieves.  There are people who see the opportunity to better themselves and satisfy their lusts by posing in the Kingdom.  They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  There are people whose agenda is devilish. 

In Acts 8, there is story about Simon the Sorcerer.  He was the ‘Kris Angel – Mindfreak’ of his day.  He had a large following of people who were convinced that he had supernatural powers.  Simon then heard the gospel and became a baptized follower of Jesus Christ.

One day, he saw Peter and John laying hands on people and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  No doubt, they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  Simon approached the apostles and offered them money to give him the power to do what they were doing.

Acts 8:
 20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."
 24Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me."

Fortunately, Simon awoke to his envy and repented.  But it points out the temptation to want the Kingdom treasures for the wrong reasons.  He thought he could work God’s power into his magic act and thereby profit from it.  Simon had a hard time selling out his old ways to buy the field with buried treasure.

When Paul wants a contrast to the feminine modesty that he commends, his images of inappropriate external adornment are braided hair, gold, pearls and costly attire (1 Timothy 2:9).  Of similar import is the repulsive picture of the luxurious finery of the whore of Babylon, who ‘was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls’ (Revelation 17:4; 18:16).  As a symbol of a worldwide mercantile empire, the whore of Babylon is also portrayed as trafficking in pearls (Rev. 18:12)…  Overall, the pearl is an ambivalent image in the Bible.  Its beauty and value are positive when it is associated with God’s wisdom or heavenly kingdom.  But its beauty and value actually become reprehensible when people use it to make an extravagant external impression.[i]

A sign of the end-times prostitution of religion includes the image of ‘trafficking in pearls’.  The whore of Babylon runs a business which makes her rich in worldly treasure and greedy to trade on the precious faith of others.  Her bottom line is not the Kingdom of God, but acquisition and power.  Like a prostitute, she takes her precious purity and trades it for money.  She loses the capacity for faithful love and becomes desensitized to the riches of fidelity.  She trades inner beauty for flashy, sex appeal.

Let’s be seekers of the inner beauty that comes from God’s heart.  Take all that matters to you and let it go for the sake of finding God’s treasure.  Put all your eggs in this one basket.

[i] Dictionary Of Biblical Imagery, ©1998 by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, p.633

Saturday, June 12, 2010


The kingdom is like a merchant who seeks fine pearls.  He is trained in where to look and how to assess value.  Not just any pearls, he wants the finest.  God is like that merchant looking for you.  You are like the merchant looking for God’s best.

Divers sought pearls in the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, and some pearls could be worth the equivalent of millions of dollars. [i]

Imagine a church where its people were sold out to seeking the treasures of Heaven.  What if we all were focused on securing the riches of Christ?  The average eye cannot see the value of a church devoted to Kingdom buy-in.  Are you a pearl diver in the ocean of God’s love?

Pearls are mentioned fewer than a dozen times in the Bible, where their status as a prized jewel makes them a touchstone of beauty, value and permanence…  Because of their beauty and value, pearls become a recognized standard of excellence when biblical authors wish to make a comparison.  Thus, ‘The price of wisdom is above pearls’ (Job 28:18), and the gospel itself is so precious that it should not be offered to hostile people indiscriminately: ‘Do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.’ (Matthew 7:6)[ii]

[i] The IVP Bible Background Commentary, ©1993 Inter Varsity Press, p.84

[ii] Dictionary Of Biblical Imagery, ©1998 by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, p.633

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Imagine knowing that a certain treasure would be yours if you bought the whole field.  It means liquidating your current assets and putting all your eggs in one basket.  It would mean selling out to go after something much greater.  It would mean buying a field that you did not particularly have any use for just to acquire the hidden treasure.

When you seek God, you do just that.  You wholeheartedly decide that nothing present in your life can be compared in value to what you will possess.  When no-one understands why, you will sell all and let go of previous securities.  Before you possess what God has for you there is a dispossessing of your inventory.  Like an immigrant selling all to find a new life in a better place, you give it all up to get passage and a start in the new country. 

The field is God’s people, the church.  Have you bought in to the Church?  That is not to say that there is a financial transfer involved, but the gist is there.  I will not possess Jesus without also possessing His people.  I cannot sneak into the field of God’s people and steal Jesus out.  I buy the field, so I can rightfully have the treasure contained in it.  I support and exercise ownership in the Church so that I can get close to Jesus, the treasure of Heaven.

On a grander scale, the Kingdom of God requires your buy-in.  You become a joint-heir with Jesus.  The Kingdom will be yours to live and serve in.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Matthew 13:
 44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
 45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

What is the kingdom?  Jesus says here it is like a treasure and a treasure seeker.  Like many treasures, it is not out in the open.  Most people are not aware of its existence.  The world cannot naturally see the Kingdom of God. 

But there are some who are looking for it.  These are the treasure seekers.  These are the wild-eyed dreamers who know ‘there’s gold in them there hills!’

Treasures were often buried for safekeeping.  The most likely circumstance envisioned here is that of a peasant who, while working in the field of a wealthy landowner, found the treasure but covered it again lest the landowner claim it for himself.  The peasant then invested all his own resources into that field to procure the treasure.  Stories of finding lost treasure naturally circulated among the poor; Jesus uses the story line to stir his hearers to seek for a treasure far greater than any on earth.[i]

What is God’s Kingdom?  Simply defined, the Kingdom of God is the government of God.  As a King, he is not elected.  He has established authority on His terms.  There is no democratic election process to have God placed in charge of His domain.  He is the perfect benevolent dictator. 

I know the word ‘dictator’ makes some squirm and want to react.  Our worldly models of government do not give us an understanding of the perfection of God’s rule and his right to be the Law.  People move into perverse error when they try to morph theocracy with human agency.  Moral majorities fail because the majority is not moral, nor fully surrendered to the King.

You cannot subject God to anything.  Only we can become subject to God.  And that is the present point of God’s Kingdom.  Will you become His subjects?

Citizenship in the Kingdom is clearly optional.  You can choose to surrender to the King and be identified as His subject or you can live as a loyal subject of the fallen world.  The King does not force citizenship.

Jesus indicated that the Kingdom of God is at work inside of people.  It has both a present and future reality.  It is also mysterious and outside our natural understanding.  Repeatedly Jesus says the kingdom is like…  What is the kingdom like?  The only way to understand the Kingdom is to discover the King.

[i] The IVP Bible Background Commentary, ©1993 Inter Varsity Press, p.84

Sunday, June 6, 2010


If you knew with absolute certainty that you could at minimum triple your money, how much would you put in?  How far would you be willing to sacrifice now for a no-risk guaranteed increase tomorrow?  Most investors would say don’t invest more than you are willing to risk.

My father-in-law is a chicken farmer.  Before retirement, he made a sizable living from his broiler barn.  Additionally, he added to his wealth with beef cattle, laying hens, seed-cleaning, cash crops, etc.,.  Although I have never collected eggs with him, there is an old farm idiom which says, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Most of us city dwellers have not collected eggs or spent any considerable time with chickens.  What does this expression mean?

To "put all your eggs in one basket" is to risk losing everything all at one time. Example: "My father is a very careful investor; he never puts all of his eggs in one basket." If you had a certain number of "eggs", it would be safest to put those eggs in different "baskets" and not "put them all in one basket". To "put all your eggs in one basket" would be to risk losing all of your "eggs" in case you drop that one "basket".[i]

This all makes sense when it comes to being wise with investments and opportunities.  What would you think of the gambler who takes all their money and the deed to their house to the casino?  They would be putting all their eggs in one basket.  Statistically, they will leave with nothing or a few of their dollars won back.  But, they will not come back richer.  For the sake of a one in a million chance, the gambler will still try with all his might to win.

Jesus did not ask us to gamble with our lives, but to die for a sure thing called the Kingdom of God, alternately known as the Kingdom of Heaven.  He calls us to ‘put all our eggs in one basket’.  He asks you to lay down your life in such a way that others might consider you a foolish gambler.  What is this Kingdom of God?

Matthew 13:
 44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
 45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Friday, June 4, 2010


This video piece has been put together by the media-tech hounds at our District Office.  It features New Song Church and Lifeline Church.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Have you received Jesus?  What does that question mean to you?  Does it mean that you have confessed your sins and accepted God’s mercy through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection making Him Lord of your life?

In the theological quest to be reconciled to God, that is receiving Jesus.  It is a most important starting point of identifying yourself as a follower of Jesus.  The creeds are all about this truth.

Jesus had some other ideas about how we receive Him.

Matthew 10:
 40"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

The gist of receiving Jesus is intimately connected to our receiving of others.  When you are accepted as a spiritual brother or sister, the one accepting you is receiving Jesus from you.

When you receive a messenger of Jesus and accept their direction, you receive the One who sends them.  If you accept my words as one who is sent by God to speak to you, then you have also received Jesus. 

The prophet’s reward is the encouragement and correction they bring.  Truth spoken in love is very rewarding to the ones who receive it and its messenger.  We cannot receive the message and despise the messenger without offending the sender.

What is a righteous man’s reward?  When you are humble and concede that someone is right with God on a matter, you are blessed in knowing them and the truth they bear.  This is another way we receive Jesus—receiving the goodness and virtue found in another.  

Can you love and appreciate the police officer who pulls you over for speeding and gives you a ticket?

What is the disciple’s reward?  It is the reward of caring for others, loving them as if Jesus Himself were receiving your love. 

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