Saturday, December 29, 2012

THE PASSION OF THE PRINCE


Canada is home to many refugees. These are people of great life experience and skill who have had to abandon everything but the clothes on their back. If they are lucky, their family might have escaped with them. Many were business owners, doctors, engineers and people with skilled trades who escaped death, torture or persecution to live as a refugee in Canada. The past importance was lost and they became low-paid servants in restaurants, convenience stores and factories.

Moses was a refugee who had been broken by his passion. Like many refugees, the past place in society was lost. Prince Moses was now Moses the shepherd. The palace was replaced with a bedroll. The waiting servants were replaced with helpless sheep.

As an Israelite adopted into the Egyptian royal family, he had a passionate heart for his people. It was likely an unexpressed passion until the day he saw an Egyptian beating on a Hebrew slave. The deep value for justice erupted into a hot mind and empowered murderous hands. The favored prince committed treason by killing an Egyptian.

It was a passion against oppressors that found an oppressive outlet. Fearing the consequence and knowing he could no longer live in this place, Moses ran away. When the fearful escape slowed down he found himself in the Midian desert where he started a new life.


What happens to passion when it leads you to great trouble? For many, it is the death of passion and the beginning of regretful histories. Moses’ passion for justice became a faded memory in the mind of an eighty-year-old man.

As a shepherd, Moses seemed to be living below his potential, but God used the humble work to instill the heart of a passionate, caring shepherd.  One day God would raise him up to lead God’s Sheep (Israel) to freedom.

When God called Moses, the man was so humiliated by 40 years of obscurity and regret that he felt inadequate to respond passionately to His God.  He had taken the tragic journey from misguided passion to depression.

Then God spoke to him from a burning bush. Fire is passionate and consumes.  Passion like fire burns up the thing that fuels it.  The bush God set ablaze was passionate but did not destroy the bush.  God wants to set you ablaze with passion that will not burn you. Moses regained his passion for God and his people when he agreed to obey the call and accept God’s provision and plan.

The youthful passion was against the oppressor.  The renewed passion was for God and His love of the oppressed.

Is there a God-given passion that you have lost? Did your passion lead to trouble and sorrow? Before Moses could follow the God of his fathers, he had to come to the place of his own helplessness. He had to be a common man and alone enough to hear God speak.

God still calls people who have been broken by their passions.  It is at the end of our self-worth and greatest need that God reaches down to the humble.  As long as there is an ounce of worldly pride and self-righteousness, there is a great barrier to obedience.

You may have suffered greatly because of misguided passions and the consequences linger still.  But you have not been written off and forgotten by God.  His Love and passion for you is still the same.

The first call on your life is still there.  Have you heard his voice in the wilderness?


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

BROKEN BY PASSION


There are those who insisted on keeping their life and lost it.  Some have had everything their passion called for, but found themselves having to forfeit their soul.  



These are the ones who have had passion and been broken to pieces by it. Misguided passions for sex… drugs and alcohol… a passion for money, power and career…  a passion for the arts… a passion for Christian work… a passion of self-interests…

In the end, passion will lead you to God or to a broken spirit.

I remember a friend in another town who had partied hard as a professional musician prior to coming to Jesus.  I remember the pain and regret when he confided that he had done some really, wild things like being in bed with 6 women at one time.  As a married man and father, it was a shameful memory and not a trophy to his manhood.

I want to encourage those of you who have been crushed by your passions and have failed.  Those who have committed gross sin and those who have meant well but went too far in your pursuit of something meaningful…  those of you who have committed adultery and those whose passion has led to violence…  those who found yourself in jail and those whose bodies have been ravaged by disease…  those who find themselves separated, divorced, alone or just growing apathetic and comfortable with a passionless existence.

Jesus has good news for those who are willing to lose what’s left of their lives to follow Him.  There is a great reward for those who will passionately pursue God.

Luke 9:
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 



Sunday, December 23, 2012

SACRAMENTAL ANXIETY


In religion, we refer to Christ’s Passion. This is the name to describe Christ’s suffering and death. Although Jesus despised the shame and horrific experience of the coming execution, he passionately committed himself for the benefit of the joy that would follow.

Childbirth may be a pale comparison to help us see the commitment and endurance of Jesus in suffering. As a mother endures the pain to bring forth life, Jesus’ excruciating misery and death would benefit the world with new life.

Jesus described a higher (or perhaps a lower) way of living.


Luke 9:
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 


This is a counter-intuitive philosophy of living. It is letting go in order to take hold. It is closing your eyes to see and self-discovery through self-denial. Many of Jesus’ crowds walked away from this level of commitment.

This is an idea that you cannot half-read. Deny yourself, take up your cross and die daily—this sounds like a dreadful path. A full read tells us that in the end you will actually find more than the world can give. Lose your self-importance and ‘me first’ attitude to follow Jesus. In the end, you will be lifted up.

Every day we choose what we will do with the suffering and hardships. Do we find the passion of the Christ who sees an end to misery and commits to endure all things?

C.S. Lewis said, ‘some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ. [i]

We tend to run quickly from the sufferings that purify us. We settle for the pleasurable things that hint at wholeness, but become substitutes for God. Good things are easily perverted into death traps.



[i] C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer

Thursday, December 20, 2012

CHOCOLATE AND SKYDIVING



Chocolate, social justice, cooking, sex, investment, sports, beer, music, Facebook, cleaning, fashion, gardening, Call Of Duty, education, movies, sunshine, administration, fitness, biking, reading, knitting, Angry Birds, military history, sky-diving, Solitaire, model trains, Lego, fund-raising, sketching, painting, helping others, trading, The Jerry Springer Show, conversation…


There are thousands of activities that someone may be passionate about. Most of us have an activity or focus that brings us to life.

Music is one thing that I welcome into my life everyday. My iPod or computer play music when I drive, spend time reading or work on preparing messages for my sermons. Knowing my propensity to enjoy it, I turn it off when others are around. I do not want my attention to drift between the song playing and the needs of the person in the room.

What are you passionate about? Every passion gives us opportunity to thrive or fail. A passionate interest can teeter between balanced involvement and a consuming fire that will destroy you.

Passion is most often thought to be:

1.     Strong and barely controllable emotion
2.     A state or outburst of such emotion
3.     Intense sexual love
4.     An intense desire or enthusiasm for something
5.     A thing arousing enthusiasm

In light of God’s love, how are we to live our lives? What are we to do with our passions and pleasurable pursuits?

One school of thought would say, ‘be all you can be. Carpe Diemseize the day!’
The world is yours to enjoy to the fullest. Do not live an ordinary or quiet life, but be an adventurous explorer. The challenge to this thinking comes when people face limitation and weakness that prevents them from seizing anything. Simple things like comfort, sleep and routine become elusive. Youthful passions are stuffed under the bed with the photo albums.

Another approach would tell us to seize nothing. All is vanity and illusory. Avoid activity that might be construed to be selfish or not contributing to the common good of others. Everything is consequential, so pay attention to only the interests that are clearly devotional and essential. The goal is detachment from the world and its temptations.

The challenge to this thinking comes when a person regrets never having lived beyond their childhood. Everything has been held suspect and threatening to their desire for transcendence.

Theologically, the tension comes between those who think the Scriptures start with Genesis chapter one and those who think it starts with Genesis chapter three. Do we start from the perspective of God’s Creation being a wonderfully, good act or do we start with human failure and the need for God to punish sinners and begin the multi-millennial project of restoring all things?

There is a place for the theological optimist and the theological pessimist or pragmatist. The Scriptures do start with wonderfully good Creation and the need to be restored and delivered from humanity’s failure. It is both/and, not either/or.

Every passion hints at something or someone greater. Chocolate and skydiving can be as sacramental as prayer and loving your neighbor. Similarly, social justice and Bible reading can be as empty as flat, warm cola. What are we to do? Do we give up attending church and helping our neighbor in the same way that we give up roller-skating or going to Bingo?

Somehow we need to be fully alive and give a healthy place to our pleasurable interests. But, it is not just that. We also need to surrender and relinquish the demands of passion. It is both/and.

Monday, December 17, 2012

RE-IMAGINE ABBA'S FAMILY


Part of our problem in worship is not recognizing ‘Daddy’ when he enters the room.  We get too pre-occupied with our toys or our bottles.  Maybe we don’t lift our arms and smile at Abba because we’ve grown old too fast and have lost the simple joy of recognition. 

Part of being a child was allowing your parents to govern your life.  Not so, when you became old and sophisticated.  The little ones learn to accept the parents’ rules.  The little ones are dependent for food, routine, affection, comfort and so on.  You look up to the parent and you want to please them.  Are we like that with God?

Jesus invites us to come… not as mature grown-ups with everything resolved and coordinated, but as babes. 

Have you seen a loving father cradle his baby and stare while giving it a bottle?  That is a picture of Abba’s love for his little ones. If we are to reimagine the church as Abba’s family, what will we need to change? Here are a few ideas:

  1. No shooing allowed
·      Everyone is welcome to enter the family and we do not turn people away because of their vulnerabilities. We do not stand in the way of people coming to Jesus. Instead we bring them.


  1. Move the children to the center
·      Moses moved the people through the wilderness at the speed of the little ones.
·      The most vulnerable need to be surrounded with a human shield. We do not put the them in harm’s way or leave them behind because they are not as fast


  1. Inter-generational connection
·      Who are the spiritual parents and grandparents who take the kids to Tim Horton’s?
·      We are understaffed for nursery, children and youth ministry because we segregate instead of integrate. We need some old people that know how to connect with the youngest. We need more people in mid-life who strengthen and empower the next generation. How are you doing that?


  1. More blessing
·      In Hebraic culture, a blessing imparted goodness and promise to the next generation.
·      Blessing conferred the sense of belonging and covenant family
·      We need more ways to express the blessings of God upon the child, the newcomer and the weakest


God help us to become the family He desires.


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