Singing Pigs

Have you ever spent a lot of time, effort and resources working on something that turned out to be a waste of time?

Charles Swindoll says he has a friend who has a plaque on his wall reading: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

Swindoll focuses us on the efforts of Jesus to confront the Pharisees and their grace-killing ways (Simple Faith, p. 67). The more he exposed the hypocrisy of the religiously self-righteous the more hostile they became. No one likes to have their inauthenticity uncovered for all to see. We fight to keep the carefully crafted masks and reputations in place to guard our sense of who we want others to imagine us to be.

It’s amazing what sets of our sense of self-righteousness. Things as simple as the diet we are on – the foods we eat or don’t eat; the exercise we do – the lifestyle we choose to rest through or with which we challenge our bodies and minds; the travels we take or don’t take; the money we spend or don’t spend on ourselves; the fashions we would wear or not wear; the activities we deem acceptable to Christians and the activities we deem unacceptable – even if there is no specific scriptural warrant of prohibition; and of course the depth of our prayers, giving, witnessing, Bible reading, church attendance and service.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 Jesus sets up a higher standard of following for his disciples which takes us beyond the observable outward appearance and deals with the inside reality which only God sees. The true condition of the heart is what sets us apart with God.

Self-righteousness escapes its hiding place in our heart in ways we hardly recognize. It slips out in our speech in the way we quietly address the value, worth or character of another person to someone we consider on our side. It slips out in our attitude on who we would sit beside on the bus or in church; who we would invite to our homes for a meal; who we would help out in a time of crisis. It slips out in our humour and in our stereotypes as we watch the news, people watch in the mall, or determine who would make an appropriate relationship for ourselves or for some significant person in our lives.

The waste of time for us is expecting ourselves to just try harder when we mess up – which we will.

I was in a meeting yesterday where someone mentioned that they came from a family of racists and never realized it until they were confronted. They realized that the best way for them to defeat a racist heart was to build friendships with the people who they knew very little about. They said that made all the difference for them in building an attitude of acceptance, trust and welcoming.

Scriptures slay the self-righteous spirit by declaring that all of us are equally dead in sin without hope on our own. Unless the Spirit of Christ recreates us into new creations we will continue to experience the frustration of pigs trying to learn to sing.

Our church family is embracing the saying PBPWMGINFWMY. Please be patient with me – God is not finished with me yet. We trust that God’s Spirit in his time will mold us into the image of Jesus who alone perfectly embodies the character of God in its fullness.

What are some of the efforts you have spent your time on without significant results? What shadows of self-righteousness tend to sneak up on your heart when you let your guard down? What solutions have you found to deal with the character traits which fall short of what Jesus modeled?

We prayed

praying for those who needed some specific care from the Good Shepherd

Well we did it. We celebrated Resurrection Day. We affirmed that Jesus is alive in this universe, in this world he made, in this country he rules, in this church he leads, and in us individually. He is alive.

He is alive and so we prayed. We prayed in our small group Wednesday night; we prayed in our Thursday morning prayer time from 8-10am; we prayed in our staff meeting; we prayed in our accountability sessions; we prayed as we sat down for meals and as we started our meetings. We prayed because we know there is no one else who can handle all that is happening except the one who lives.

He is alive and listening to our prayers. He is alive and responding to our prayers. He is alive and prompting our prayers. He is alive and interceding for us.

In this past Thursday morning prayer group we started praying for those who needed some specific care from the Good Shepherd. We started at 8 am and by 10 am – with only one break for a few songs – we prayed continuously for person after person after person… It became clear. Every single person in our church family and beyond needs the gracious touch and care of Jesus.

We took time in the middle of all that to reaffirm who we believed God is. That was crucial to keep us from feeling overwhelmed.

Tim Keller (prayer, p. 97-98) reminds us of John Calvin’s first rule of prayer which focused on the principle of reverence for God. In helping focus on the magnitude and seriousness of prayer he says “it is a personal audience and conversation with the Almighty God of the Universe.” He draws us to consider the sense of awe and reverence we experience as we realize that the one we dare to approach is such a glorious majesty that we dare not grieve him – and so we experience a strange mix of joy, grace, humility and fear of grieving or dishonoring him.

He is not only alive but he is near. The insert in our bulletin reads as follows:

God continually moves into our neighbourhood. He is not a God who can be restrained or reduced. He can’t be managed or manipulated. He can’t be contained or confined.

I can celebrate a God like ours because when He says something He means it. He does not change. When He promises something, He can do it. When He puts me under His protection there ain’t nobody going to get through to me. Our God is an awesome God. He’s a Rock and a Refuge. He’s a Savior and a Sovereign. He’s the Creator of the Universe and the Conqueror of Evil. He’s the High and the Holy. He’s the One and only Hope of Humanity. Do you know Him?

Our God is the God who overcomes unbeatable giants, unscalable walls, and uncrossable seas. Our God is the God who brings something out of nothing, who breaks the chains fo the captives, who walks us through the valley fo the shadows without fear. Ur God is the Shepherd and the Shaper, He’s the Guardian and the Guide. He’s the Lover and the Loved. He’s the Almighty. Do you know Him?

God personally has moved into our neighbourhood and He does expected us to represent Him there. That’s why we spend so much time on our knees.

Volunteers spring the success of our community

vancouver lower mainland blessed neighborhoods people

I  am quite IN AGREEMENT with that statement .It is my passion to help and I am so thankful for this opportunity.

The lower mainland is blessed with mixed neighborhoods and is comprised of people from all walks of life – Somewhat like the United Nations as individuals who have immigrated to Canada for a better life for themselves and their children. Just like the early settlers who came to various regions in the 1600’s, 1700’s and 1800’s because they were looking for a place to live and raise their family.

 

WHY VOLUNTEER?

Volunteering is a Canadian tradition and is an extension of being a good neighbor and there are many reasons why I make time to volunteer.

We have many new immigrants settled in our community, raising their families and experiencing new life in Canada.

It is truly a privilege for me to be able to welcome and help our new neighbours.  

A great way to use my talents and experience acquired through Public service.

We can do this by:

  •  Not letting an opportunity pass by to say a kind word to people we meet.
  • Be genuinely interested in others. The people we meet feel that we regard them as a person of importance.
  • We can keep an open mind on all controversial questions and discuss without arguing. It is possible to disagree and be friendly.
  • Not to be anxious about our rights and having favours repaid. Let the satisfaction of helping others serve as its own reward.
  • It supports the cause I believe in which I stated earlier.
  • Gives me an opportunity to make a contribution to society.
  • As a retired Federal Public servant I know that experience matters and it provides an opportunity to use valuable skills, to give back to the community, to mentor others and it creates and maintains relationship.
  • We can play a vital role in a society and it helps in delivering services and programs that improve and enhance the life of our communities.
  • One can experience learning and satisfaction.
  • I enjoy social interaction – Meeting new people.
  • It gives an opportunity to learn about people, country or community.
  • Gives fulfillment and a sense of empathy, connection with a “cause”
  • It gives an opportunity to be part of the community where I live.
  • It also instills a value of giving and caring.

I ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO JOIN TO STAY ACTIVE IN MIND AND BODY, MAKE CONNECTIONS AND CONTINUE TO LEARN.

By:

Vince Prasad

Serving in the Hood

know your neighbour

From the foundation of Faith in the 1940’s in South Vancouver, serving the neighbourhood has been a priority for us. In recent years that has involved housing for refugees, partnering with the Foodbank and South Van Neighbourhood House, operating two daycares, hosting the Royal Conservatory of Music exams, sharing the facility with El Redentor (a Spanish congregation), teaching ESL classes, tutoring, celebrating our East Side celebration, plus catering outreach banquets, Christmas eve dinner and candlelight service for the community, and hosting services and events for all generations without discrimination.

We state the value as follows:

Servanthood means that, in our ministries and individual lives: we will grow toward

1) putting the best interests of others ahead of our own

2) utililizing our gifts, resources and abilities to the benefit of building up the body and the individuals in it

3) choosing humility, graciousness, gentleness and compassion as our first response to others inside and outside our immediate fellowship.

Growing up in a religious environment can have the effect of prompting us to unconsciously (or even consciously) categorize people, actions, lifestyles, situations, careers, and even fashion as white (good) or black (bad). Thinking in the grey zone between those extremes often leaves us uncomfortable and uncertain.

If there is clear scriptural teaching on something then we consider the culture and context of the original writer/readers and our current culture and context to communicate the teaching accurately without resorting to manipulation or guilt.

In this article I am merely pointing out that our service to others isn’t usually limited by who they are or what they do. It is more often our own heart that puts unnecessary boundaries in place to limit our effectiveness in crossing cultural, social or personal barriers in meeting the needs of others.

Duane Elmer, in his book, Cross-cultural Servanthood (p. 55), states that “nearly forty years of observation suggests to me that my (older) generation has tended to reject cultural diversity because we have not adequately distinguished it from religious diversity. We have tended to mix our culture and Christianity quite easily, quite comfortably and with little critique. Often confusing cultural differences with religious differences, we have judged cultural differences as wrong. In recent year the opposite seems to be more true. The younger generation, perhaps influenced by postmodernism and the general relativism of society, has been less inclined to distinguish between cultural and religious differences. They often prefer to see both as valid choices. Thus the younger generation blurs religious and cultural issues, tending to believe if peoples’ hearts are sincere, whatever their religious convictions, God will accept them. Both tendencies have their dangers, thought they are not the same. My own sense is that the two generations need to converse, moderate each other’s extremes and in doing so move closer to where God is.”

What do you think? Can we serve the diversity of our neighbourhood better by communicating between generations? Do you have any significant conversations with those of another generation or culture so that you understand how to serve better? Keep reaching out.

VALUE: MULTI-GENERATIONAL AND MULTI-NATIONAL COMMUNITY

Visioning what heaven will be like is something beyond us even if “we can only imagine.”

Revelation 5:8-10 pictures living creatures and elders in worship before Jesus singing a song that says “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood your purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (NIV)

We have fifty nations in one family at Faith. Although, a newcomer named Robert let us know that he was here representing the fifty-first nation.

We have demonstrated this value through opening refugee homes which have now welcomed over 500 people from 60 nations. (This ministry called New Hope Community Services Society now operates in Surrey with an apartment building as a cornerstone.) We also started New Hope Childcare for new Canadians and single parents – this ministry has also helped over 500 families since it opened in 2002. We have partnered in hosting the Foodbank on Fridays as well over 150 individuals and families are supplied representing 30-40 different nations.

This value has changed us. Our community engagement is different as we do outreach events. Our banquets are different in the menus, programs, music and mosaic of guests who come. We see our differences as a strength since every culture reflects the face and heart of God slightly differently – giving us all a fuller picture of who we serve and worship.

We believe God is asking us to represent the unity in diversity demonstrated in the picture given in Revelation. We say we are here to get a taste of heaven now. While we are imperfect, weak, foolish and often stumbling our way trying to keep in step with the Spirit we trust that we have a Good Shepherd leading us home.

Multi-generational and multi-national community is our second value. Twenty years ago we had very few generations and very few nations represented here. Now, there are members from many ages, nations, careers, social levels, gift sets and interest groups. God has been gracious.

We present the value as follows:

Multi-generational and multi-national community – This means that, in our ministries and individual lives: we will grow toward

1) inclusivity and diversity in our private and corporate gatherings and social circles

2) intentionality in our welcoming of others unlike ourselves

3) deepening and broadening of relationship building through our conversations and purposeful activities

It seems to be our human nature – especially in a community with a huge number of introverts – to narrow our circle of relationship to those who demand less of us. To continually welcome and invite newcomers into our social circle stretches our emotional, psychological, personal and sometimes spiritual limits. Our boundaries get tested more than we feel we can bear.

This value is key to the core of who we are. It is sometimes easier to practice in our corporate gatherings than in our private gatherings. In our private gatherings we appreciate those who are most familiar, most like us and most undemanding.

We see that since this is not always natural for us to include newcomers then we need to be intentional in our choices, conversations and activities. How are you demonstrating diversity in Christ’s family? How will you show this value in your relationships better?

Values: FAITH -PART ONE

In Faith’s family we have three key values which we use as a grid to mark the kind of community we would like to see. Today, I asked a newcomer over coffee what he observed about his experience so far at the church. He said, “I’ve been to a lot of churches and it’s different here. It feels like a community. People don’t rush away and they don’t rush by you when the service is done.”

Yesterday, in our prayer time before the service, another new comer said, “this is the friendliest church I’ve ever been to. You walk into the prayer room and everyone stands up to hug you.”

I’m not sure if our values are the reason why our community networks with each other, but God seems to be doing something special among us for which we are grateful. Our leadership has something to do with it, our prayer base has something to do with it, but our members are the ones making a difference.

We say three things about the value of FAITH in our expression of church. We say that FAITH means that, in our ministries and individual lives: we will lean toward

  • Prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking for the sake of the gospel;
  • Body and soul-stretching outreach initiatives
  • Open-handed and open-hearted efforts of generosity and hospitality

FAITH is our confident trust that God is with us as we live out his truth in our contemporary world. We lean toward prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking for the sake of the gospel, meaning that we come before God with a bold confidence to seek his wisdom and his way for divine appointments and significant conversations as we look for bridges in sharing who Jesus is and what he has done in giving his life for us. We share personally on how God has worked in our own life and we share candidly on what he has done in our world.

We haven’t mastered prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking, individually or as a community. but we are trying to lean in that direction.

When Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, was chasing down Christians on his way to Damascus, he met Jesus in a dynamic encounter. He was changed because two people took risks for the sake of the gospel. First, Ananias was prompted by Jesus to place his hands on him and restore Saul’s sight. Ananias responded, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he had done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13)

The risk was real but Jesus told Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Twice, Ananias is told “go” just as Jesus tells us to “go” in his great commission. Sometimes a person’s outward persona or reputation holds us back from taking risks. It doesn’t feel safe to share and it seems obvious that this person wouldn’t be interested anyway.

Saul tried to join the disciples in Damascus by preaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. This confused everyone who thought they knew who he was and this led to death threats from his former allies. Saul escaped to Jerusalem and again tried to join the disciples there “but they were afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas too him and brought him to the apostles…”

Two people showed their faith by taking risks with Saul and this has made all the difference for all of us who read our Bibles and see what Saul (who became the Apostle Paul) wrote for us who live outside the Jewish world.

How has God helped you lean toward prayerful and wisdom-saturated risk-taking as you share the gospel? How have you witnessed evidences of this in your faith community?

Can Different Generations Really Come Together as One?

It’s no secret that while building up a church family with multi-generations is the dream of most congregations that this is more challenging than it seems. Different generations have different soul language with the music they respond to; they have different heart language in what they feel committed to with their time and resources; they have different body language in terms of how they build relationship and share their lives.

Sociologists might label the four key generations as Builders, Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials. Each has been shaped by different backgrounds, different times, different perceptions of their culture and different experiences of faith. Perceptions , actions and reactions to what is happening will vary. How do you build unity in the middle of so much chronological diversity?

Loving your different generation neighbor often involves first building a relationship – taking an interest to show you care by listening, asking insightful questions, praying for and supporting in practical ways. Our seniors would love to have someone sit with them over tea and ask them to share their experiences. There needs to be verbal expressions of respect for their experience and wisdom. They can make great mentors.

Liz Selzer, in her book 3D Mentoring (p. 122) says “People need to see each other as competent, authentic, able to create meaningful connections, accountable, and dependable. “ They need to find their voices in three ways: by building a learning culture where everyone’s strengths are celebrated and appreciated; give opportunities for all to participate in a way where it is safe to take risks and fail; establish a forum where everyone’s voice gets heard and encourage everyone’s contribution.

This kind of culture happens one on one as we intentionally sit with each other and listen to each other. There is a God story in the life I am facing and preparing myself to hear it and appreciate it changes my whole attitude toward what God has done and what He is still doing.

Which generation can you expand your heart toward? How will you do that?

What do disciple-makers look like?

The reality of vanishing disciples means that we need disciple-makers who know how to make disciple-makers. How do we know that we’ve got a disciple-maker? Their regular commitment to reading and applying the word of God, their involvement in a small group for accountability and encouragement, and their consistent participation in the life of their local church might be foundational things to think about. What else might we look for? See if this resonates with your understanding and let us know.

 

Have You Really Left Home?

This is an incredibly challenging time and place to find a new home – especially if you’re young. Spaces and dollars are few for many of you. It takes a reorientation of your expectations to find your roots and to dig them down so that you hold on and grow where you are.

This day is often focused on encouraging people to stretch themselves and their dollars to reach out and demonstrate your affection for others in your world. Dinners, cards, flowers and calls are intentionally shared. Those in marriages are encouraged to push their expressions of intimacy even deeper. It is sometimes easy to give something other than yourself to accomplish your duty.

Donald Harvey has written a book called “Love Decisions” focusing on a dad’s talk with his daughter about the potential for love and her preparation for it. The first question he brings up is “Have you really left home?”

His biblical focus is on Genesis 2:24 where we are told that a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife so they become one flesh. A person who is ready for lasting relationship both detaches and then attaches. Some who have been already married haven’t really effectively detached from their birth families and they find themselves constantly torn between two loyalties.

The issue isn’t only about moving your body out of a shared space with your birth family. It is about making the primary motivation for your mental and emotional decisions based on a foundation other than your parents. Of course, family will always be important and have some degree of influence on many of our decisions but it is the degree of that decision making which shows whether you have left home or not.

Preserving a healthy family relationship, while developing other positive relationships, is an important part of developing some level of independence. You don’t have to rebel or move far away to establish this readiness.

Here’s what Harvey (p. 18) tells us. “When you have truly left home, you will demonstrate independence versus dependence – you will act versus react. And your decisions will have more to say about you than about other people. The bottom line will always be, “This is what I think is the best thing for me to do,” and you will act accordingly. If, instead, your behavior is a reaction to others, then maybe (you guessed it) you still haven’t left and there’s still some work to do before you’re ready to make any real lovedecisions.

“Leaving home is not as simple as it sounds. It isn’t just a by-product of age. Nor is it always indicated by a change in address. It’s a process – one that requires many steps and encounters many interferences. Still, it is not only an accomplishable goal but one that must be attained before you are ready to make any significant lovedecisons. Assess yourself and your relationships. Have you made the break from home and dependence to self-sufficiency and independence? Are you somewhere “in process”? Or are you still clearly tied to your parents?

Developing a faith that is your own is an essential part of this readiness for intimacy. If your heart has learned to love God and to be loved by him then it is tuned to understand how love works in the human realm.

Don’t You Love It?

On the verge of Valentine’s Day the flowers are filling the shops and cards and chocolates are finding their way into grocery bags. Does giving a special gift one or two days a year make up for everything else we do or don’t do the rest of the year?

Okay, I don’t live your life and I don’t know what you deal with. Gifts may not be your love language.

At Faith we’re talking a lot about Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages.” A short workshop with our Daycare staff left them wanting more. A few of our couples, staff and friends have been able to connect a little better when they found out the hidden secrets that a hug, a note, an act of service, a gift, or a little bit of time could make in someone else’s life.

The image we are given is of something called a love tank. Imagine a water tank for something concrete to get hold of this. When we speak our love language to another or when they speak our love language to us we are filled up. When others act or speak in conflict with our love language it is like a puncture wound in that tank which then drains us. Healing can take time so taking care from the start of a relationship is important. We’re not all as together and strong and resilient as we look on the outside.

We’ve been calling the whole family at Faith to think a little more intentionally about the relationships in their social circle. A love language is a channel through which you communicate your love for another and through which you receive love to maximum impact. Chapman lists the five mentioned earlier.

The key to effective communication with love languages is to discern what another person’s love language is and to speak to them in the way that they best appreciate. In order to discern watch how they attempt to show you they care and try responding in kind.

Several of us discovered to our great surprise that some of our quiet leaders had the love language of touch. More than anything, a hug upon greeting meant the world to them. Others of our leaders could last a week when a card with encouraging words was put into their hand – or a two minute phone call of appreciation was shared.

A few long for others to stop for a few moments and spend some quality time just being with us in our space. They could get gifts, notes, calls and all kinds of good deeds sent their way but it wouldn’t have the same impact.

Acts of service are key ways that some of our volunteers show they love. Faithfully completing the tasks behind the scenes is their way of communicating as clearly as they can. You’ll see some of these big hearts in hospitality or other hidden ministries.

But for some – gifts are what it’s all about. Valentine’s Day or any day is a good day to give a gift and to get a gift. Watch who is giving you the gift when they have no real reason to do so. That person may be giving you a hint.

Do you know your love language? Maybe you’re fluent in all five or maybe you’re working hard to learn another one to communicate with someone you know. If you don’t know someone’s love language check it out on line and start making a difference right where you are.