Don’t Read This

Once again, don’t read this if you don’t want to know how bad things are in our city. Don’t read this if you don’t want to admit how hard things are just to be human in this environment. Don’t read this if you think you are the only one struggling with sexual temptation.

The British apologist C. S. Lewis, stated that “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it not by lying down. A man who gives into the temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.“

If you’ve ever stood on the deck of a BC ferry and walked into the wind there are times when you could almost be blown overboard. Those resting inside have little idea how challenging it is to stand or walk for those on the outside.

In my best dreams as a pastor I would like to imagine that all followers of Jesus are safe inside the ship and that the winds are wreaking their havoc on those who deliberately refuse to come inside and get away from all the images on television, in the theatres, on the computers, in the magazines, in the malls, in the bookstores, in their classrooms, in their workspaces, in their community centers, in their doctor’s offices, on the billboards, on their tablets, on their phones and in their own imaginations.

The carnage on our society is deadly. How can prayer impact the direction and consequences we are seeing unleashed around us as Romans 1 promised?

Huge percentages of youth, young adults, married men and women, and even seniors are confessing in groups designed for believers that they are enslaved by pornography, masturbation, sexual fantasies and addictions, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual encounters, inappropriate thoughts, attractions, lusts or desires.

An enemy is working hard to cripple the church from being an effective witness. How can we stand up under this onslaught? As someone said to me today, you can’t keep playing with this fire and not get burned. Are we facing a wildfire that has gotten out of control?

Last week we had three policemen join Cathy Peters in meeting with daycare workers from several of our daycares throughout Vancouver. We hosted this important event to highlight how child sex trafficking is rampant in our own communities. We’re going to share this same information with parents in the next little while but there is serious concern that parents won’t believe that their son or daughter could be at risk.

 

 

More on this in the next blogs.

It is said of Billy Graham, in memory of his passing, that he took sin seriously in guarding his own exposure to temptations or compromising situations, but he also took redemption seriously when it came to the sins of others. Perhaps as you ponder what is going on around you it might be a good time to take both of these things into consideration as we deal with ourselves and others. What is God asking of you as you work to become a wounded healer in our broken world?

He sets the lonely in families -II

Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families.”

 

The Vancouver Foundation consistently claims that loneliness is one of the biggest challenges for people living in this city. Seniors isolated in their apartments, care homes or rooms are lonely; young moms struggling to raise children are lonely; refugees and immigrants are lonely; leaders are lonely; young professionals fixed to the internet are lonely; people riding in Skytrains and buses are lonely; even some married people shelter behind closed doors in their own loneliness.

It is hard to see loneliness as a part of our churches. We think that if we can get isolated people into groups of people that loneliness will take care of itself. Several people have told me over the years that the hardest thing is to come to a service, to stand in the middle of so many happy people, and feel all alone.

 

The United Kingdom has now appointed a minister of loneliness to deal with the issue among 2 million seniors who are isolated from community – 200,000 admitted they regularly go over a month without speaking to another human being. In our city, it isn’t surprising to see people drive or commute alone, shop alone, eat alone, order coffee alone, watch a movie alone, walk or jog alone, read alone.

 

Local studies say at least one in five of us experience the sadness that comes from social isolation – reaping the impact on our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. Surprisingly, social media seems partially responsible for the sense of separation and human connection we tend to thrive and flourish on.

 

Connecting to community is essential for our overall health. Being part of a small group where you can share your life, get prayer support, learn with others, enlarge your perspective on God and sense a personal connection with the life stories of others seems to be something God has designed when he made us.

 

When’s the last time you shared a heart connection with someone who really saw you for who you are? When have you taken the time to initiate a contact so you could see someone else for who they are?

Is there room for doubt in our faith?

Have you tried to share your faith lately with an unbeliever? What was that like? Did you know how to respond to the questions you were being asked, the doubts that were being expressed, the pushback you were being given?

Peter, Jesus’ lead disciple, had this to say in I Peter 3:15, 16. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

We don’t expect ourselves to embrace things we don’t believe are true and we surely don’t expect others to embrace things they don’t believe are true. Few are won by being argued into the kingdom. Most are intrigued by seeing the real expression and trust in Jesus when our life is anything but good. “How do you have hope now?” they want to know.

The time for effective witness doesn’t start when we’re confronted by an unbeliever with their haunting questions. They time for witness comes when we speak to our own heart first about what we really believe about Jesus, His word, His church, His world. If you’ve grown up in a ‘Christian’ environment, surrounded only by supportive relationships, it can be a shock to be mocked by skeptics.

The age of entitlement and privilege is over for most followers of Jesus in Canada. It is time to look seriously at what Scripture is teaching us on how to live in a world whose values are not aligned with God’s. This is especially true for students and young professionals.

Winfried Corduan, in his book Reasonable Faith (pp. 16-17), says

“There should come a period in our lives, as we mature in our faith, when we need to confront our inherited belief system and ask ourselves whether it has really become ours. The developmental psychologist James W. Fowler sees a personal re-examination of beliefs as necessary for full maturity. Through most of our adolescent years we are very peer-oriented in all of our life’s decisions. We respond to groups and easily pick up the group’s beliefs as our own. This is why evangelism on the high school levels needs to be socially oriented. Many times during the period we recommit ourselves to our family’s values. However, in late adolescence or early young adulthood, we ought to escape from the peer-oriented mode; we need to decide whether we can really claim ownership in everything we have taken on as beliefs. In most cases, this process involves raising questions about the truth of these beliefs.

“This re-examination does not mean tearing down everything so that it can be rebuilt. It may simply be a matter of making sure all of the nails are holding and applying a little more glue here and there. Unless a person is willing to go through such a process, his or her faith may always be suffering from a lack of conviction.”

So, how has this worked out in your life and faith? How strong are your convictions and where did they come from? Do you have confidence in sharing what you believe with someone still filled with doubt? Are you first living out your faith so that someone would even ask you about your faith?

Helping or Hurting?

Can you imagine going to a doctor and getting a diagnosis which says you have an infection when in reality you have a brain tumour? One of the families we helped with some grocery gift cards recently faced this experience. How do you help someone who can’t get enough to eat because they have serious physical set backs (the family also has an autistic son, a three year old daughter and other complications which keeps the mom from being able to work much)?

Poverty is a complicated reality because every story of an impoverished person is different. We are designed for relationship with God, with others, with creation and with ourselves but these seem to get fractured as we get caught in the web of poverty. The solution isn’t simply giving material handouts. You can’t buy love at the grocery store.

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, in their book Helping Without Hurting, state that “When these relationships [listed above] are functioning in the way God designed them to function, humans experience the fullness of life that God intended: we experience deep communion with a loving God; we understand our inherent dignity and worth as image-bearers; we live in positive, giving relationships with others; and we actively steward God’s creation, both caring for it and being able to work and to support ourselves as  result of that work. Indeed, when these relationships are working properly, the results bubble up in all aspects of our lives: families are nurturing, communities are flourishing, work is meaningful, and we are bringing glory to God in all that we do.”

Perhaps we are more impoverished than we realized. Our own addictive behaviors, our abuse or exploitation at the hands of others, our living under oppressive systems and our vulnerability to demonic forces can leave us emotionally, psychologically, mentally, socially or spiritually weakened.

The need for a vital, caring, prayerful, dignified, compassionate community in our church is vital but it is the need for rich relationships and opportunities which seem to be the best counter to personal poverty in whatever forms it appears. Since the fall, every one of us is broken, hurting or needy in some way.

What do you think? Are there signs of poverty in your own life which show you need community? Are there practices or efforts in our church family which need to be adjusted to truly deal with the poverty in our neighbourhood and in our own fellowship? Be rich to one another.

To pray or not to pray

Thursday was set aside for 12 hours of prayer with different leaders hosting each hour. During an hour hosted by our intern Yosef he played a song with a short clip of a John Piper sermon. The message declared that no pain that we have ever experienced is without purpose or meaning. God is working in us deliberately an eternal weight of glory. That thought requires deep meditation.

A friend of mine is a pastor at a church which has a prayer meeting every night of the week with Friday as a loud and long one. I confessed that while our church has built a healthy multi-cultural community, our prayer times together are still weak. They are building their church on prayer with 20% growth every year and new believers every week.

Today was an effort to say that it is time to reaffirm that only the Spirit of God does the real work in transforming dead hearts, blind eyes, deaf ears and numb minds. In pastor Tim Keller’s book on Prayer his wife used a story to get him to realize the seriousness of prayer. Here is what she said,

“Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine – a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget? Would you not get around to it some nights? No – it would be so crucial that you would not forget, you would never miss. Well, if we don’t pray together to God, we’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. I’m certainly not. We have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.”

Does that illustration speak to you? Do you really believe prayer is that essential? Maybe your response and mine shows a lot more about what is happening in our life than we realize.