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I first read Dan Allender’s book Bold Love when I was about 18 years old.  You see, I had an abuser in my life.  My dad was my abuser, but he was also my father whom I was called to love and honour.  He never hit me or touched me inappropriately, but there was intense emotional and spiritual abuse that I suffered at his hand. I was called to love him, even though I despised him.  But what does it mean to “honour” a parent like him? How do you love an abusive person without opening yourself up to more damage? These were the questions I asked.  And this book had biblical answers. Aside from the Bible, RC Sproul’s “The Holiness of God,” and JI Packer’s, “Knowing God”, this book has had the most profound impact on me.

Bold Love is about what it really means to love someone. From a regular sinner, to a fool, to an evil person. Love is not simply about forgiving and forgetting; love is in fact about admitting the pain and hurt that has been caused and confronting it head on.  And boldly confronting sin is the point of the book. When you confront the person who has hurt you, the purpose is not simply to get the monkey off your back or to move on with life. Neither is it to hurt them. The point is to love them. What was amazing to me when I was younger, and even now as I read it again, was that it pointed me back to the object of your love, the person who was not worthy of love. It solidified the fact that evil committed against you must be admitted and the abuser must be confronted.  This is extremely difficult and thus the “Bold” in the title. The underlying belief is that no one is beyond saving. No one is beyond the hope of reconciliation.  Charles Spurgeon once stated,

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.

He was talking about people we don’t know – should we not do the same for those close to us?  Even those who have damaged us seemingly beyond repair?

Allender’s model for this book is God’s reconciliation with man. Even though we sin against God, he still loves us. But God does not beat around the bush. He does not deny the sin committed or the gravity of the consequences. He does not just forgive and look the other way. He doesn’t confront us to simply get something off his chest. Rather, Jesus  sought after those who had abused God through their disobedience. He never gave up. He never handed in the divorce papers.  He never said to us, “You are beyond hope.” He intercedes for us, the adulterers, the killers, the abusers saying, “Father, forgive them.”

The argument is that God’s reconciliation with us, His perfect love, should be our driving force for boldly seeking after and loving those who have sexually, physically, verbally, or mentally abused us, whether it’s my dad, your spouse, friends, or family. You see, God did not give up on us. He sought after us at great expense to himself. This is what it means to love.  The importance that the book places on admitting the evil that was done along with the hope that no one is beyond the reach of reconciliation is what has impacted me so much in so many different areas. I cannot help but think of Romans 5:6-11 here:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

When I first read this book I needed to know how to love my dad, because really, I hated him. Loving my dad was difficult because of the type of sin he had committed, and loving him meant eventually cutting him out of my life when he showed no repentance.  Cutting him out served two purposes, and is not unlike when excommunication occurs in the Church. First it protected me from his sin, and second it forced him to take the issues seriously.  Because of this bold love by my mom and other’s, my dad eventually repented of his sins before Christ and before his family, and sought reconciliation after many long years.

Nice story right? Let’s be real clear here. There are three possible places to stick n abuser.

Regular sinner.

Fool.

Evil person.

Abuser’s are not fools.  They are not bumbling around and simply being selfish. They are not regular sinners.  They are evil.  Abusers set out to harm others. They are Evil. They are incapable of change, just like all of us, unless they are met by God. My dad was evil, incapable of change…until God met him and destroyed him.

God is just and gracious.

Some quotes from the book:

Biblical forgiveness is never unconditional and one-sided. It is not letting others go off scot-free, “forgiven,” and enabled to do harm again without any consequences. Instead, forgiveness is an invitation to reconciliation, not the blind, cheap granting of it. (162)

Forgiveness involves a heart that cancels the debt but does not lend new money until repentance occurs. (162)

The offender must repent if true intimacy and reconciliation are ever to take place.  (163)

The magnificence of bold love is that in its brokenness, surprise, and simplicity. It is a human gift that could come only from heaven. Bold love provokes disruption that leads to solace, repentance that leads to rest; but far more, it invites both giver and receiver to stare into the eyes of mystery, the wonder of the meaning of the Cross. (309)

 

The book is broken down into three sections.

1: The Battlefield of the Heart

This is the most theologically oriented section as it introduces the problem and describes the motivation to love based on what God has done for sinners like us.  This was tough for me.  God loved me even though I was a sinner.  Even though I abused the name of God, he still sought me and paid for me.  That meant I had to do the same.

2: Strategy for the War of Love

This section is the heart of the book as it lays out the steps toward reconciliation. First there is a hope and hunger for restoration. Second, we turn our backs on revenge as we are reminded of our brokenness and how God hoped and hungered for restoration with us. Third, it introduces us to the way we can confront the enemy. The first two were easy. I did long for a relationship with my dad, even though he was an abuser.  I never wanted to harm him for harming me or my family.  The problem arose with confronting him.  It was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done, and this book helped to lay out how to do that.

3: Combat for the Soul

This section takes the principals in the first two parts of the book and applies them to three different types of people who may have caused hurt in our lives. First, there is a chapter on loving an evil person, called Siege Warfare. Specifically this is about sexual, physical, verbal, or mental abusers. Second, there is a chapter on loving a fool, called Guerrilla Warfare. This part is about those who carelessly cause great damage to us. Third, there is a chapter on loving a normal sinner, called Athletic Competition. This is the type of hurt we might encounter from regular folks at church on a daily basis.

I highly recommend this book.  Especially for office bearers, but for anyone who needs to learn how to love those hurt them, and what that love looks like.  

 

Well my friends,

The move is complete.

We are “settled” in our new city, new jobs, new church, new school, …perhaps settled is the wrong word, because it has been turbulent and stressful to say the least. And we are not really “settled” as we are still trying to figure out our “new normal”, and our new routine, and we are still seeking out a daycare, and the house is still in boxes…but here we are.

Trying to take it all in.

Breathe.

We moved so abruptly, that it still has not really sunk in yet.  It almost does not feel real. But this morning I have been thinking about the move, and I feel like I did not have time to say farewell to everyone.  The hardest part of the move, for me, has been this morning, as I consider the Church family we left.

Now, please do not get me wrong. I am excited to join a new and smaller congregation, full of new and friendly faces, different views on things, a different vision, to be involved in urban evangelism and so on…and they have been more than welcoming! The small church dynamic is actually really cool and I am really looking forward to being a part of this Church family…

But right now I am thinking about those whom we left behind.

And a thought struck me…

I wonder what it is like to be a pastor or an elder or a deacon or even a deeply involved brother or sister…and pour that much of yourself, your time, your prayers, your thoughts into a person or a family, and slowly see growth and the working of the Spirit in them, only to have them leave the congregation?  

We left on good terms, and we’ll be back to visit undoubtedly, but…we left none the less.

And me being me, I think about these things, and how they affect other people. So I want to thank those people who touched our lives while in Chilliwack.

Thank you to the men who served as deacons.  Especially those couple of guys, who month in and month out for many years, created deep impressions on our couches and deeper ones in our souls. Your work with us was used mightily by the Lord.  I know it may not have felt like it, especially in the beginning, as you beat your head against our budget, or lack of one. As we had a hard time discerning “needs” from “wants.” As we slowly learned to let go of pride…But over time the Lord worked through you, not only in the financials and things of this world, but spiritually as well.  So if you feel as if you never see the fruit of your labour in the Lord’s service, here is some.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Thank you to the elders.  Those men who cared for our spiritual well being. I apologize for being distant in the beginning, for the first few years we were here.  I was hardened and depressed when we arrived in Chilliwack, trapped in self loathing and sin, but your work always caused me to think, and the Lord used it to eventually soften my heart.  Thank you especially to the men who were there during my last bout of depression a year ago. There was no condemnation from you, there was only encouragement in the Word and a pointing to Jesus.

Thank you to the pastor, Rev. Abel Pol.  We will miss your faithful work in bringing us the Word each week.  Thank you also for your counsel and your calm rational responses to my emotional emails. I am sure we’ll keep in touch on the interwebs.

Thank you to our study group.  We had only just begun. I was just letting you into my introverted bubble! It was a neat dynamic of different age groups, questions, thoughts, and stages of life.  I am glad that you have already replaced us! You will all be missed.

Thank you to the men’s prayer group. It was small, but it was a wonderful and uplifting experience. You guys were (and still are) the ones I know I can go to about anything at any time without fear of judgement or gossip. Please do me a favour…you guys keep meeting, keep praying, keep encouraging each other – where two or three are gathered…

Thank you to the congregation.  Those whom we knew well…and those whom we didn’t know well, but were there with support and encouragement, a casserole, a meal when it was needed, babysitting, clothing, support, coffee, a word of encouragement…there were so many small things, from so many people, that added up so perfectly in His will.  We’ll miss the communion of the saints in Chilliwack.

And to our neighbours in the cul-de-sac on which we lived…  We’ll miss you too.  Especially those who had kids who played with ours! At least we have Facebook to keep in touch…right?  Play dates can happen as well.

Fare thee well, dear Chilliwack.  We’ll miss you.

But we’ll still see you.

You didn’t think you could get rid of us that easily did you?  It’s not like we moved all that far away! We’ll be back to visit from time to time.

Now we look forward with anticipation and excitement, to all the new things: being close to my family, the new Church, the new school, the jobs and so on… Where will God lead us?  We do not know, but he is in control.

Blessings to all of you in the new year!

200

 

 

 

4th Annual Titus 2:1 Award

Posted: December 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

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I received a large number of nominations for the 4th annual Titus 2:1 award.

Thank you!

So many so, that I could not check them all out!  However 4 of the blogs received multiple nominations who have not received the award in the past.  So I will nominate those blogs.

The rules:

Anyone who will play along and accept the award is requested to do the following on their blog:

1. Display the “award” on a blog post and thank the person who nominated them.
2. Answer the following questions in the blog post:
     a. If you could have dinner with any historical Christian figure, who would it be and why?
     b. What 1 burning question would you ask?
     c. Where and what would you eat?
     d.  What was the last Bible verse you read?
3. Now you must nominate at least one more blog for the award. Pay it forward.  (This is my favourite part!)

 

So without further adieu here are the 4 winners for the 4th annual Titus 2:1 award.

Teresa’s Daughter

Born in the church, and then raised outside of it, Natasha is very open about her journey through unbelief back to faith in Christ, as well as her struggles with Bipolar disorder, Faith, Family, and life.

Little Bit of Thyme 

Tash writes about everything from cooking, creating, gardening, her family, her faith and other little bits and pieces!

A little bit of this and a little bit of that:

A little bit of nepotism? :) This blog is run by my wife`s cousin, Nicole, and is mix of family, personal, and churchy stuff.

Creation Without Compromise

Funnily enough, three of the four editors, Rev. Jim Witteveen, Mr. Jon Dykstra, Dr. Wes Bredenhof, have all received this award from their personal blogs in the past. I guess that means this time it is Dr. Ted VanRaalte`s turn to accept it…

The Editors, Dr. Ted VanRaalte, Rev. Jim Witteveen, Mr. Jon Dykstra, Dr. Wes Bredenhof, “are committed to the historic Reformed understanding of Genesis and believe that a failure to maintain the orthodox position not only attacks biblical truth in general, but the gospel of Jesus Christ in particular.”


 

 

 

 

We-Will-Rebuild

We moved to Surrey and there was an earthquake to announce that we have arrived.

It’s how we roll.

I did not feel it; I guess I was just exhausted from the move.

But judging from Facebook, alot of people felt it. So that got me thinking. How many of us are prepared if the power goes out for a few days?  I mean let’s be real here, people go crazy if the internet is down for a few hours, imagine what would happen if there was no power, no phone, no food and no water for 2 or 3 days! Are you prepared for a big earthquake, flood, or the zombie apocalypse??  Do you know what to do, or will you just wing it?  Do you have your crossbow and machete ready? Do you have an emergency plan in place?  Do you know where your fall back locations will be? Is your grab and go kit packed? What if the zombies break down your door and you have to run with a moments notice?!?!

Working in the security and emergency management industry, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about preparing for emergency, and about personal safety and security. I do it for work so it is something that is always in the back of my mind. No the zombies are not in the back of my mind silly…

I believe that the Lord would have us be prepared for disasters – not over the top, but to be ready in case it happens. There is wisdom in being prepared. I consider myself a “prepared prepper.”  Not a hardcore, or even moderate prepper. I don’t have tubs full of seeds, closets full of water, nor do I have guns with ammo in a container buried in the forest, nor do I buy Jim Bakker’s Buckets (and I don’t recommend doing so).  We just moved, hence the earthquake, so I have to create a new emergency plan for the family, and our “grab and go kits” are in disarray..(and I dumped all my 2 litre bottles of water cuz I didn’t want to move them…)

Here are some bare minimum essentials if you do not want to seem like a “crazy prepper”, but want to survive for 3 days at home if something happens:

  1. Know where your gas, water, and electrical shut offs are. Seriously. And ladies, don’t rely on your husband for this, he might be stuck in traffic. It takes 2 minutes to learn it, and it can save your house and your life.  Speaking of which…I should probably locate mine in the new house…
  2. Water. Water. Water. Have extra water in the house.  I don’t have any right now…
    • An idea is to fill 2 litre soda bottles 4/5 full and line the bottom of your deep freeze with them.  They help lower the energy cost of your freezer and they are a great source of clean water. (don’t fill them up as they will burst)
    • In a pinch, your hot water tank will have 40-100 gallons of water in it ( so learn how to access it); each toilet tank has a gallon or so as well.
  3. Non-perishable Food (preferably that does not need to be cooked). I need to stock up. My go to food is energy bars and granola bars.  They last forever. So stick a few boxes in a closet.
  4. Candles / Matches / Lighters. If the power is out.  You are going to want these.
  5. First Aid kit. Get a kit and take a course.  First aid can save a life even in the absence of a disaster.
  6. Fire extinguisher. Get one and learn how to use it. Put it in an easy to access location.  Our landlord left his, so we got that…
  7. Have an emergency plan in place. Make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go in the even of a disaster. I need to do this for our new home. There are lots of resources on line. Start here:  Get Prepared.
  8. Have “grab and go” kits ready for each person.
    • Essentials for a “non-crazy person” grab and go kit:
      • Water: At least two litres of water per person per day
      • Non-perishable food: Energy bars and granola bars are light and easy to carry.
      • Emergency blanket.
      • Hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap etc.)
      • Small thin Bible in a ziploc bag.
      • Tools: Multi tool with a small knife, rope, lighters, a flashlight, and a personal radio (Either crank or also pack extra batteries).
      • Small First aid kit, with Ibuprofen.
      • Extra keys to your vehicle and house.
      • Money. Small bills and change.
      • Clothing. Especially Socks. Light walking shoes.
      • A copy of your emergency plan, map of the area, pictures of family members, contact information and pencil in zip-loc bags.
      • Other items such as deck of cards, prescriptions, formula, dry baby food, stuffed animal for small kids, equipment for people with disabilities, etc.

You can make your kits bigger with shovels, guns, ammo, tents, tarps, blankets, generators, diesel fuel, barbecues, propane, zombie-head-removing tools like machetes, and a donkey to pack it around for you…but then you would look crazy…you wouldn’t be crazy of course, because zombies are totally real..but we’re going for the sane look here.

It is hard to believe that we survived that earthquake!

See you on the other side.

**Maybe I should rethink that donkey…**

blessed

Are you blessed?

This Christmas we have thanked God for “blessing” us with family, friends, possessions, homes, food, health, and so on. We even head to Instagram and Twitter and post pictures with the hashtag #blessed. This morning there are over 46 million pictures on Instagram tagged “#blessed.” There are cars, pictures of Starbucks lattes, Christmas trees and so on.

We are gearing up to tell our loved ones to have a blessed new year, and I fully expect to see a number of pictures on Instagram with this hashtag posted all over.

But what does it mean to be blessed?

Let’s turn to the Word.

There are so many verses we could go to, to learn what it means to be blessed, but Psalm 1 is a great place to start. Let’s read it now:

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

According to Psalm 1, to be blessed we must seek God in his Word and avoid the wicked, sinners, and scoffers. In His law we delight, and through it we are blessed.

Verse 3 gets to the heart of the matter.

It is here where find the answer to our question of what it means to be blessed.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

“He is like a tree planted

I used to read this as, “He is like a tree.” I would picture a strong, immovable oak tree, majestic. But I would over look the word “planted.” This is an important little word. It is intentional. This tree was planted there by someone for a reason. This tree is chosen for the garden, cultivated, cared for…not a wild tree, that no one cares about, but a fruit tree that is tended to daily.

“By streams of water;”

Spurgeon states about this, “so that even if one river should fail, he hath another. The rivers of pardon and the rivers of grace, the rivers of the promise and the rivers of communion with Christ, are never-failing sources of supply.”

Oh isn’t that a wonderful description of the waters for which we thirst? When we live daily in the Word, we quench our thirst on the water of Jesus Christ, we hear the promise that,”whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

“that yields its fruit in its season”

Fruitfulness is an essential quality of a believer. Again, I used to read this as all believers yield fruit, and I would overlook the words, “In Season.”

Think about that for a moment.

We don’t pick the apples out of season, for they will be green and sour. We pick them when they are ready to be picked, when they are bright red and full flavoured. So also, as a young believer begins to grow in faith, as he feeds on the Word of God, as he drinks in the rivers of grace, of promise and communion with Christ, the fruit begins to grow. Here we read the promise that this fruit will, must inevitably by the working of the Spirit, come to maturity in Christ.

And what is this fruit?

The Fruit which is revealed in Galatians 5 : “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;”.

“and its leaf does not wither.”

John Calvin states about this, that the writer, “meant nothing more than that the children of God constantly flourish, and are always watered with the secret influences of divine grace, so that whatever may befall them is conducive to their salvation;” Both the fruit and the leaf will prosper. The believer will neither lose his inner beauty nor his fruitfulness.

“In all that he does, he prospers.”

What a promise!

But we must be wary not to think that this is a promise of health and wealth. As Spurgeon comments, “It is not outward prosperity which the Christian most desires and values; it is soul prosperity which he longs for. We often, like Jehoshaphat, make ships to go to Tarshish for gold, but they are broken at Ezion-geber; but even here there is a true prospering, for it is often for the soul’s health that we would be poor, bereaved, and persecuted. Our worst things are often our best things. As there is a curse wrapped up in the wicked man’s mercies, so there is a blessing concealed in the righteous man’s crosses, losses, and sorrows. The trials of the saint are a divine husbandry, by which he grows and brings forth abundant fruit.”

So I pray that the Lord would bless you.

That you might delight in the law of the Lord, which brings life through the streams of living water that are found only in Christ Jesus. May you produce fruit in season, through the power of the Holy Spirit, who will bring that fruit to perfection. May your leaf not wither. And may the Lord prosper you with the riches that are found only in Him.

SDG

Too Much Empathy?

Posted: December 16, 2015 in Depression
Tags: ,

empathy

“I am too empathetic!”

That was not a boast.  It was a complaint. I recently received a message from a young lady who asked why God would endow her with a “ridiculous amount of empathy.” She claims to be concerned for others to the point of exhaustion. She absorbs other people’s emotions, so much so that she weeps for people she hardly knows. She called it a curse and she asked if I had any advice on how to “get over it.”

I totally get where she is coming from.

I am sure that many of us are able to sense the emotional state of those around us…but for myself, I not only sense it, I often enter into the emotional state of those closest to me. Not unlike this young lady.  

It might sound great, but it takes a toll on a person.

Sometimes, all someone needs to do is cross the threshold, through the door, and into a room that I am occupying, and I will be overcome with an intense emotion, especially negative ones like sadness. .. to find out a few minutes later that something happened to cause that person intense sadness.

It is kind of like an eery psychic super power that I really used to hate; I thought I was little bit crazy.

It was like being on an emotional roller coaster, but the emotions were not my own; I never paid the fare, I didn’t get in line, and here I am with my hands in the air screaming as we fly down the Drop Of Death!!

People would tell me that I was too sensitive…that it wasn’t my issue, that I needed to get over it! They were almost right, I am really sensitive to those around me…but do I really need to get over it like empathy is some sort of snotty nose or ear infection?

I don’t think so. Well, actually with all the crying it might be like a snotty nose…

The second part of Romans 12:15 comes easily to people like us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Crying was what I considered the worst part about it. I used to weep with regularity when others were hurting.

And weeping is not manly at all, is it?

For instance, a few years ago a friend, who is not that close with me, called about his marital problems…after the phone call I broke down and sobbed and I let it ruin my day. And it goes on, when someone loses a job or a spouse, or a marriage breaks down, or someone gets a serious sickness, when my wife has a bad day, or my kids are feeling blue…

I weep.

And it is not pretty at all.

It was, and still can be, emotionally exhausting.

Like the young lady, I used to look at this as a curse or a burden that I needed to “get over.” While I no longer look at it as a curse, it is still a burden of sorts…but it is also gift. Being an introvert, I would often absorb these feelings and dwell on them in isolation, and if I was not careful, I would grow depressed. Now, rather than just sitting in a dark room and crying, or trying to be tough and not let it bother me, I have learned a couple things about being a Christian “Empath.” Allow me to share them with you:

  1. Meditate on the Bible and pray. We have God’s own Word, given to us. Through it the Lord imparts wisdom and makes himself known to us. When our thoughts and affections are focused on Jesus Christ, dealing with the emotional onslaught is going to be much easier to bare, as we do not have to bare it alone.
  2. Talk to other Christians. I am not saying go and gossip to your friends about the other person’s problems. Talking to a trusted Christian friend about your feelings will prevent you from dwelling on it and holding it in and then eventually exploding in a quivering mess of negative, zoned out depression.
  3. Take time to recharge. If you are anything like me, you are going to need some alone time afterwards, as this will totally drain your batteries. Turn off the phone, get off the internet, find a place of solitude and recharge. For me that often includes blogging, reading, and sleep. A warning however: don’t stay there in your isolation. Don’t get trapped. Get out again and be of service to God and the Church.
  4. Learn to say, “no.” You don’t have to do it all yourself. Since we feel the needs of others, and want to help, we often have trouble saying no to people and take on more than we should. Part of why I had my bout with depression last year was because I was just completely burnt out.
  5. Exercise. I used to over-eat and over-drink to numb the over-active feelings. Which is not good. On top of the other things listed above, exercise is a good tool to help cope. Plus the endorphin high is never a bad thing…
  6. Surround yourself with loving, positive Christians. Since we tend to absorb the feelings of others, it makes sense be around positive people right? Don’t ignore those who are hurting and need your support, but know your limits.

In scripture we see the empathy Jesus showed for the sick, the blind, the deaf, and the lost. Jesus wept. Throughout Scripture we are taught to humble ourselves and look at the interests of others. We are constantly exhorted in the Scriptures to have compassion for one another, and people who have been blessed with empathetic personalities have this built in to us. It is a blessing.

Too empathetic?  No.

Get over it? No. Empathy is not like the common cold that we have to get over.

God has given you an amazing gift.

Embrace it, and learn to focus not so much on the negative emotions that you feel, but the positive  ones as well. Remember the first part of Romans 12:15 – rejoice with those who rejoice.  Do that as well.  Use this gift to God’s glory and the up building of the Church.

SDG

Go and Do Likewise

Posted: December 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The Good SamaritanRecently in conversation it came up how the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans in the scriptures, reminded him of the right wing Christian animosity towards Muslims. That got me thinking about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Allow me to take some liberties with that passage of Scripture. From Luke 10:25-37 ESV:

And behold, a Reformed Seminarian stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the seminarian, being a first year seminarian and desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A homeless man was going down from Detroit to Grand Rapids, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.

Now by chance a Southern Baptist Preacher was going down that road, to preach at the local Gun Show, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.

So likewise a group of Elders from the local Presbyterian Church were going to the local Republican Party Rally, when they came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Syrian Refugee, who was a Muslim, as he journeyed in a place that was not his home, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds with his jacket. He called him an ambulance and rode with him to the hospital, staying overnight with him comforting him. And the next day he took out all the money he had, which was not much, and gave it to the hospital clerk, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more it costs, I will try to repay you when I come back.’

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

The Seminarian said, “The one who showed him mercy.”

And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

ShipInHarbor1

Life is certainly comfortable where we are right now.

A nice church family, a great pastor, good jobs, close family, fantastic friends, a great prayer group, an awesome Bible study…yet, despite all these good things, we have felt the tug to leave it all and move back to the big city for sometime.

I think others see it too. A few weeks ago, at Bible study, someone mentioned that we should move to Burnaby because of our views on outreach…we kinda looked at each other and chuckled…and just yesterday it became a reality.

We are really going.

The Lord willing, we’ll be moving in the first couple of weeks after Christmas.

Wow.

“Why would you give up a nice house, on a quiet family oriented cul-de-sac full of Christian neighbours to downsize your home and move into the unknown?”

“Why would you leave the comfort of family and friends close by to move to a different city and church where you know hardly anyone?”

“The routine is set, the kids have friends, you are comfortable, why would you do this now at this stage of life?”

Those are the questions that rolled through my head all day yesterday. And I had a restless sleep as I thought about what needs fixing before we sell ( or do we rent?)…electrical, new hot water tank, paint etc. etc.

“Are we crazy? Are we doing the right thing?”

I am sure a lot of people don’t get it. I am sure some are thinking this decision is about making more money – it really isn’t. While we will be making a little more than we are right now…do you know how much housing costs out there compared to here?

Ultimately this move is about our family vision. Do you have a family vision?

About 3 years ago we started the conversation about doing more for God. It was a strange thing, it was as if the more we grew in our relationships with Christ and the more we became content in him and where we were in life…the more we wanted to do for him. Some people have said that we should just be content in the situation in which God has placed us. Be faithful in the little things. Be thankful. Well, we are… but within that contented thankfulness is this burning desire to do so much more for God.

It is that burning desire which fuels this blog.

It is that burning desire which fuels Teresa to lead women’s bible studies.

It is that burning desire which pushes us out of our introverted comfort zones to do things we normally wouldn’t do, like prayer groups and study groups and speaking to groups of people and unbelieving friends about the gospel.

It is why I am slowly plugging away at my pre-seminary studies.

It is that desire which caused us to begin considering a way in which we could move back to the big city to be involved in Church plants, and outreach and evangelism.

“But what about your children? Isn’t it better to raise them where they are?”

Well, our goal as parents is not ultimately to raise smart kids.

It is not to raise well behaved kids.

It is not to raise kids who fit the mould of what anyone would have them be.

It is not our goal as parents to raise kids who will just blindly follow the pack and fit in and not know why they do what they do.

It is not our goal to make them as comfortable as possible. That is a nice perk, but our goal as parents is to raise kids who love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and who love and care for others above themselves.

The vision I have for my family is ultimately based on Luke 10:30,31. We want to be a family who puts Jesus Christ before anything else. I want to raise kids who love God and their neighbour, and will go to any length to serve Him.

What is your family vision?

Do you have one?

Or are you doing like we did for so long, simply settling for a vision that is small, that is comfortable, that is expected of you?

For so long we chose the easy option, the fit in option, the comfortable option because we didn’t really want our lives to count for eternity. We simply wanted to be comfortable and to be liked. Yes, God certainly does call us to be faithful in the little things, in the moment where we are everyday…in changing of diapers and in being faithful spouses, and in being good neighbours and all of those routine things. But we asked the question, “Is that our only calling, or are we just afraid to hope and ask for anything more?”

Are we willing to lay it all down and follow him?

Are we willing to bear up our crosses and follow him?

I realize this stuff reveals how “un-Canadian-Reformed-cookie-cutter” we are as a family. And that is ok. We don’t all have to be replicas of each other. Do you have the desire to do more for God? If so, what is holding you back?

Anyway.

I am both excited and nervous. It is going to be a very hectic 3 weeks coming up especially with Christmas coming up.

A new home, new school, new job, new church family…

As I type this post on my laptop in the home I have lived in in for the last 9 years, I cannot help but think about how comfortable I am.  Really.  But we don’t grow in our comfort zones.  As the old saying goes, “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.”  

I guess we are setting sail into the wild blue yonder. But that is OK,  I know who our captain is.

SDG

 

CaptureSatire.

It has been called the lowest form of argument. And it is true. I am not fond of Satire, and rarely engage in it, because it usually ends up making fun of something or someone, and really, it cannot be debated or rebutted, because it is simply stating an opposing view in a rather sarcastic manner…

I engaged in satire in an article I wrote called, “Think Twice before Joining the Canadian Reformed Church”; the crazy thing is that article blew up the internet. Seriously. When I went online today, it was like Facebook and my email just fell off of my computer and died on my keyboard, there is smoke pouring out of my screen… the dying screams of the innocent still haunt my dreams.

Anyway…

It was the busiest day on record since I started the blog, which is both sad and clarifying to me. Sad cuz I have written far better articles than that…and clarifying cuz it reinforces that I appeal to a members of the Canadian Reformed Churches (Canreffers for short). I got a whole lot of emails… Some positive, some negative, and a few were from disgruntled former Canreffers who think that I am just another cookie cutter Canreffer who is stuck in tradition and has his inward-focused, bubble-glasses on.

lol…

Bubble glasses…

Before I go any further, would you go back to that article for a second? Now, look at the category that I stuck it in. You can read the words, “On the Lighter Side.” What do you think that means? That post was intended to be a humorous poke fun at my own church. Not unlike when I lovingly bug my wife about her idiosyncrasies…

But then the trolls got a hold of it…

Some accused me of poor “journalism” for not including the original text that I am debating in that article.

Original text?

Journalism?

Debating?

Um…lolwut?

That article was not journalism, it was not a debate, it’s just me letting you see into the swirling vortex of entropy that is my mind…feel free to like it or not. It was a simple, humourous blog post about my church, for people in my church to have a chuckle at themselves, not a doctoral dissertation on the ecclesiology of the denomination to be debated by those who have too much time on their hands…

This article was also not pointed at anyone in particular. It is true that I was inspired to write that article after receiving over 100 emails and private messages from some trolls bashing the Canadian Reformed Churches over the course of the past 3 or 4 years. I admit that I got fed up and my mind exploded out my fingertips, resulting in that pile of satirical yumminess. Again this is a simple blog post about my church, for people in my church, not a means to call someone out…

Strangely some even accused me of badmouthing other churches and being ignorant and disrespectful to them. Uh…What? That post was not intended to belittle any other congregation or denomination, as some have suggested. How that has anything to do with this post is beyond me.  Anything I wrote about other churches in that post comes from my own experiences from 20 years in other churches. Again this was a simple blog post about my church, not a means to judge other churches in a debate over which denominational distinctives are more gooder.

restSome of the trolls locked on to the legalism aspect of how the typical Canreffer does Sundays. And it is somewhat true. I mean, if you want to create some drama in CanRC circles, just say that you bought something on a Sunday. Yes people can be legalistic about the Lord’s Day, but not everyone is being legalistic when they don’t go out for lunch after Church! This poor donkey has already been beaten half to death with pool noodles, so I am not going to say any more except this…I did not grow up with a day of rest. Sunday was just another regular day with a sprinkling of Church in the morning. Now, for me, Sunday is a glorious reminder of the eternal Sabbath that we will experience on that great day of the Lord! Here is a question to ponder: What is your motivation for observing, or not observing, Sunday as the Lord’s Day? Your answer to this is important and will determine legalism, antinomianism, or a proper understanding of what the Lord was doing when he gave us the 4th commandment…

Others latched onto the “Nosy Church Leaders,” comment and said that is why they don’t come any more... The complaint was brought up a couple times that the elders often “screwed up” in handling sensitive situations. That they pushed too hard, and in some cases they pushed people out of the church. Some even mentioned spiritual abuse. Often the accusation of spiritual abuse is unfounded and is too easily tossed around by people who hold a grudge…but sometimes it is true. And when it is true, it is a deadly and vile poison. I empathize with those who been victims of spiritual abuse. But victims of abuse are not manipulative and angry trolls, they tend to avoid those who abused them, and are not going to employ the same abusive tactics on others… Anyway, we would have to be living with blinders on to believe that spiritual abuse doesn’t happen in our little denomination. It does happen from time to time, and it is a travesty. Spiritual abuse ruins lives and congregations, it can paint entire denominations in the black, and it drags Christ’s name through the mud. When we hear of spiritual abuse, we do well to address it, rather than look away. Abuse is a cancer in the Church and must be cut out. Done…for now…

Still others latched onto the “Male headship” point. Some people accused me towing the party line with this point. That I am just brainwashed into an archaic way of thinking. That I am just a run of the mill cookie cutter Canreffer who fits the mould…

Haha…

ha.

The funny thing is that we so are not “typical”. I wish we were. I work full time and I am the spiritual head of my home…my wife submits to me in Christ, but my wage is not sufficient for our family needs, so my wife also works full time outside of the house!

Gasps!

I heard them!

Oh and we split the household chores evenly…I am even responsible for “pink jobs” like doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen! I also put my kids to bed to every night!

Wait…am I a feminist?! Lol…no.

I am also responsible for the spiritual well being of the family, but…

*whispers* …sometimes my wife will pray…

Nope. No CanRC cookie cutter here. My wife and I are Complementarian equals…

Boom.

*drops mic*

I am definitely not the cookie-cutter, bubble-dwelling, “Canreffer” I have been accused of being. Although I wonder if that would even be all that bad. And could someone please describe what the Canreffer cookie cutter looks like? Cuz almost all of the people I hang out with, and have bible study with, or prayer group with, have differing opinions and views on lots of things.

Yes, I am a member of a Canadian Reformed Church. I love her, and have grown to love some of the traditional elements, like the Genevan tunes, and the idiosyncrasies, like eating cake before having soup for lunch (Desert before meals? What is up with that anyway?), but I am not so naive as to think she is perfect. I have written posts decrying some issues in the CanRC, like nominalistic-Sunday-Christian issues, legalism, hyper-headship, hyper-covenantism, religious arrogance, and so on.

To those who have left the CanRC: Yes there are issues in the CanRC. (Like the endemic love of Droppies…Salty liquorice. Seriously. What is wrong with these people? ) Please stop bellyaching about the bad things, please just stop. I mean, if you are still a believer who is worshipping in another Church, act like it. Please remember the fruit of the Spirit in your responses, comments, messages and your emails. The judgemental anger does nothing to help the situation. If you are not Christian, why do you even bother to read my blog? Your comments are just trolling.

I am totally open to discussion, but not to accusations, stereotyping, and the like. Take your negativity and be gone. I have a rule of not engaging in debate on social media – it never goes anywhere. So I apologize to you who tried. If you want to engage me, please feel free to email me politely and in a Christian manner, and if I have time, I will respond. No promises.

While enjoying the support of many in the CanRC, and being dubbed by one reader as the, “Officially Unofficial Canadian Reformed Daddy Blogger”, I am not officially sanctioned by the CanRC nor is One Christian Dad officially affiliated with the CanRC. All thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this article and the other ones, are mine alone. Any that happen to be held by others within the Federation of Canadian Reformed Churches is purely coincidental and will be looked into immediately.

After all that I would like to say…it was a blog post. Not unlike this one. But with more satire. G.K. Chesterton once said, “The test of a good religion, is whether you can joke about it.”  I laugh at mine all the time, it must be a great one.

That is all.

Thank you.

 

CaptureCapture

As a blogger who happens to be identified with the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches, I sometimes receive messages from lovely people warning me about how bad the Canadian Reformed Churches are, that this denomination is on the fast track to hell, and that we are not really Christians.

None of us.

Wow.

There are people who try to warn me that my soul is in danger being a member of such an apostate group of wretches.

Anyway, I don’t read messages from these people any more, but all this got me thinking about some of things that we have been accused of.

So, here are my top ten reasons to think twice before joining a Canadian Reformed Church.

1. Genevan Psalter

Seriously.  We sing Psalms. Those are old.  Not only that, but we sing them as they are set to 500 year old tunes.

OK, ok…we not only sing the Psalms, we also sing hymns…but they are all old as well! Sure the songs we sing are all theologically heavy, biblically sound, God glorifying and Jesus praising songs, but they are not modern praise songs! No Jesus Culture or Chris Tomlin songs are sung here!  Nobody is dancing in the aisles! And most congregations use a pipe organ…

2. Confessional

Most churches have a short single page “Statement of Faith,” which usually ends up being quite similar to the Apostles Creed.  Those are so easy to read. Well got that creed… and the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed…and the Three Forms of Unity. We are a Confessional Church.  We catechize our children in the confessions and our Church leaders have to subscribe to it. Sometimes it can be a bit much, right?! I mean just take a look at how many questions and answers are in the Heidelberg Catechism.  And the Belgic Confession is so long winded and wordy.  The Canons of Dordt are even longer…and it dares to call differing views, “errors”!  How un-Politically Correct is that!?! Aren’t we supposed to be tolerant? And we indoctrinate our children in this stuff, without giving them the freedom to make up their own minds on it!

3. Talk about Sin.

They use the Bible to determine what is right and wrong!  They call out specific sins as sin!  They don’t beat around the bush! They say that things like homosexuality and abortion are sins!  How homophobic and anti-choice can you get?  They say that we are all sinful and in need of a saviour.  And every week…every single week without fail…you will hear the ten commandments read off the pulpit.  How can it possibly be a good thing to be reminded of how often we sin and need a savour? How could it help our self esteem to know that we daily sin and need to repent and look to Jesus, every single day!?  Besides, those commandments are archaic, they are like a million years old…are they even relevant any more? I mean especially the 4th one…

4. The Lord’s Day

Seriously.  That 4th commandment!  They call Sunday the “Lord’s day!”  I thought only Puritans called it the Lord’s Day! They take it so seriously! Most people in this church don’t work on Sundays.  They don’t go shopping on Sundays.  They won’t even go out for lunch on Sundays. They have got to all be legalists.  All they do is go to Church twice, and then spend the day in the worship of God and visiting with family and other Church members …

5. Nosy church leaders.

If you miss too many worship services, your elder will give you a phone call.  How rude, right? And if you ignore them, they will come to your house!  Not only that, they actually schedule visits with every single member in the Church! To talk to you about Jesus, and your faith life, and your spiritual well being and all sorts of other things!  How is this at all in line with our individualistic world?  Are we not supposed to be autonomous and self sufficient?  And don’t get me started on the Deacons! They will visit the poor and needy to make sure that all of their physical needs are met and that they know how to use a budget, and understand the reason behind tithing etc. etc….I like my privacy thank you very much.

6. We have our own seminary.

What better way to create cookie cutter reformed preachers?  I mean seriously! Is it not enough that we have the confessions and our ministers have to subscribe to them?  We even have a needy student fund to ensure that we have enough men in there!  What about other trains of thought, and differing opinions and theological positions?  Isn’t variety the spice of life?

 

 

7. Our Services are Liturgical

You know those churches that have, like, a half hour of singing, then a short message, and another half hour of singing, then an altar call to finish it all off? Sorry…you wont find that here.  We follow a liturgy, which is kind of like a script.  It is almost the same every week, except for the sermon and songs. It is all done according to this thing called the regulative principle, where they only do the worship service according to How God has prescribed in the Bible. That means no movies, skits, personal anecdotes, or puppet shows…boring…

8. Biblical Preaching

The preaching is straight from the Bible.  No social commentary or get rich quick, or feel-good-self-help spiels here! The preaching is also quite academic.  I mean, the pastors all have like a decade of post secondary cookie cutter reformed education from our seminary. How can anyone expect to stay awake through an exegetical sermon that works through scripture – without slide shows and video clips and other physical stimuli? And bringing coffee in is going to get you a few frowns from the faithful…so don’t do that.  Maybe just sleep in… oh wait the elders will notice if you are not there…hmmm…

9. Male Headship

Women are not permitted to preach.  In fact they are not even permitted to be office bearers. It is almost misogynistic. And the man is head of the house!  They say he is like Jesus and the wife is the like the church.  Huh?  How does that make any sense at all?! And a lot of the women are simply content to be stay at home mom’s and raise godly families! How crazy it that? What about equality?  What about women’s lib? What about egalitarianism!? What about ambition!? This is so against the grain of society…

10. We baptize believers… AND THEIR CHILDREN.

Yes, this means babies too…*GASPS*

By sprinkling…*FAINTS*

Finally Jesus is central in everything.  He is the reason for everything, the author and finisher of our faith, the way the truth and life, the narrow path, the bread of life, the prince of peace, the alpha and omega… and that comes out loud and clear in the preaching and life of the Church.

We are a group of redeemed sinners, and yes we are very imperfect.  And yes there are gong to be hypocrites mixed in with us.  We are a local expression of the family of God, those whom God loves.  We are sinners, and Christ shed His blood and gave His body to die upon the cross for us. As a local expression of the Church, we are the Ones whom our Triune God has made to be holy. While we stumble and sin, and make mistakes, we do it together, encouraging each other in the Word as we press on toward the goal together in His strength.

So if you don’t like that, if you are not looking for a place to do life and faith deeply and biblically, and make it part of who you are, then you may want to think twice about joining the Canadian Reformed Church.

***The list is satire, just in case you were getting ready to email me a nasty letter.***