The Light of the World

Ok, so I’m not much of a blogger … and how ironic that exactly one year to the day I initiated this I’ve found my way back!

When you imagine a hero what do you picture?  William Wallace … Captain America … one of your parents … a military officer … a human rights activist … a fireman?  For Christians, we retell the story of our hero year after year as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour – Jesus.

What I appreciate about this artistic rendering is how God came to earth to redeem and restore ALL of his creation.  I’m grateful for the fact that he comes in the darkness because that is a reality of the human experience.  Life is not just a fun-filled, rainbow-wrapped, bouncy castle joy fest.  When mankind chose not to obey God, whether in the beginning of time or right now in the present, it breaks the relationship God intended to have with us.  Yet, he does not abandon us to our bad choices and brokeness.  Instead we see a God who enters his creation, in the midst of our pain and brokeness, who joins our struggle, stands with us, and who offers us sanctuary – hope – restoration.  God does not leave us in the dark – he moves to deliver us.

There’s a profound verse in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 1:27, that is exemplified perfectly in the birth of Jesus.  “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in this world to shame the strong.”  This is the most powerful being in the universe coming to earth, not as a mighty warrior or glorious King, but as a vulnerable, dependent baby.

One of my favourite stories regarding Jesus’ life happens in the Gospel of John chapter 9.  It’s a story about a man who was blind from birth.  He’s miraculously healed by Jesus!  Even though people would have passed by this man every single day – as a beggar in the city square – when the miraculous happened, few could accept that the transformation could have been made possible because of Jesus.  Friends, family, and the man himself were interrogated because the leaders of the day could not accept that Jesus was exactly who he said he was.  Even though they studied their Jewish Scriptures rigorously and were looking for their “Messiah”, they couldn’t accept that a man of humble birth – a carpenter by trade – could be that Saviour.

Has there been a time when the evidence of something is staring you right in the face but you can’t bring yourself to believe it is possible?

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to light.”  It’s like this art form we learned in elementary school – scratch art.  You put a bunch of colors on the base, and then cover it with a thin layer of black paint.  As you scrape away the paint you expose a beautiful picture and array of colors.  As you allow God to chip away the darkness that has clouded your life, you allow Him to expose what He’s truly created you to be – beautiful … loved … purposed.  God absolutely, without question, loves you.  He does have a plan for your life.  He was so committed to this plan that he left his comfort and entered our discomfort.  Now, he’s not only sympathetic to our pain and struggle, he’s empathetic.  He came, not to be served, but to serve – and he exampled for us a selfless life that follows the ultimate command: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

“It has to happen through the transforming work of Jesus.  As much as people are into self-improvement these days, this is the one operation that can only be performed by God when all the trying is done and there is unconditional surrender.” (TrueFaced – Lynch, McNicol and Thrall)

Truly knowing and understanding what it is to be loved by God in Christ, we can have the security to be humble, the capacity to repent when we go wrong, the willingness to sacrifice for others and the grace to forgive when others do us wrong.

I hope that 2015 will have plenty of opportunities to shed “light” on our neighbourhoods, cities, and the various lives that we come across.  May the miraculous and transformative be experienced … keep learning … and let a little wonder back in your life!


Training Leaders for Missional Community

Jordan Elder has composed a great resource for current leaders, potential leaders and even people who are brand new to incarnational missional concepts and living.


Recently at Redeemer, we took around 30 of our leaders through 8 weeks of MC training we’ve called the MC Fast Track. Our hope for the MC Fast Track was three-fold:

  1. to provide on-going training for existing MC leaders
  2. to equip new leaders hoping to launch MCs
  3. to “fast track” those who were new to our church on all things MCs (language, vision, expectations, etc.)

We learned a lot through the process, but all in all feel like it was a huge success. Our church was strengthened and 3 new MCs will be launched in our city as a result. One of our biggest take aways was the value of including current leaders, potential leaders, and those brand new all into the same training. The different perspectives and experiences sparked great conversations and dialogue. Also, we were able to provide both push and pull equipping at the same time.

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With Me

Today I read Lance Ford’s ebook “With Me” … you can click the title to go download it for free.

It was a book on discipleship with the foundational concept that discipling or mentoring someone isn’t from a follow me perspective, but rather a follow with me as we together follow Jesus.

Ford comments about Paul: “Paul’s writings show a history of him advocating the “imitate me” model, but always with a caveat that he (Paul) was seeking to imitate Christ Jesus.”

Ford states that throughout history mentoring was the primary means of passing on knowledge and skills in every field.  When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life we see life on life, relationship based training, equipping, empowering and mentoring.  Jesus’s followers were sent before they were “ready”, which was essential to getting them ready.

A few things that stuck out to me in this read:

1.   Build systems of care and development that are not exclusively continent on the leader: Churches lack growth largely because most pastors don’t know how to build systems, structures, and processes that are not contingent upon them. Most pastors can care for people, but don’t build systems of care. Most pastors can develop leaders individually, but lack the skill to implement a process of leadership development. When a pastor can’t build systems and structures that support ministry, the only people who are cared for or empowered to lead are those who are “near” the pastor or those very close to the pastor. This limits the size of the church to the size of the pastor.

2. Discipleship and Leadership Development are not exclusive but interdependent.  Ford asks the question, “What if our paradigm of seeing them as distinct is actually part of the problem? … Lets face it. It is possible to be a “great” leader while being a lousy follower of Christ…It is entirely possible to preach beyond your own character and Christlikeness, but it is an impossibility to disciple another person past the level of your own character. (I wonder: Am I living in such a way that is ‘worth’ imitating?  Are you?)

3. Jesus had a system and a plan: Ford says, “He formed a culture of life as laboratory, where ideas and theories were practiced and tested rather than merely preached and taught. His was a community of disciples, where the newly converted followed the previously converted in a new way of doing life.”

I affirm the idea of discipleship beginning at the point of relationship … and love the “with me” relational posture that Ford presents.

Who is mentoring or investing in you?  Who are you mentoring or investing in?  How’s that working for you?



Recapturing Wonder

Recapturing the Wonder – I have taken this title from a Ravi Zacharias book called Recapturing the Wonder.  The book captivated and refreshed my own curiosity.  I hope for this blog to be a spark for dialogue and exchange – where ideas are shared openly, questions are asked, and opinions are offered in a spirit of humility and grace.  Let’s learn together – within community.

Here’s a summary of a talk I recently gave at an outreach dinner in the hopes of rekindling curiosity in regards to Jesus:

I love looking through the window of my child’s eyes – their lives are full of dreams and wonder and discovery! My twin boys Bo and Ben have been curious since birth, full of adventure and mischief and they’re just complete goof balls. I have no idea where they got that from! Now 6 years old they may be a little less “cute” and a bit more “handsome”, but still goofy and full of imagination and curiosity.

BrosBo and Ben

Then our blue eyed beauty Caia entered the picture, and was quickly nipping at the heels of her brothers. Though she is definitely our princess and the motherly one of the lot – she too is full of laughter, imagination and creativity.


And then God gave us number four. Rhea is cute and crazy.  A perfect example is the road test … where the other three would step outside look to the road, look to the backyard – and then head to the backyard to play … Rhea’s heading to the road and the unknown … and more than once we’ve lost her for a second and she’s already a few houses down the road checking out the neighbours!


Their wonder and curiosity brings my wife Cristy and I so much joy. We are grateful for each one of them, and I’m admittedly just a little proud as I’ve been told “I make really cute babies” but we know where that really comes from (see beautiful wife) At least Cristy and I have figured out a means of control when things get too crazy! (see below)

cute babiesIMG_4690

I read a quote once from Plato, who believed that all philosophy began with wonder until it was replaced with knowledge. He argued that there was a world of difference between belief and knowledge. Belief, he said, was the position of a child; knowledge was that of an adult.

It is no wonder that many of us have seen our curiosity diminish as our knowledge has increased. We’re knowledge gluttons … we love new information and yet too many of us are missing out on the application of that knowledge – too many of us are so busy that we are unable to slow down and we miss the BITE – the beauty in the everyday.

Our friend Karen Schmidt sends out a regular BITE blog that is filled with stunning pictures of the beauty that she encounters and captures on film. The Schmidt family left our church family in 2013, and have been serving as missionaries in Indonesia. As I see her pictures I have loved the reminder to slow down and see the beauty that is right under my nose as well as above and around me.

I think again of looking at my children. We enjoyed a wonder-filled routine for most of our first two years in Victoria. Every Monday was my day off and we used it to explore this city and the island. It was so much fun, one because we did it together as a family, and two because I’ve been so amazed that almost every time I turn a different corner in this city and island there’s yet another beautiful sight to behold and experience to be had!

Cris and the kidsGoldstream ParkGoldstream SunlightAthabasca Glacier

Yet, like many of us, work and life and busyness have choked away this routine. Even as I prepared this I was confronted with the reality of my own capacity for getting to busy – even with good things.

But again, as I interact with my children, I see how their curiosity and wonder leads them into their experience. As they discover new sights, new knowledge, and new experiences their curiosity is sparked. They are growing and learning – they are being shaped and molded, and yet they remain open to change and new experiences.

Though all of us are filled with knowledge, I wonder how many of us would like to rekindle our curiosity and wonder?

Question: How many people are interested in spiritual things in your city? In my experience over this last three years – people are typically fed up with religion … but they are very open and hungry for something spiritual. There’s a gap or an emptiness or something missing that they can’t explain. They may realise some of their dreams (job, wealth, travel, reputation, success) but it’s not fully satisfying a deeper longing within them. That being said, most people simply don’t think Christianity is a relevant option anymore.

I often ask if they’ve sincerely considered the message of Jesus – because it is a fantastic story.  If you check it out, his life and message evoked everything from fear to fascination – from amazement to anger – from indignation to inspiration.

He acknowledged that he came for those who knew they needed something more (who knew something was missing) … not those who thought they already had life sorted.

Case in point – here’s a real life story I’ve been engaged with over the past year. Last Fall I met a recently released man I’ll call Joe. Joe had no history with the church, only recently picked up and started to read the Bible, and yet upon his release felt compelled to go to a church his first Sunday out…and of all places he came through our doors. The first two men he met were both ex-cops! Next he was introduced to me, and we began a friendship that has continued to this day.  Joe had no knowledge of Jesus, so he was full of curiosity. In fact, once he started reading the Bible, he believed what it said! I saw the transformation in his life happen right in front of me – of his perspective, hope, the chance at new life and beginnings, of love conquering hate, of redeeming relationships that were previously broken. Though he is currently finishing off his sentence, he release is soon and I’m so excited for him.  I’m curious to see his dream for a second chance at life and family realized and turned into a real life miracle – of a family redeemed and restored, of a man who has so much potential to live his life for God and the uplifting of others going through similar circumstances.

Michelangelo said that every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. Michelangelo believed that the statue was waiting inside the stone – it was the sculptors job to chip away the parts that don’t belong.

I used to think I was ‘all right’ or worth something to God because I went to church, read my Bible, prayed, sang songs, and did my religious duty.  Yet as God has been at work in my life, I’ve realized that the Bible isn’t just a giving a message that gets me saved … it’s a message of how a saved person lives. In fact, it’s frankly not about me and what I do – it’s all about who He is,  what He has done and is doing, and who I am in light of that. Simply put, if this is true – I owe him my life. My belief in the impact of the person and story of Jesus has been cemented as I journey through life and experience people’s lives being transformed like Joe, and I reflect on the transformative work God has done in my own life.

Some of you reading this will have had negative experiences with churches and people who call themselves Christians. You’ve seen messages in the media that have possibly cemented that knowledge. I hope as you read this that the hunger you have for something more or something better would compel you to reconsider investigating Jesus’s life and message. Christianity may look like religion – and it has definitely been used religiously, sometimes with horrible consequences and hypocrisy. But if you look for yourself, it’s not about religion … it’s not about the do’s and don’t … it’s about relationship … and it’s about what’s been already accomplished. It is  a creation story – of a world made with purpose (including you) – where God and man relate intimately not institutionally. I hope each and every one of you finds your curiosity rekindled … knowing without a shadow of a doubt that there is a message of hope that includes the claim that you were created for a purpose and hold incredible value!


We know that value is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay – so consider your value based on how much God was willing to pay to redeem you … He sent the world His Son – and He took His Son’s life as payment for the brokenness of our world.  Then, when things seemed as out of control as they could get – his Son, dead and buried, God raised him from the dead – overcoming brokenness and death and offering us all the hope of salvation here and now and eternity with our Creator!

Consider this C.S. Lewis comment: A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher…either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

In my role as a pastor of outreach and mission, I have the privilege of equipping and hopefully inspiring people to get out of the church building  to engage in our city; to put knowledge and faith into action, and to engage with neighbors, colleagues and our city.  We are grateful for favour in our community as we’ve rebuilt trust and relationship with a variety of schools and community partners over the years.  As they’ve been willing to share their story with us, they’ve also offered us an opportunity to partner and collaborate with them.  We love joining them because we appreciate how they’re serving and blessing and teaching kids and parents in our community.

Why do we engage?  At the core, our ultimate motive will always be to point people to Jesus because we have experienced his work in our lives and we absolutely believe it’s the greatest message and life there is. But, there is no ulterior motive. There’s no bait and switch. We love our city because God first loved us and this city. We are compelled to serve and sacrifice our time, energy and finances because Jesus first served us and sacrificed everything, including his life for us.

If you’re reading this, and are wondering where to start – I encourage you to find a Bible and start by reading a book called John.  At the end of his writing he sums up his purpose like this, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his followers, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Though I’ve been a Christian for quite a few years, I’m still filled with wonder and awe as I consider the radical life and message that Jesus lived and shared, and the radical grace of God to relentlessly remain faithful to his creation; to redeeming and restoring every single one of us  to a right relationship with Him.

Here’s to recapturing wonder in 2014!

Prairie Sunset