It was a very tough decision

We had to make a decision. It was incomprehensible and completely illogical. I have such a great job, in a sort of place we have always dreamed to live, living among people anyone would be blessed to know. It seems like we just got here. But now we must leave.

In January 2010, we made a decision that changed our lives. We decided that I would go back to school. Thus began our journey to Alberta. Since then, we have experienced life like never before. I have been a college student, staff and faculty, a student leader, and an intern in the President’s office. I’ve travelled around the world, become a pastor, a library trustee, a Big Brother, a coach, a teammate, and a companion to hundreds of people along the way. For the last nearly eight years, it has been the people that have brought real value to the experiences.

I had a conversation with someone the other day about the challenge that comes with investing 100% in where we live. We enter a community, and we decide to fully live there. We completely give ourselves to making it a better place. Both we, and the community, are never the same because of that decision. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We expected to be here a while. If we had known our time would have been so short, we would have made different decisions. I’m glad we didn’t. We bought a house, and made it our home. We invested in our community with our whole heart, sincerely hoping we could somehow make a lasting impression so that Bergen would have been better because of our presence here. I hope we have done that.

It was a very long and difficult process, this last several months. We contemplated what we feared most: leaving. Could it possibly be that our time here is already done? We denied it. But there was no way of escaping the truth. When I silenced God’s still, small voice, He allowed me to suffer so that I would be brought to my knees before Him. Sickness, sorrow, hopelessness. They came like an army at the walls of my heart and broke them down. I did not know at the time what was happening, but now I see it.

God knows that I want to follow His lead, but He also knows the stubborn heart of a proud man. I thank Him for His demonstration of love toward me by not allowing me to follow my own wisdom. The suffering was a sort of grace.

I believe with all my heart that a good pastor sticks around. I want to be a good pastor. I want to see these children, born during my time here, raised up to know Christ. I want to baptize them and be there when they graduate and get married, and have children of their own. I held these children, just a day or two old, and blessed them, imagining all the years ahead of them. Oh, how sad I am that I may not be a part of those lives any longer.

It is so painful to leave. I only think about it in short bursts. The names that flash through my mind, people I have come to know and love. We will part ways and carry on, but for now, there will be sorrow. In a way, I am glad for the sorrow. It means I have given all I have to these people. Part of me now belongs to them, and part of them will remain with me. I am richer for it.

Before we know it, we will be in another place, investing our lives in that community, with those neighbours. We will not stop giving ourselves away. Even if we are there for a short time, we will give what we have. And when we leave that place, it will be painful. But, how else shall we live? There is no point in hoarding what God has so graciously given to us. If we do, that is all we will get. But if we give it away, riches far beyond measure await us.

I echo the words of the Apostle Paul when he said, it is all worth nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. These experiences during our time at Bergen have made our lives rich and sweet, but they cannot compare to the love and acceptance of Jesus. He is all we need, and what He has to offer will never disappoint and will never run dry. This is why we can give away all we have. This is why we do not fear the pain and sorrow of loss. Whatever we have to lose here in this life is nothing compared to the gain of knowing Jesus.

And so we will shortly depart, leaving behind a community blessed by God. We will never forget Bergen, and most of all, we will never forget the people of Bergen. I am thankful for those who stick around. The rocks of the community. They are the true heroes of a place. Thank you for being here and inviting us into your home.

May the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of His Spirit be with you.

(un)worthy Book Published

After months of work, I’ve finally published this short book. Here is a description:

When John the Baptist declared that he was unworthy to be the slave of Jesus, he set a precedent for a right view of ourselves and a right view of our Saviour. Biblical humility requires a view of Jesus that is worthy of who he is, and a view of ourselves as unworthy of being in his presence. In this short book, I seek to show from Scripture the sort of faith that was commended by Jesus. It is my desire to see followers of Jesus experience the freedom and peace that comes with this sort of relationship with Jesus. We do not deserve to have a relationship with Jesus. Yet, that very realization is what will open the doors to a sincere and powerful faith.

Buy the book exclusively on Amazon for Kindle.

Faith or Obedience?

This is a question that is very common: are we saved by faith or are we saved by obedience? This is a very troubling question, and I think it is the wrong question.

If you have heard the gospel of Jesus, and have made a decision to believe that it is true. If you have started to read or listen to the teachings of Jesus in some way, and still believe that what Jesus says is true, do you truly think that the intention of Jesus was for us to say yes to following him and then ignore his teaching?

Salvation, without a doubt, is a gift from God. None of us has earned it. None of us have any hope of earning it. When the Holy Spirit moves among us, and prompts us to believe and trust in Jesus, that is a gift we have not earned.

If you identify yourself as a disciple of Jesus, and if you believe that because you are a disciple of Jesus that you belong to the kingdom of heaven, then your life will be filled with a complete allegiance to your King and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And allegiance to him involves learning his teachings and giving yourself to them in a daily surrender of your will.

When is the last time you found yourself in prayer surrendering yourself to the grace of God? When is the last time you were desperate for God to save you from the corruption of sin?

Jesus said that those who think they can come to him based on what they have done will be cast aside by him. But those who set themselves to learning and obeying his teaching find that they are unworthy and undeserving of his acceptance.

This is where we need to be as followers of Jesus. Not asking whether we are saved by faith or obedience. Rather, desperate to be as close to Jesus as possible because there is no other place we would rather be.

How to Bless in the Name of Jesus

The blessing of Jesus is not dependant on our situation. It is not dependant on material possessions, or power, or prestige. It infiltrates these things and transforms them from the inside.

Some of us get so caught up in looking a hundred miles away for how God is working, that we fail to see what God is doing right in front of us.

If you read the gospels, you will see that Jesus called some people to drop what they were doing and follow him. We might read that and think that in order to follow Jesus we need to stop what we are doing. We need to give up our current situation and go out into the mission field.

The first disciples were the ones called by Jesus away form their vocations in order to be his apprentices and to be enabled to show others the way of Jesus. Not everyone, however, is called by Jesus to do that. Most people are called by Jesus to have their current situations transformed by his presence.

Jesus is calling us to keep doing what we are already doing, but in a different way. The way we are sent by Jesus to bless others is through what we are already doing. Bless your co-workers. Bless your employer. Bless your customers. Be the presence of Jesus by doing the work you are doing in the way Jesus is leading and sending you.

Building the Kingdom

We tend to talk about building the kingdom and expanding the kingdom. I use that language fairly often, and I don’t disagree with it. But, there is a sense of understanding the kingdom as something we first and primarily receive and enter into.

The kingdom is also the place from which we are sent.

Of course there are things to do along the way. But it is the way in which we do them that communicates the gospel. Anyone can bring humanitarian aid to a city, and it will be received with gratitude.

But, when someone comes in the name of Jesus, and brings needed help, the benefit is not only the help; it is ultimately the presence of Jesus that they experience through us being there with them.

In 1 Peter 2, we read that those who trust in Jesus are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s possession. As a result of being a citizen of the kingdom of God, we are sent to show others the goodness of God. We are sent to shine the light of truth into the darkness.

Peter writes in chapter 3, “Be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

The work of the kingdom is not about a checklist. It is about a transformation. We are sent on a mission of transformation and citizenship.

This is wonderful because it means that whatever we do, whatever we have in front of us, can be received into the kingdom of God and transformed by the Spirit of God to be used to bless others.

To be sent by Jesus is to enter into our local and personal activities in a way that is given character and shape and direction by Jesus. It is not a list of things to accomplish, but a way in which we do everything.

Book Nearing Completion

I wanted to have it done over a year ago. But alas, it is nearly done. One more chapter and the conclusion, and then off to get it edited. My goal is to have it published by the end of November. It is titled (un)Worthy: How a right view of our unworthiness proves the great worth of Jesus (or something like that).

Here is an excerpt from chapter one:

We read in Matthew 8:5-13 about a Roman military commander who asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus said he would go to his house and heal the servant. But the commander responded and said that he is not worthy to have him in his own house. Do you know how Jesus responded? He said, “with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” According to this story, Jesus wants us to consider ourselves to be not worthy of him. He wants us to see how we are unworthy and how he is worthy.

This is not about self-deprecation, or a false humility. This is about forgetting ourselves as we gaze into the glory of Jesus. This is about knowing just how much we need the approval, the blessing, of Jesus. We need to start with this view of ourselves and of Jesus because without it, we cannot follow him. When we think we can do without Jesus, even subconsciously, we follow our own wisdom and we reject Jesus.