Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Firemen and Lighthouses

“There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:4-5
It all really depends on how we look at our world right now. It seems to me there are two primary perspectives that have emerged as predominant among Christians.

The World is on Fire
With this perspective, we can look at the calendar for 2020 and see so much chaos and confusion, much of it driven by anti-christ. Some of it driven by panic and worry over environmental or natural disaster.

This perspective can cause us to react, to respond as firemen. We can feel a deep urgency to speak into every anti-christ circumstance and splash hope on every natural disaster. As keyboard warriors, we can even be tempted to blame natural disasters on Satan as we seek to sooth and salve — and hose down the world.

It is next to impossible for anyone to address every divergent and aberrant idea that confronts us from all sides. And maybe that's the point. There are more fires than there are firemen.

The World is in Darkness
Understanding that the World is in darkness, that it has been in darkness since the curse, that the darkness is not greater now than it was then and that the source of light is a person can help us find balance and perspective in 2020. Darkness by virtue of its substance, is complete and stands no chance against the light. The light always defeats the dark and the dark is everything that is in opposition to the light.

The Firemen
As firemen responding to fires we are entirely reactive. Our Gospel attitude is in response to those fires and because it is driven by response we can sometimes wander astray of the Gospel in our fervour. We've spent our lives looking out into our own culture and shaking our heads and saying things like "tut tut how far we've fallen", "can you believe they did that", "I'm not shopping there anymore". We risk allowing our response to circumstance serve as our only Gospel witness, which is sort of like throwing a water balloon into a house fire.

The Lighthouse
A lighthouse isn't a primary source of light, a lighthouse is a collection of mirrors and lenses in the upper tower of a home on a seashore. As obedient Christians we are called the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), our home on the seashore - peering out into the darkness of the world, it has a fire. That fire gives us the ability to produce light. The fire doesn't come from us, it is ignited by the Holy Spirit. With it we have the capacity to reflect the light of Christ - out into the darkness. An unlit lighthouse on the shore is of no functional use, darkness cannot reflect into itself.

Often as a lighthouse, we will have the opportunity to speak Truth into specific situations. Apologetics can be good and helpful, but proactively and driven by the authority of Scripture and not by emotion.

Our attitudes are to be as ambassadors for Christ, as a bright reflection of the light of Christ - the message of the Gospel ever on our lips.
“From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Does this mean apologetics is of no value or that we should stop having public opinions? Certainly that is not what I am trying to say. However, if our entire Christian life is trying to spray the message of the gospel onto the fires in the world we may end up overwhelmed, discouraged and burned. Culturally reactive Christianity is not what we see in the narrative of Scripture. Consistently and repeatedly Scripture commands us to proactive obedience. Attitudes of; thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20), praise (Psalm 130, Hebrews 13:15), worship (Psalm 100, Hebrews 12:28-29), surrender (Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 16:24, Mark 12:30), obedience (Galatians 5:22-26). All of this is meant to be our primary pursuit as followers of Christ. And as we read in 2 Corinthians, serving as ambassadors, reflecting the light of Christ into the darkness.

In 2020, Pursuing Christ in Obedience should be our primary objective. That obedience is marked by our desire to reflect His light into the chaos around us. God's Word is effective (Hebrews 4:12) and will always have His intended effect (Isaiah 55:11). The same cannot be said about my Word if it is not informed by His Word.

My encouragement to you today, as you traverse the minefield that 2020 has brought us, is to pursue Christ in His Word. Put away anxiety (Philippians 4:6-8, Psalm 37) and simply in obedience, reflect the light of Christ into the darkness. We don't have to answer every evil in the World, God promises He will do that.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

As the World Roils

As you are tempted to despair, to forget our good and holy God;
remember the gift of faith and and the sufficiency of our Saviour,
pursue Christ.

As you are tempted to lean on your own understanding, to find comfort in lies;
remember the gift of scripture and the sufficiency of Christ,
pursue wisdom.

As you are tempted to division and conflict, to hatred and selfishness;
remember the gift of God’s grace in the face of our sin and the sufficiency of Jesus,
pursue thankfulness.

As you are tempted to vice, to the sin of idolatry;
remember the gift of salvation that exists only in the person of our Messiah,
Pursue obedience.

no matter how hotly the cauldron of the world boils, remember the majesty of Yaweh;
Pursue the glory of God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

God Given Rights

Recent weeks have seen a social and political outcry, demanding the “God Given Right” of Christians to assemble in church buildings for regular Sunday worship. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of the Body of Christ, to have Christ as our head and to have committed to live as slaves in His service. Being recipients of a new nature, having been born anew through the gifts of faith and repentance we have a kinship together as children of God — our good and perfect Father. Desiring to gather together for worship is a good and real affection that we, as the body of Christ, should obediently express regularly. Missing this gathering is good and obedient.

But as we make demands and express desire to gather together physically, we are forced to ask ourselves if this is the only command for the Church that we are pursuing, and if that pursuit is rooted in obedience or selfishness.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church. Good Ecclesiology doesn’t end with simply gathering in a particular way in a particular building. I fear that is the extent of thought for so many who are clamouring and fist shaking at the government for the right to gather at this time. The doctrine of the Church, or how a Church should obediently express worship and ministry together under the authority of God involves far more than simply sitting in a pew in a building once a week.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, but it shouldn’t rooted in a passion for a building or particular traditions, it is rooted in a person, the person of Jesus Christ. The Church is a people, one of the greatest downfalls that I think we have fallen subject to in Western Christianity is the propensity to refer to a building as the “Church”. Though this may seem equivocal, I think it has led to a larger confusion about just what it is that constitutes the Biblical Church.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, Christians are of the Church, the body of Christ, His bride, elect, set apart for righteousness. The command isn’t simply to meet once a week and sit dumbly on our pew and be consumers, the Church serves and submits, it works and labours together. I fear that for so many, this desire to gather is an attitude borne out of selfish consumerism. A product has not been delivered as expected and that product is a weekly service that is used as a salve to serve and enable me for the week to come. This kind of gathering is not obedient gathering, this is a kind selfishness that ignores the centrality of Christ and commands of submission and worship. The desire for obedience is good, but we must ask ourselves if it flourishes in all areas of Christian living or simply in this aspect of gathering for my own personal benefit.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church, the Church gathers to bring mutual glory, honour and worship to the King. We submit to Him, He continues to sanctify us so that we might bring Him glory and honour. While we consider the reality of meeting together, and just why we should desire this. It is incumbent upon us to consider all of the other areas we are commanded to obedience in. We are to have a spirit of humility and obedience, to serve in our churches and give of ourselves. Under the authority of our local church we must engage in reaching out to neighbours and friends with the message of the Gospel. Biblical Church membership submits humbly to pastors and elders — to correction and rebuke, it gives financially of it’s abundance. We submit to the headship of Christ and shirk worldliness, we redeem our time and offer thanks in all things. As we demand our right to gather, have we committed to redeeming our lockdown time invested in reading God’s Word and prayer? I need to reflect on that.

It is good to desire gathering as the Church. Social Distancing and this context of worshipping at home — together but apart — has given us an opportunity to look critically at our relationship with the Church. If Church is simply your name on a list and a spot on Sunday morning to consume a sermon and music, then obedience to gathering is only one area of obedience you should be concerned about. We have an opportunity to consider our relationship with the Church, both in gathering and in submitted service to the King, the head of the Church. Don’t simply pursue what you perceive you have lost, pursue Christ and strive for a deep, committed, humble faith that informs your worship and ultimately is for the Glory of God.

We must all return to gathering together again in person as Christians for corporate worship, at the appropriate time. This is an obedience that cannot be set aside. What we must examine in the meantime is our attitudes and affections in approaching this return to gathering. Every Biblical Church should be flourishing with humble submitted Christians chomping at the bit to serve God together, having invested their lock-down time in a faithful pursuit of God in His word and in prayer.

Our affections right now, as always, should be the pursuit of God in Christ by His Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Dining With Wolves

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.” Matthew 7:15
During this time of social distancing, so many of us have been engaging with preachers and teachers online in ways we have never considered before. But have we considered the importance of employing good discernment as we do this?

As much as there are fantastic resources and wonderful gospel teachings available right now — there is also available an abundance of bad teaching and heresy. It is vital that Christians very carefully consider what they consume and what they share. It is vital that Christians point their brothers and sisters in Christ and their unsaved friends, family and neighbours to resources that proclaim the truth.

Here are a few guidelines you can use as you consider whether or not a particular teacher is suitable for you to listen to and share or disregard and denounce.

The Bones
Does the sermon expound scripture? Is the sermon an exposition of the text, explaining it’s meaning and applying it to the Christian life? Just because a teacher or preacher opens their Bible doesn’t mean they are adequately preaching the Word. If they are simply using the text as window dressing to prop up their ideas — a red flag should go up in your mind. So often a preacher will simply read a few passages and then move on with their narrative. Proper exposition will walk through the text and proclaim each part in clarity. If the preacher never opens their bible — flee from their teaching.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The Meat
Does the teacher proclaim the gospel? Is it made clear what it means to be a Christian or how to follow Jesus? What I don’t mean is that they must have an altar call and big appeal to conversion. The message of Jesus is applicable to every day of the Christian life and the reality of it needs to be included in every message.
“Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
The Face
The preaching of God’s Word should be primarily about the text of God’s Word. Sometimes application can and should be made to current events, when the text demands it and the circumstances warrant it. I have unfortunately seen a number of “sermons” making the rounds on social media of late that are anything but; they are overly conspiratorial and political and qualify only as speeches, not sermons or biblical teaching. If the primary thrust of the sermon is rooted in opinion and void of Scriptural truth you should pause, evaluate and check for meat and bones. The central figure to the message should always be God.
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
The Feet
But what if there is some truth we can glean from any teacher? All I can say is this, a drop of poison in the cup still kills the one who drinks it. Either a teacher is trustworthy and submitted to scripture or they are not. There are so many false teachers that use just a drop of truth, or who sound trustworthy at first - for this reason we must exercise wisdom and faith. I would suggest you ask your own pastor to help you in discerning if the teachers you are engaging with are suitable and appropriate. Once you determine if a teacher is a false teacher or not be engaged in denouncing those who are false.
“Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:11
The Eyes
Scripture gives us guidance for recognizing and false teachers and heretics, and it gives us commands to avoid and denounce these. We are disobedient and at risk when we cease to employ biblical discernment. Christian Grace doesn’t tolerate those who lie about our Magnificent God for the sake of social politeness. We can, and should, be kind and polite, but we should never tolerate or consume the teaching of those who are preaching another gospel.
“If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. From these come envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among people whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5
As you spend time at home, away from your Church family, enjoy wonderful teaching online and in books. But as you do, God has commanded you to be wise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Days Are Evil, We Don't Have To Be

It can feel like prison. Quarantine, self-isolation, lock-down, social distancing; a new cultural "normal" has confronted all of us in various ways. Depending on where we live, this is walked out in different ways — wearing masks, avoiding crowds, visiting back and forth with just a single family. It can all be so very overwhelming and confusing. The seemingly totalitarian leadership of our governments, the conspiracy theories proliferating social media and the aggressive response from neighbours on various sides of the issue.

Our Chains
Our current state of quarantine coupled with earthquakes, tornados, locusts, wildfiresgiant hornets, food shortages, violence, aliens, government overreach and civil unrest can leave us feeling like 2020 is out of control (it isn't!). What is a Christian supposed to do? How do we have any hope?

Ultimately, there is only one true prison. Temporal discomforts aside, no matter how evil or unjust our governments may become or how mistreated we may feel, even if our leaders turn to a very real and measurable persecution of Christians — true freedom only ever exists in the person of Jesus Christ. When enslaved to sin (Romans 6:20), our only lot is to hold as tightly as we can to our affections; to fight and claw to protect and maintain whatever thing we hold most dear. When enslaved (1 Corinthians 6:20) to Christ (1 Peter 2:16), our hope and joy is in holding fast to our good and holy God; striving to simply obedience in all things (Ephesians 6:6), open handed and in faith.

This holds true in 2020. This Covid-19 pandemic, no matter what the conspiracies, reasonings, abuses or oppressions, no of it holds any power. Ultimately Christ is King (even during a pandemic), and His commands hold true for us today as they did yesterday. We need not fear any of the world events that seem to be mounting to a roiling crescendo (2 Timothy 1:7), we need to fall on our faces before our good and holy God (Ecclesiastes 12:13) in obedience and fear.

Our Hope
The absolute worst possible outcome for anyone is death. For the Christian this is a great hope and comfort (John 11:25). Our only true concern in these dark days should be obedience and faith. No matter what is spinning outside the window or how corrupt the media may become, we need only remain faithful and obedient, giving thanks always (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18). The Christian is commanded to deny self (Matthew 16:24-26), set ourselves aside and hold Christ as the central figure of our lives (Colossians 1:15-17). To live in a posture of repentance (Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19) and faith (Ephesians 2:8). And to surrender the entirety of our affections to our good and set apart God (Matthew 22:37).

Consider Paul, he was an actual prisoner — persecuted directly because of his faith. His times in prison were punctuated by faith and obedience, exemplifying a greater concern for the spiritual wellbeing of those separated from God than for his own physical comforts or "rights" (Philippians 1:3-11).

Redeeming the Days
Do we spend our days wringing our hands, complaining about our lot, fighting with people online who are just "wrong" about oh so much. The temptation is real and creeps into my own heart from time to time. Christian, I want to challenge you — as I challenge myself, consider these evil days as Paul commands in Ephesians 5 (I encourage you to read the entire chapter).
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
We have all of this time available to us that we can be using to love our neighbours, care for their needs, preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can begin redeeming the time by first obeying the command at the outset of chapter 5 of Ephesians; “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The Year God Stopped the World

God's grace is at work. He stopped the world, and you're here to see it.

When tragedy strikes, when darkness descends like a blanket, when hope seems to fade — we can tend, in our flesh, to feel overcome and discouraged. We exert effort in finding reasons for the darkness and pushing against that darkness. We strain against what we don't understand, especially when it intrudes on our plans. Yet, we don't have to strain against the darkness because we have the light.

We do not have to read Scripture for very long before we are confronted with the sovereignty of God. There is nothing that happens outside of His control (Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28) and in fact He is actively achieving His own good and perfect will in a world that is drenched in sin and darkness (Job 42:2, Genesis 50:20). Yet we make our plans, and we see ourselves as wise and wonderful in our own minds and we feel like we have achieved some magnificent level of enlightenment in post modernity. But we simply follow the same patterns that humanity has been locked into since the fall (Proverbs 16:9).

Covid-19 is a global pandemic that has turned everything on it's head, the economy, social norms, political arrangements, borders, food supplies, gatherings even Sunday Worship has been affected by the changes in our world — all in response to this microscopic virus. We have been forced in our fast paced, globalized culture to stop, slow down and narrow our social exposure. God did that. In 2020, God stopped the World.
"For from him and through him and to him are ALL things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:36 (emphasis mine)
We have an opportunity to pause, as the world reels and strives to recover what it once was, desperately grasping at what has been deemed most valuable by culture. We have an opportunity to reflect, as the world bemoans personal loss in individualism, convenience, entertainment, sport and travel. We have an opportunity to look forward into the light and pursue Christ; what was — is profoundly diminished by He who is.

We have an opportunity to see God's Grace reflected, even in the darkness. We have an opportunity to intentionally and with great purpose, pursue God in obedience and faith. God stopped the world, but we don't have to respond like the world. God, in His grace, has given every person on the planet an opportunity in the quiet of their home to pursue Him. That pursuit begins with me (2 Corinthians 13:5), but it doesn't end there. This is a dark time, and Christ is the light. Reflect that light, first to your family, and then to your friends and then to everyone you can.

A line from one of my favourite songs; "We serve the uncreated God, so what should we fear?" Now is the time we can abandon fear and proclaim God's grace. Be of good courage, we serve a good and glorious King and He knows what He is doing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Pursuit of Christ isn't Quarantined

There is no question, the past few weeks have been globally unprecedented. We have no real context for what has been transpiring in our world. The globalization borne from constantly improving communications and travel produced warnings in recent years about the potential for a global crisis. There are entire genres of apocalyptic literature, film and game media. We have been fixated on a disruption of what we find most comfortable, and here it is. We are faced with a dramatic and seemingly drastic response to a fast moving, lethal virus. It's amazing. It's fantastic. It's potentially terrifying.

It is clear that there is a large body of professing Christians who are doing everything except reflecting the light of Christ well in this darkness. This is an opportunity for our Faith to be clearly seen, as we reflect the glory of Christ in this darkness. It can be easy to abandon what Scripture gives us, especially when our neighbours are. It ca be easy to forget who God is and what he demands of us. It can be easy to be overwhelmed and pursue the wrong things. Our primary concern in these days should be the pursuit of holiness in Christ.
“Glorious then will the day be, ‘wherein we shall praise God for delivering us out of the hands of all our sins, and from the hand of Satan.” -William Gurnall
 The correct response can seem to be fear and fleeing. And certainly we are called to obey our leaders (Romans 13:1-7), they are given to us by God (1 Peter 2:13-14, John 19:11). And we are called to care more for others than ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). And we are meant to live in confidence and faith (2 Timothy 1:7). We are not meant to be conspiratorial (Isaiah 8:11-17). Further to that we are called to grace, long suffering, kindness, holiness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-26). These attributes still apply in the darkness — they are especially applicable in the darkness. This extends even to our attitudes and actions online.

I was especially impressed by a thought posted recently by a friend of mine, Andrew Ardern.
"May our desire to leave this wilderness be to arrive in God's promised land and not to return to slavery in Egypt."
The object of our affections must continue to be Christ, we don't shift the object of our affections to self preservation like the rest of the world. We need not mourn the loss of what was, as Christians we persist in pursuit of the King. Certainly we must be reasonable stewards, wash our hands, wear masks to protect our neighbours, #StayHome and proceed with wisdom; however as Christians we do this in a redeemed way. We maintain our prime focus on Christ and seek to live in profound obedience, even when it's hard.

  • Be kind to the fearful (Deuteronomy 31:6, Proverbs 11:17, Ephesians 4:32)
  • Be patient with the unreasonable (1 Corinthians 13:4, Romans 12:12)
  • Be obedient to your government (Romans 13:1-7)
  • Be reasonable in all things (Philippians 4:5-9)
  • Be helpful to the helpless (Galatians 6:9, Psalm 116:6)
  • Be thankful in all things (Philippians 4:6)
  • Be confident in God (Hebrews 4:16)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Christ is King (even during a pandemic)

“He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:37-40
The Golden Commandment seems a pertinent passage to reflect on today. The latter portion of this scripture is often co-opted, always leaving out the centrality and primacy of the Lord God. Loving God in completeness is a posture of submission that is contented in faith with all that God may bring into our lives. The greatest command is complete and utter satisfaction and submission to God. Second to that we must love our neighbours — near and far.

Love God (even during a pandemic)
It can be easy to be afraid when the world is roiling in a global crisis. When there is an abundance of misinformation and confusion, what do we believe? Though the spirit may be willing, so often the flesh cannot but help be overwhelmed by the circumstances mounting around us.

As with all things there tends to be a polarized response; in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, there seems to have been two primary responses that are dramatically present. People seem to either be overtly given to panic or they are indignant and ambivalent. The apparent overreaction by some seems to have led others to be unwise in their responses. We are wise to temper our responses to others with the kind of grace the gospel demands. We do well to remember our creator, the creator of this virus, the sovereign God over all things.
“For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Colossians 1:16
“All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.”
John 1:3
We can rest in His grace.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
Psalm 34:8
Taking refuge in our good Father is a relationship of comfort that holds Him as central. To take refuge in God is to recognize Him as King and abide in confidence and contentment with His ultimate plan.

Love Others (even during a pandemic)
We have a responsibility to be prudent, prepared and kind to our neighbours. We are called to obey our government, pray for our leaders and protect our families as best we can. Let's pray together for one another and for the world as it faces some grim realities associated with this viral outbreak.

From fear proceeds panic, from ignorance proceeds ambivalence; all that remains is prudent caution. We do not wish to contribute to panic, but we must exercise wisdom as only available from our Father.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Christian love is rooted in faith and is not conspiratorial. (Isaiah 8:11-17)
Christian love is generous, not hoarding up for self but sharing with those in need. (Luke 6:30)
Christian love submits to our leaders as they strive to protect the most vulnerable of our society. (Romans 13:1-7)
Christian love is not smug and dismissive of the very real fears of those who do not have the great refuge of Christ the King. (Colossians 4:5-6)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Centrality of Christ in Ministry

It’s simple, Christian ministry is about Christ. Holding the Son of our almighty Father as central to our lives and ministry isn’t particularly optional. We are commanded to make Christ the central figure of our lives; the main character of our story, so to speak. There are those who like to say that Christianity is something special because it’s simply about a “relationship”. But it is quickly forgotten that this is not a typical relationship where all things are considered equal. This relationship is one of complete abandonment to, and dependancy on — Christ. We cannot presume to live in effective obedience in life or ministry if we say with our mouths that we follow Jesus but refuse to make Him the central figure of our lives in submission, self denial, slavery and servanthood.

Taking a critical look at how we approach our relationship to our local church and the leadership God has blessed us with should humble us. If Christ is central to my life, His affection for His bride, the Church, will flow from my heart. Praying that my Church leadership holds Christ as central to their lives and ministry is my faithful responsibility, after praying the same thing for myself, especially when I think I’m right and they are wrong. Rage in the face of correction is seldom righteous in the hearts of sinful people.

It’s more than just words. Many affirm the theology of holding Christ central, many hate what it looks like to apply it. If Christ is not central to my life, it means I have set Him aside and placed something in His rightful place. The evidence of this is borne out in the fruit of our lives. We set Jesus aside when our testimonies are beautifully woven tales that grip tightly to our egos and keep the almighty “me” as central to the story. We set the work of God aside when our biggest concern is numbers or dollars or equipment. Christ becomes secondary when we rely on our traditions and pride instead of immersing ourselves in scripture and following Biblical principles. Compromise comes in many subtle forms and often zeal is gas to the fire of compromise.

What does any of this have to do with Arrowhead? Everything. Under the authority of scripture, submitting well to obedient and flourishing local churches and holding Christ central, that is what missions is all about. The Gospel, the story of Christ and His work, we love it. We love to share it, no matter how it’s received. If you love it, why not prayerfully consider coming to serve the Lord with us here at ANBC? Discipling and teaching, evangelizing and serving - together we can be an example of what it means to hold Christ as central to life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

16 Ways to be a Bad Volunteer

This is not us saying anything other than, "Hey, consider these things when you volunteer". Think, Babylon Bee. Satire is fun, and helpful. You know, unless you are triggered and confused. 

There tend to be two kinds of people that serve as volunteers. There are those who volunteer and give freely, and there are those who take freely. Here is some advice about how to, most effectively, be the second one. 

1 • Have A Bad Attitude: Volunteering can be a real drag. The pay is horrible, the hours unreasonable, the people unskilled and frustrating. If you show up to volunteer for an organization, make sure you make it clear up front that you will only do certain jobs. If you are tasked with something you really don’t want to do, make sure everyone knows about it. Passive aggressive behaviour is best, but if you’re not sure how to do that just state it flatly every time someone is in earshot. 

2 • The Power of Me: Refuse to work with anyone you don’t like, especially if you want to be in charge and they won’t let you. The only way to overcome this kind of conflict is with ultimatums and bullying. 

3 • Expect Some Pay: We know we are volunteering, but this charity organization must have some available resources that they would be willing to share. After all, they got it all for free anyway. It’s pretty selfish of them to hog all the resources for themselves. Besides, you’re giving your valuable time to them - you deserve to walk away with something. The least they could do is give you a hoodie. 

4 • Complain About the Food: Some charities are kind enough to feed you, but hey, it better be good. You’ve worked hard all day, you deserve a nice hearty delicious 4 course, low-sodium, gluten free, nut free, non-dairy, fair trade, Keto friendly, THM meal. And bad coffee is just a deal breaker. 

5 • Hate the Accommodations: Some charities are equipped to house their volunteers, it is your right as a hard working volunteer to a nice soft king size bed and ensuite bath to soak your weary bones. A bunk house is just disrespectful. 

6 • Good Enough is Good Enough: Remember, it’s a charity, they’re lucky to have you. When you’re working, good enough is good enough. Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and volunteer work. So the building’s a little crooked, or the paint’s the wrong colour, you get a slight shock every time you get in the shower — it’s good enough for this place! 

7 • Fanfare: You have taken time out of your schedule to give that time at no charge. There best be some celebration of your presence. You are there to be celebrated. Let the celebrations begin. #NumberOneVolunteer

8 • Forget the Rules: Rules are always made because of very specific incidents. You don’t need to worry about the rules because you are a mature, responsible adult. How dare they impose any rules on you. Fascists. #Legalism

9 • Calendars and Clocks are for Chumps: You’ll get there when you get there. It’s not like they NEED you to be there before things begin. And there are lots of other volunteers, so peeling off early is only a matter of setting healthy boundaries and not falling subjective to the oppression of the calendar. 

10 • Training is for Everyone Else: You know everything you need to know. The university of life has brought you up to speed quite nicely. Books, blogs, videos and lectures are a bore that you just don’t need in your life. Why do we have to overthink EVERYTHING. 

11 • Paperwork is for Chumps: There has got to be some reason you shouldn’t have to do a police check or fill out that application form. What do they think you are, a criminal? 

12 • It’s All About the Selfies: Work and work safety are irrelevant when it comes to selfies. Make sure you post pictures that put the organization you are volunteering for in a compromising light. You just want to be sure it LOOKS like you’ve worked hard. 

13 • Impose Your Wisdom: Workers at charities love nothing more than for guests to come and tell them everything they should be doing, and how they should be doing it. You can safely assume they do almost nothing with their time and resources and that your first impression of every situation you encounter is a nugget of as-to-yet-be-considered, wisdom. Make sure you tell everyone. Further to that, make sure you express absolute outrage when your advice goes unheeded and your recommendations unapplied. Threatening to leave during critical times is the most helpful approach. 

14 • Don’t Offer Solutions: One of the most helpful things you can do is offer helpful constructive criticism for areas of deficiency. Just be sure to leave out the constructive part. There’s no need to ever offer potential solutions along with your criticisms. Cold criticism is a hallmark of volunteer work. 

15 • Gossip: The most important thing to remember is to leave the charitable organization or ministry having hard feelings for something trivial, or that you didn’t fully grasp - and then pass that confusion on to everyone who will listen. It’s your responsibility. 

16 • Don’t be a Lemming: Everyone knows who the Lemmings are. How can they possibly enjoy such a compliant, servant hearted and submissive style of volunteer work? Does no-one stand up for themselves anymore. This volunteer experience is about you, so make sure you don’t let anyone take that away with their goody two shoes example. You’re not jumping into the ocean with them.  


At Arrowhead, we have been immensely blessed by wonderful volunteers over the years. Our volunteers have come humbly to serve God with us, and have given freely of their time and energies. We are so very grateful for their love and service and by no means wish to criticize their loving service. Hopefully our list can give you some things to consider as you prepare for volunteering, perhaps you can think a little bit critically about your attitudes when you are volunteering, whether with a Christian agency or any charity. We can all strive to serve God well together and set aside many of the things that rear up and compromise Christian service and ministry. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Arrowhead S.W.A.T. Team

At ANBC we have invested a lot of energy in analyzing and altering how we apply theology to our work. How does a biblical understanding of the gospel find itself well applied? Applying good theology to our ministry methods has played a big role in expressing our desire for obedience and effectiveness in evangelism and discipleship. Although at times misunderstood, good methods borne from a desire for good theology has been at the heart of the work here. With that in mind, some of our staff a few years ago developed a pseudo-slogan for themselves. The ANBC S.W.A.T. Team ~ Serving With Accurate Theology. The idea being that applying good theology to ministry is a vital aspect of the work that we can all take part in.

Borrowing this idea and riffing off of Mike Rowe's S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, here are a few ideas for applying biblical principles to our work. Whether a full time missionary or a short term volunteer there are always opportunities to excel or to flounder. As Christians it behooves us to invest our energies in serving well for the Glory of God! The theme verse for The Wilds camp in NC where we recently travelled for the Tweakage Camp Conference speaks directly to this perspective.
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory." 1 Corinthians 10:31
Serving well and with all sacrifice and for the Glory of God are good and biblical principles that we can and should apply to our ministry. Are you prepared to be a part of the ANBC S.W.A.T. Team?

  1. Rejoice always, Pray constantly Give thanks in everything. No matter the task you are given or the challenges you face, these commands flourish in the life of the obedient. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  2. What I think I deserve is not what I actually deserve. Entitlement has no place in sacrificial ministry. Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Matthew 7:21-23
  3. Everything is from God, nothing is outside of His purview and everything has meaning. This should temper our attitudes toward those roles we dislike. Romans 11:36
  4. Everything I do should be done well and for God's Glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17
  5. People matter more than things. Keep short accounts, owe no man anything, lend with no expectations. Romans 13:8, Luke 6:34-36
  6. Good enough is never good enough, applying ourselves to the greatest of our ability means abandoning ambivalence. Colossians 3:23
  7. Early is on time, on time is late and late is disrespectful. Ecclesiastes 9:10, Proverbs 6:6-11
  8. Your attitude is a reflection of your heart. Complaining is rooted in a lack of faith. Philippians 2:14, Proverbs 4:23
  9. Be a learner. Be willing to be corrected. Being spoon fed every detail of your work is not a sustainable practice moving forward. Apply yourself to learn, even when you are not being "taught". Proverbs 1:5, Proverbs 12:1
  10. Our successes are God's work and the praise for them belongs to Him. Soli Deo Gloria. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
  11. It's not that life is unfair; the sun shines on the wicked and the righteous, celebrate grace. Romans 12:15, Matthew 5:45
  12. Don't compare yourselves to others. Scripture is your mirror. Be like Christ. Galatians 6:4-6, Philippians 2:1-11

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

God is Not Jimmy Stewart

A number of times recently, I’ve heard it said that God is the perfect gentleman, He will never impose himself on you, he will always hold the door and politely wait for you to walk through. The spirit of this sentiment is noble. It draws on all of the wonderful attributes of our good Father and creates a caricature that is benevolent and kind and patient. Unfortunately that caricature looks more like the friendly, helpful and kind, fatherly persona of Jimmy Stewart than it does of God as He reveals Himself in Scripture.

The entire narrative of scripture bares out the nature and character of God. He is our Good, Good Father. The gospel of Jesus Christ begins with God and His holiness (John 1:1-18; Leviticus 11:44-45). It begins with just who God is as outlined in His Word: immutable (Psalm 102:25-27) creator (Genesis 1:1, Colossians 1:16), eternal (Isaiah 44:6), just (Job 34:12), truth (John 14:6), powerful (Genesis 1), jealous (Exodus 20:4-5), merciful (Psalm 136:1), wrathful (Romans 2:6-11), patient (Nahum 1:3), compassionate (James 5:11), omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24), omniscient (Psalm 147:4-5), God is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:3-4) and triune (Ephesians 4:4-6) and holy (1 Samuel 2:2).

Certainly God is long-suffering, His patience with our rebellion is beyond comprehension in light of His perfect holiness. But is it really true that He is the kind of cardigan clad, slipper shuffling, gentleman that will never impose Himself on us? Is God really stuck waiting to see what we will do? The idea suggests that we have some innate ability to obey Him aside from His work in us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Let’s look at just a few people in Scripture and ask them if God imposed on their lives.

Not only does God impose His will on the entirety of humanity in their death, but on Noah in His commands to build the Ark, occupying decades of his life. (Genesis 6:13)

Joseph’s brothers treated him horribly, threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. (Genesis 37:12-36), near the end of this narrative we hear Joseph affirm that this was God’s work; “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:20). God imposed Himself on the life of Joseph through the actions of his brothers, and further imposed on the lives of the brothers to achieve His purposes in the life of Joseph. Notice in particular the word “planned” (“meant” in some translations), it is intention not reaction. God didn’t simply use the evil for good, he planned it for good.

God spoke directly to Moses from the burning bush, gave him specific commands to be obeyed and expected them to be followed out, in spite of Moses reluctance. (Genesis 3:4 - 4:17)

God worked His will in the life of Pharaoh to achieve His will. God actively hardened the heart of Pharaoh, imposing on him intentionally for His own ultimate glory. (Genesis 9:12)

God applies judgement on the life of Abimilech by sending an evil Spirit to bring tension between he and the lords of Schechem. God’s active interference here is in His work to achieve His will. (Judges 9:22-24)

Samson desired a Philistine woman as his own and returned to his parents and demanded they retrieve her for them, their reluctance was understandable. What they didn’t understand, as revealed in v. 4 is that this desire came directly from God. Samsons desire for this woman was rooted in God’s work to have an occasion against the Philistines. To achieve His own will, He imposed a passion on Samson. (Judges 14:1-4)

Hophni and Phinehas
God's imposition in the lives of the sons of Eli was in His giving them over to the hardness of their hearts. "..they would not listen to their father, since the Lord intended to kill them." (1 Samuel 2:25). God had plans for them, as rooted in the disobedience of both they and their father. His intention was to kill them, and as such, closed their ears to the scolding of Eli.

God brought Job to the attention of Satan for the purpose of bringing Glory to Himself through the suffering of Job (Job 1:8-12; Job 2:3-7). This is not in contradiction to God’s goodness, nor does this make him any more or less a “gentleman”. When the nature and Character of God is understood as scripture presents it—central to the narrative, there is no need to strive to protect God from His own public image.

God sent a great fish to consume Jonah in his disobedience, this for the purpose off achieving His ultimate will for Jonahs life - that he go to Ninevah and preach. (Jonah 1:17)

God struck Paul blind for the purposes of achieving his ultimate conversion. (Acts 9:1-19)

These are just a few of the many, many examples of God imposing His will on humanity. Throughout Scripture and with intentionality. We must be wary not to create a god to meet our personal design. But please don’t misunderstand, we must examine the entire narrative of Scripture as we consider the core of it’s purpose is revealing the nature and character of God. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) nor does He cause anyone to be tempted to sin (James 1:13); but these truths must be held in tension with the truth that the steps of man are established by God (Psalm 37:23-24).

Through the entirety of Scripture we see over and over again, the supreme majesty (Hebrews 1:3, Psalm 145:5), ultimate power (Psalm 62:11, Job 26:14, 1 Corinthians 6:14) and complete authority (Romans 13:1-7, 2 Timothy 3:16) of the God of the Universe. We, very clearly, see through creation (Genesis 1), the awesome greatness of God (Ephesians 1:19, Revelation 11:17). God exercises His perfect will in spite of our sinfulness, and this is something we will never completely comprehend (Proverbs 20:24; Romans 9:21-24).

Certainly we must also remind ourselves regularly, that even as the redeemed we are not our own (Romans 8:9). We have been purchased and belong to Him.

I think this quote from the second book in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia sums up the situation very nicely.
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” ― The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
If anything, we should desire God's sovereign hand in our lives, left to ourselves we will always choose sin (Matthew 6:24). We do not need to squeeze God into a cardigan and slippers in order to satisfy our definition of what good is. Scripture adequately defines God in His goodness. He has an intentional plan. We must simply believe or not.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths” Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Measure of Ministry

*This blog article was originally published in the Northern Canada Evangelical Mission's, Northern Lights magazine and on their website. (HERE)

AS MANY OF US IN MINISTRY CAN ATTEST, we like to measure how effective we have been. Measuring gives us opportunity to report. In fact, there are entire ministries dedicated to assisting other ministries with measuring!

The question: “How are things at your church?” might be met with something like: “Great! We have five new programs and 100 new members.” This is how we communicate a measured success. But an honest answer like: “Fifteen percent stopped coming because the cost of Christian discipleship was taught … those who remain are growing in their faith” would more accurately express a healthy measure of success.

AT ARROWHEAD Native Bible Center we desire, above all, to hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the glory of our most Holy God. We’ve begun to measure our ministry differently.

No longer do we count and report the number of converts that we have the immense pleasure of seeing. Our hearts rend for the lost souls that we welcome to the Center, but the convicting and saving is a work of the Holy Spirit. We are called to disciple and to teach (Matthew 28:19-20). As Arrowhead director, I am responsible to see that the Gospel is handled well and communicated adequately – a serious charge that I do not hold as trivial.

We cannot measure this ministry based on the number of converts. Delivering a new nature in redemption is a work of God. Of course there is great value to seeing numbers of people being saved, and we should rejoice and pray for that very thing. Scripture emphasizes numbers being added to the Church (Acts 2:41, 4:4).

I CAN, HOWEVER, seek to ensure and measure two things:
1 Was the Gospel clearly, consistently and accurately taught?
2 Was the teaching clearly and accurately received?

These we can observe by the questions coming back from those exposed to Gospel teaching. We’ve found at Arrowhead that, when given the opportunity, our campers ask the most profound questions! This shows us what they are understanding, and what we need to further address from Scripture.

When people leave one of our conferences or summer camps, it is my responsibility to see that they have been taught, and taught well. Whether they decide to reject or invest in the Gospel is between them and God. I cannot force someone to understand the Gospel – God alone gives understanding (2 Tim. 2:7, Rom. 10:17, Eph. 2:8-9). I am commanded to give them an answer, and to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

I THINK ABOUT A CERTAIN TEEN CAMPER. She said she didn’t believe in God and, following each chapel, would challenge our speaker. The truth of Scripture was creating a tension with the lies she had believed. Sad to say, she left camp holding firmly to her atheistic beliefs. We could not make her understand or force her to believe. We could only lovingly point her to God’s Word. “Some plant; some water, but God gives the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6-7).

With joy I can say that others have not resisted the Holy Spirit’s prompting. I cannot and should not try to coerce or manipulate anyone, lest I try to take on God’s role (1 Cor. 2:14). This can be tempting to do in our zeal to see people saved. But we can plead with and persist in the proclamation of God’s Word. That includes educating and equipping ourselves to communicate clearly. Teaching and discipleship are so much more than simply delivering information – it is striving to make the truth clearly understood!

IF I CAN ANSWER yes to these two questions, then I can be confident that I have been obedient to the call of God in the proclamation of the Gospel. Of course that by no means draws an end to my role as a discipler, but it is an appropriate measure of my calling. I don’t need observable results other than my submitted and sacrificial obedience. The rest is God’s work and I am meant to be content in that.

Obedient discipleship is never of ill effect. Tensions arise when people’s expectations supersede the expectations of Christ. If we have been overwhelmed by expectations of “measurable” results in our ministries, let’s be encouraged that to obediently disciple and teach to the greatest of our ability is the real measure of success. That ultimately makes God the object of our work!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Gospel is Not Tupperware

We talk so much about all of the mechanics of cross-cultural missions and ministry and strive to walk deeply in the pool of culture and sound communication. It can be easy to lose sight of Christ if we are not intentional about maintaining Him as central to our ministry and indeed, our very lives. So often we neglect to examine ourselves in light of scripture and with our relationship to the philosophies of our world. Do we recognize just how profoundly we allow ourselves to be affected by our own culture?

The Product
Our consumer driven, individualistic culture has had a far more profound impact on how we understand the Gospel (and how we communicate it) than we like to consider. But we must. You see, if sin is simply something we do, then there must simply be an opposite action to reverse that sin. And if that is the understanding we have of the Gospel, then we start to think of how we can present this opposing action to those who are not Christians. This way they to can compartmentalize their sins and move on. Say this prayer, walk this aisle, sign this card, act this way, sing this song, do all of these things, follow these rules and you can have this personally beneficial religion. The gospel message becomes a sales pitch for a product. Jesus, scripture and the Church become products, totems for the consumer. Christian lifestyle becomes a product, prosperous and personally beneficial. Christianity becomes a means to an end, a service that can provide benefits to the client.

The Pitch
As with any good sales pitch we must convince our client of their need for the product. We replace evangelism and discipleship with marketing. This is then done by extolling the virtues of the product, the benefits that it can offer to the consumer; forgiveness, a better life, happiness, wealth, prosperity, health, heaven, community. But a good salesman also presents the inverse benefits of the product, what will this product prevent; it staves off depression and darkness, protects you from evils and keeps you safely from the fires of hell. But further to that we have to consider the market research, how has this product benefitted others? Just look at all of the fabulous Christians in all of the fabulous churches and how wonderful they have found life to be as a result of this product called gospel. Our personal testimonies become lists of benefits instead of being a story about how Jesus raised us from spiritual death to life. And then, of course, we must report to one another our sales figures. Counting heads and claiming huge numbers of converts. The question we have to ask is; converts to what?

The Pricing
By forgetting the depth of our sin and the magnificence of the redemptive, sanctifying and preserving work of God in our lives and allowing ourselves to compartmentalize our sin, we have made a horrible mistake that has impacted both our relationship with the gospel message and with our Redeemer. The price of the product is presented; prayer, Bible reading, attending church, giving monies. Paying these expenses ensures that the product will always be there when needed. Our perspective should be precisely the opposite, the gospel maintains us, we don't maintain the gospel. God's work in us is daily gospel work, and often that work is hard and it hurts. It is God working is us that which is well pleasing and good, and this by His Spirit for His Glory.

The Tupperware
The gospel is not Tupperware; long lasting, freshness locking, preserving — following Jesus is not simply an investment in our future. It is not a product that we must convince others to buy. It is true, there are so many fantastic blessings to following Christ. The gospel of hope has magnificent rewards. But we err when we forget that all of the blessings that come with following Christ are simply byproducts. Heaven is the bonus, not the prize. What the gospel produces is change, often painful, always entire — change (Ezekiel 36:26), rooted only in a moving of the Holy Spirit. What we get, is Jesus; and in Jesus — life. Jesus is the beginning, middle and end of the Gospel. When we present anything else we make the gospel a sales pitch for a religion to be bought and sold.

The Consumers
We ring our hands and wonder why youth aren't interested in church. Why people buy our product and then seem to fall away, they want a refund. So often, I fear, it is because we have made ourselves salesmen instead of evangelists. We have invested all of our energy in making the Gospel a product, and that appeal to the flesh sets Jesus aside as secondary to the client — the consumer. To be an evangelist of Christ we must bring this good news of Jesus by holding Him high and exclusive.
"He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
The Glory of Christ
The Glory of the Gospel is Christ. Proclaiming His Glory by virtue of His nature and character. The change that following Him precipitates is His work in us. We don't have to convince anyone to buy anything we're selling. We are called simply and clearly to proclaim Christ, to disciple and teach. We don't have to convince or manipulate, simply teach; and when unbelievers continue in their unbelief — we teach again, we start over. We proclaim Christ.
“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.” 1 Corinthians 1:23  
“For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2