Feb 6 2015

Increasing Gospel Fluency

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

Saved by grace, apart from works, recreated in Christ Jesus to do good works — that’s what we unpacked in this past week’s sermon. These good works that grow out of grace driven effort yield wonderful fruit, namely: 1) displaying evidence of gospel transformation which confirms our faith, 2) being a winsome, living testimony to the world of the grace and holiness of God, 3) glorifying God as we “walk” in His purpose for our lives.

In the sermon I suggested that the answer to “How do we live graciously, growing in good works?” is primarily found in increasing our Gospel Exposure and increasing our Gospel Fluency. By increasing our Gospel Exposure, I mainly mean “inputting” more gospel into our lives than we do worldly fluff. Input the Gospel through:

  • Reading, memorizing, and obeying the Word of God
  • Make worshipping with God’s people a priority and invest while you’re there
  • Read Christian literature, fiction and non-fiction, apologetics
  • Find Christian music that fits (and stretches) your tastes

 

I believe that if we increase our Gospel Exposure, our “output” of the gospel and of good works is bound to be affected.

Here in this article, I wanted to draw attention to a particular application of increasing our Gospel Fluency. Gospel Fluency is how we “output” the gospel to ourselves and to others. This is how we believe the gospel and how we practice the gospel. This is how we share the gospel in word and in deed. Just like learning any new language, developing a gospel fluency takes some time and practice. Thus, don’t get discouraged and think that you aren’t good enough. And at the same time, don’t underestimate the power of the Spirit to make much out of our seemingly meager offerings.

Gospel fluency begins with being able to preach the gospel to yourself in order to apply the truth of the gospel and power of the Spirit to areas that God wants to make holy. The message that you preach to yourself is often easily done through memorizing Scripture (like the verses above.) It can also be as simple as praying something like, “Jesus, thank you for coming down from heaven to die and pay for my sin. I don’t want to make your forgiveness cheap by choosing things that dishonour You. I receive Your forgiveness and step out in faith to act according to YOUR will.” Making a conscious step to internalize the truth of the gospel like this has an amazing transformative effect. What’s more, the very act of preaching to ourselves progresses in us, making us more like Jesus. Here’s how I see that happening.

temptation comes > sin occurs > preach to ourselves > repent > receive grace

(This also basically represents how we come to Jesus in the first place to be saved from sin. As we grow, we learn to preach/apply the gospel BEFORE we sin as a means to combat temptation.)

 temptation > preach > win sometimes/sin sometimes (moralism) > repent > grace

(This is where we learn to preach the gospel to ourselves in order to combat sin, but a limited understanding of grace finds us ultimately striving for righteousness under our own power. We try to be moral to please God or avoid punishment and find ourselves on a bit of a rollercoaster.)

 temptation > preach > grace > win > grace

(This represents how I believe the Apostle Paul to be describing the battle with flesh in Romans 7&8. When we are conflicted and preach, “There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” and we believe that grace over ourselves, we DO find victory over sin. This enriches our experience of grace and leads to good works out of grace driven effort. And as we continue to grow in the Lord and His grace, we see . . .)

temptation > Spirit-affirmed grace > win > grace

(This is where the grace of God and our sensitivity to His Spirit inside of us is so rich, that it shortens the response time of embracing grace to respond to circumstances, particularly sin. The preaching of the gospel to ourselves has reached such a place of fluency, that it is a part of our natural rhythms.)

Practically this looks like when I am confronted with a temptation/sin internally OR with a need/decision/opportunity externally, my sensitivity to the grace shown me has such a short response time that I begin to naturally respond like Jesus would. Gracious, good works flow out of an honest, pure heart. This is not to say that responding with grace is always easy. This is not to say that we don’t mess up, or wrestle with applying the gospel in certain circumstances. But I do believe that this is how God shapes us into being thriving, effective CHRISTians.

As I see this progression at work in various areas of my life, I see that becoming more like Jesus is what makes me a more satisfied human being. It’s what makes me a better parent, shaping my kids into the image of God. And since it is God’s grace that enables and fuels this way to live, that’s why it brings HIM glory and not us! We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, (by grace) to do good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them . . . that is what changes us and is what changes the world!


Mar 22 2013

C!C in the local newspaper

The Old Ottawa East community, which is the neighbourhood surrounding where Celebration! Church Ottawa meets for our worship services, has a local newspaper called the Mainstreeter.

Here’s the inclusion from C!C in the upcoming issue:

 

In the Neighbourhood, Around the World

“We are a small group, but we’re not afraid to dream big.”  This comment from a leader at Celebration! Church Ottawa (C!C) when reflecting on plans for the rest of 2013 and beyond.  The start up church, whose original group consistent of almost entirely university students, has made a big splash in the Old Ottawa East neighbourhood as well as in other parts of our city as they’ve grown.  And with one of their core values being to “meaningfully connect with both campus and community”, they see that widespread impact continuing.

Some of these efforts are: the C!Station children’s booth at the Main Farmers’ Market, help with local events like the Main Event and neighbourhood BBQs, Easter Lily sale for FREEDOM, kids activities in Brantwood during the Summer, and of course, their weekly worship gathering (10:30am inside Saint Paul Univ.).  While other local initiatives are still being planned, one interesting area of involvement that is blossoming is anything but “local.”

C!C has begun exploring a partnership with a small people group in the mountains of Honduras called the Tolupan.  In working together with locals and other invested organizations, C!C hopes to bring food, education, better health care, and better farming practices to a very poor, isolated, and often maligned group of people.  Pastor Jason Byers, who spent a week with the Tolupan in February, explains, “The reality seems to be that no one is looking to help these people.  In many ways, they are either forgotten or ignored.  So we want to do what we can to increase their quality of life in a way that honours their native culture.  This involves a lot of listening, and in time, helping.  The help would take many forms: food, supplies, tips on their coffee production, dental services, English lessons, and more.  We are also open with them about the role that Christianity plays in our quality of life on earth and in our hope of life after death.  Many people are curious about the Christian worldview, and so we are sensitive to communicating this truth, so important to us, in a way that could enable an indigenous church.  The bottom line is that we are trying to help meet legitimate needs without creating a sense of dependency.”

When asked why a small church from Canada would go to such great lengths in Honduras, Pastor Jason replied, “It really stems from who we are at our core.  Being loved by God and having a love for Jesus motivates us to serve other people.  The Bible points to that having an expression locally as well as abroad.  When we came across the Tolupan of Honduras, they sort of captured our hearts . . . much like the neighbourhood around our church has.”  Then he smiled and added, “And who knows, we have a big dream of one day having our own coffee shop that serves as a kind of home-base for our ministries.  Maybe we will serve Tolupan coffee.”

Maybe they will.  But for sure, they’ll continue dreaming big while offering a helping hand in the neighbourhood and around the world.

 


Dec 7 2012

Advent: the Saviour still comes

This post is from a friend of mine at C!C, Joel Oosterman, reflecting on issues incredibly close to his heart and personal mission.  As well, issues that are close to the heart of C!C as well.  Joel is helping us know more about how we can make a difference and is inspiring us to get there.  Thanks Joel.

– – – – –

I grew up unaware of Advent however this year our family (Kristy, Bekah, Annika & I) will take part in this tradition for the first time. In order to prepare for this, I took some time to examine the history and meaning of Advent. (BTW you can download a free Advent book here http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/good-news-of-great-joy-free-advent-ebook)

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which happened to be December 2 this year, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24). It is important to note that Advent is not based on any biblical mandate. Rather, Advent is a tradition that has developed over the past 2000 years and allows Christians to celebrate the arrival of Christ and ‘the fulfillment of the promises God made’ beyond the 24 hours of December 25.

Another source described Advent as marked by ‘a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing … It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!’

Simply put, Advent celebrates the arrival of the One who brought good news and came to rescue and redeem. As Christ said at the beginning of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Advent is a time for great joy, yet we must also be cognizant that the need for deliverance from oppression remains urgent. Modern day slavery is not hard to find if you know what to look for. Last weekend Kristy and I were in Sosua, a small town in the Dominican Republic where sex tourism (adult and child) is business as usual. I took Kristy down one of the main streets littered with bars, restaurants and night clubs. Even though it was only 11am exploitation was still easy to spot. Here and there we observed older white men hand in hand with young Dominican or Haitian girls, some looking as young as 14 years old. At night, this area is bursting with white men seeking to exploit and enslave.

Yet while exploitation happens to be more visible in Sosua (as it is in many underdeveloped countries), slavery and sexual exploitation exists in every part of the globe. Men, women and children are being crushed by the weight of this injustice.

I am still surprised at the indifference and apathy that continues to pervade the issue of slavery. A few days ago, Kristy was sitting at a pool talking to a couple. The discussion, as it often does, led to human trafficking and slavery. At this point the man shared that he knew about slavery because he had a friend who wrote a book on human trafficking. He knew about the site SlaveryFootprint.org where you can find out how many slaves ‘work’ for you after completing a survey. Then he said “With all these slaves that apparently work for me, I felt like pharaoh and should have them here to cool me off.” I assume he saw the look of shock on Kristy’s face and followed up with, “If you can’t joke about slavery then what can you joke about.” This man was well aware of the reality of slavery yet gave no thought to flippant comments about oppression. The challenges in the fight against slavery are psychological as much as physical.

But there is hope and deliverance. The efforts to fight against this injustice have been incredible over the past few years and continue to grow. While we celebrate Advent as the coming of the Saviour, we can also celebrate that today He raises up people to serve on the front lines of the fight against slavery and oppression. These courageous and dedicated abolitionists face many challenges every day, such as physical danger, psychological burdens, exhaustion, anxiety, and one that is especially discouraging … indifference.  They also have families and loved ones that they are often separated from for long periods of times.

The season of Advent is upon us again, and Christians throughout the world have different ways of celebrating Advent. If you are celebrating Advent, consider incorporating the issue of slavery and redemption into your traditions. I would encourage you to take time to pray for those who are taking on slavery in a full-time capacity. Send a note of encouragement or gratitude to these individuals. Also, take time to pray for the survivors that these anti trafficking organizations are reaching out to. Survivors are horrifically abused and have long term challenges on their road to recovery.

Here are just a few suggestions of people and NGOs that you can pray for, support, and share with others beginning with one right here in the Dominican Republic.

 

Chantz & Renee Cutts

Here in Sosua, there is a great organization called GO Mad Ministries, started by Chantz and Renee Cutts. They are fighting back against exploitation by providing opportunity, dignity and hope to exploited individuals and communities through job training, education, safe housing, counseling, medical care, discipleship etc. You can learn more about them and their work here:http://www.gomadministries.org/

MP Joy Smith http://www.joysmithfoundation.com/

Jamie McIntosh and the team at IJM Canada – http://www.ijm.ca/

Brian McConaghy and the team at Ratanak International – http://www.ratanak.org/

Timea Nagy and the team at Walk With Me – http://www.walk-with-me.org/

Natasha Falle and the team at Sextrade 101 – http://www.sextrade101.com/

Law enforcement officers

Again, these are but a few of the many courageous abolitionists and anti-slavery NGOS. Please also take time to look into who is fighting slavery in your area locally, nationally and internationally.

With anticipation of redemption and freedom,

Joel

 


Sep 28 2012

And they’re off . . . again . . . a “thank you”

Yes, admittedly I’ve fallen off the blog wagon lately.  But now I’m back, and I’ve got a good reason to write today.

Earlier this morning my family piled into the car and headed to the airport to see off our new friends from Eagles Landing FBC.  With hugs and high fives we said goodbye to the three couples who have spent the last week looking for ways to serve Celebration! Church.

They shared experience and perspective at the couple’s night out in Carleton Place, at the Women’s Seeds event in Barrhaven, the worshipped with us at our Sunday service, they prayer walked on campus and spoke with some students, they poured into our !group leaders at two different meetings, and they lent a hand with some handy-work and cleanup at a couple local C!C peeps’ residences.  In addition to all of that, they just flat out genuinely loved on people every chance they got.

As both recipient and witness to these acts of selfless service, I’ve found myself immensely encouraged and fueled up.  I am more eager to pour myself out in love and service to my “neighbour”.  I’m also praying that the example of Christian maturity and obedience that the team exhibited would rub off on my C!C brothers and sisters.  I’m hoping that we’ll continue to grow as individual disciples and as a faith family to more fully experience the beauty of Christian community AND to be a “city on a hill” to the world around us.

So THANK YOU, Eagles Landing Team . . . and C!C family, let’s love deeply, serve thoroughly, and shine brightly!


Jul 6 2012

And they’re off …

Whew.

Here I am, back at the computer after my smartphone reminded me that it’s time to consider my weekly blog entry.  Before plopping here in my desk chair, I was at Starbucks, sipping an iced coffee and filling notebook pages with thoughts about Luke chapter 10.  Before that I was dropping Zach at his place, and just before THAT I was standing in the Ottawa airport saying goodbye to a dozen wonderful people who gave the last week of their lives to diligently serve a neighbourhood in Ottawa, to favourably represent C!C, and to prayerfully advance the Kingdom of God.

I’m not going to spend very much time here because, quite frankly, there is too much to do to get ready for our first Sunday morning service in our new room.  But I wanted to record a brief sentiment of my appreciation for the crew from Eagle’s Landing FBC.

Some brief highlights:

  • I was deeply encouraged by the contrast of how young the team was and yet how mature and disciplined they were.
  • I appreciated their honesty in sharing their hopes and expectations for the week.
  • As is often the case in missions and ministry, flexibility (with a good attitude) is a major necessity . . . and the team owned it.
  • The team showed great boldness in having purposeful conversations without being “weird” or pushy.
  • I felt honoured by the grace the team showed me and my family, whether it was by helping watch the kids or not giving me a hard time through “intentional misdirections” in and surrounding Montreal.
  • One aspect of the team that was abundantly clear throughout their time and interactions with people and each other was that they simply loved Jesus . . . and they felt loved by Him.  This made them an absolute treat to be around.

So as I get back to work on the next round of tasks and calendar items, I’ll end with:

Thank you Eagle’s Landing Team, Thank You.  And Praise the Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever.


Jun 1 2012

Asking for Prayer

Hey friends.

As I sit here surrendering the piles of responsibilities that seem to be staring me in the face, two thoughts emerge:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1Cor 10:31)

and

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)

Here are some things about the next week for which I long for some prayer support.  Please pray that I’d do all to the glory of God, and that He would cause fruitful ministry.

  • Tonight (Friday) and tomorrow I’ll be leading some devo time and song-worship at a work weekend at a Christian camp near Belleville.
  • Sunday I’ll be preaching on the Transfiguration of Jesus.
  • Monday our second intern, Meg arrives!
  • Tuesday-Thursday my family heads on a brief vacation near Barrie to refuel and love on each other before a busy summer.
  • Next Friday we’ll have an important !group leader and Minlead meeting.
  • Next Saturday will be Men’s FIGHTclub and C!Station at the Farmers’ Market.
  • Next Sunday Zach preaches.

Thank you, faith family, for your love, prayers, and support.


May 25 2012

New friends, New strides

This day two weeks ago, I was literally jumping into the car in order to race to the airport and pick up Zach Welliver, arriving fresh from Atlanta, Georgia.  Now,  I dropped him off at bus stops and he runs a couple errands before busing across the city to where he’s staying.  He’s set up his headquarters at his house; he’s getting a feel for the city; and he’s initiating toward some C!C peeps.  Awesome?  Yeah.

This past two weeks I’ve enjoyed getting to know more about Zach: the person, the intern, the musician, the young man with a heart for people to know God and experience Him through authentic, sincere, passionate worship.

Here are a couple of things I like most so far:

– He’s laid back and doesn’t get stressed while hanging out with my kids
– He doesn’t like mushrooms on his pizza
– We like similar books
– We like similar music
– He has a healthy intimidation and excitement at working in a church other than what he’s known his whole life
– He is really eager to help our band and band members become better worshippers, better disciples, and a better band

Yeah, so I’ll stop there.  But I’ll end with inviting everyone at C!C to pray for Zach, reach out to him in friendship, and to look for ways to encourage the ministry that God leads him to while in Ottawa.


May 3 2012

Summit check-in #3

Second morning is another beautiful, warm day in the south with a tell-tale sweetness in the air.  It reminds me of Georgia.

Last night ended with a great main session.  We proclaimed realities of the Lord’s great love for us in song, and we affirmed a message of truth from Gabe Lyons, an author and speaker.  The main focus of the talk was the importance of sharing the “whole story” of God’s work as we share with people . . . especially in a context like ours in Canada.  You see, sometimes we narrow our focus in “evangelism” to share about the fall (sin) and redemption (salvation).  But really, this is only half the story.  The story begins with creation, and how wonderful and complete and intentional God made everything.  The story ends with restoration, when all things find their proper place.   And that restoration is really where our hope lies.  We are redeemed unto life . . . full life, eternal life, restored life.  And in all things, because of redemption, His grace is sufficient to keep us restored and carry us to the complete work of ultimate restoration in heaven.

So . . . as we partake in and share the message of Creation — Fall — Redemption — Restoration, we join God in being Restorers.  Cool perspective.

Alright.  Now it’s off to breakfast and then more conference.

Blessings to all.


May 2 2012

Summit check-in #2

This morning started off well with some time in the work-out room, a continental breakfast, and some nice quality time with the Lord on the porch.

"poolside" quiet time

Then after a brief walk around downtown Nashville and the monstrous Lifeway building, Robin and I started the conference.  I enjoyed gleaning encouragements from a seminar on “dialogical apologetics” and a sociological perspective of the upcoming generation of university freshmen/first-years.  Robin went to a talk on a unique perspective on the next generation of Christian leaders and another one on an encouragement to life balance and spiritual growth in a demanding ministry environment.  Feel free to ask us about highlights if these seem interesting to you!


May 1 2012

Summit check-in #1

Hey gang.

Robin and I have arrived in Nashville to warm weather 31oC and even warmer smiles.

We’ve met a handful of guys who all work with university students and hail from all across Canada. Tomorrow we join with hundreds more to be challenged and encouraged in our pursuits to make Christ known on campuses.

First though, we had to take in some quality local date … which means that I got to reach Robin about “real BBQ”! Here are our plates, compliments of The Judge.

Bbq meal

brisket, sausage, ribs, green beans, onion rings and 2 kinds of baked beans!

More to come.