Aug 14 2014

Help From the Hills

“big flex”

“big flex”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.

Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,

The Maker of heaven and earth.

 

He will not allow your foot to slip;

Your Protector will not slumber.

Indeed, the Protector of Israel

Does not slumber or sleep.

 

The LORD protects you;

The Lord is a shelter right by your side.

The sun will not strike you by day

Or the moon by night.

 

The LORD will protect you from all evil;

He will protect your soul.

The LORD will protect your coming and going

Both now and forever.

(Psalm 121)

 

Have you ever tripped?  Ever had sunburn? If you answer yes to either of those questions and you love Jesus, does that mean that the above Psalm is untrue? Is the Bible unreliable?

 

Hopefully you know innately that the answer is NO, that God and the Bible are true and reliable even if we occasionally stumble and get too much sun. But WHY is the answer no? How are we to understand a passage like the above Psalm?

 

We need to understand that it is a song representing an important truth about the character and protection of God. David is communicating that no matter the circumstances, our God is powerful enough and loving enough to perfectly sustain us to an end that is profoundly good. It’s not to say that there won’t be troubles along the way. The fact that the Psalm begins with God as our “help” points to the fact that there would be some circumstance where “help” is needed. The love and purposeful protection described here is more of a principle to be trusted than a literal promise to be tested. Here’s how theologian Matthew Henry prefaces the Psalm:

 

. . . wherever we are, at home or abroad, we are exposed to danger more than we are aware of; and this psalm directs and encourages us to repose ourselves and our confidence in God, and by faith to put ourselves under his protection and commit ourselves to his care, which we must do, with an entire resignation and satisfaction, in singing this psalm.

 

For whatever “dangers” or afflictions you perceive right now, or for whatever may be lurking down the road of life, gather yourself under the unchanging principle of God’s perfect power to protect His beloveds. Put your confidence, your faith in Him, commit yourself to his care wholly.

Consider with whom in your life you could share this psalm.

To whom can you give a testimony that your help comes from the Lord?

 


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

 


Nov 9 2012

Hanging With The Wrong Crowd

Even though I don’t like it . . . I still have a tendency to judge people by appearances.  I like praying for people while I ride the bus, but sometimes I catch myself slipping into a “people watching” mode where I lump individuals into categories and ascribe labels that, if I did deep enough into my own heart, are laced with subtle prejudices.  For this, I must repent and surrender to God in search of a heart that’s more like Jesus — each time I see it in myself.

Recently while biking to work I passed an ominous looking bunch of high school students who eyed me as I cruised past.  I found myself thinking:

Yikes, what are those kids up to . . . probably nothing good.  Oh man, my kids are going to be that age one day . . . I wonder what my kids will be like . . . I hope they don’t hang out with the wrong crowd.

And though my feet kept pedaling, that’s where the Holy Spirit stopped my in my tracks:

“Wrong crowd”, huh?  What’s so wrong with them?  I made them and love them just as much as I made and love YOU and your family.  Who have you been reading and preaching about Jesus hanging out with?

Then it hit me (again) that Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd — most of the time.  I mean think about how often Jesus was criticized for going to parties with “sinners”, for reclining at the table with non-religious types who were apparently prone to overindulgence based on the fact that Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.

Jesus hung out with people who . . . get this . . . needed Jesus.  Even the most religious ones in the bunch were some of the worst influences on the people.  And Jesus hung out with them, taught them, and showed them a better way.  Lots of them never turned to Jesus’ way, but He still spent time with them in order to show them the Way.  And therein lies the major take-away from my bicycle-bible-lesson: Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd, but didn’t let it change Him.  Jesus was with them, but He was not like them.  And the vast majority of the time, the wrong crowd LIKED having Jesus around!

Maybe I should hang out with the wrong crowd more often.  Maybe I should desire for my kids to hang out with the wrong crowd . . . but with a foundation fixed on Jesus so as not to be moved from the Truth.  So for myself, my family, and my church, my prayer has become:

  • Lord, make us people that the “wrong crowd” likes to be around.
  • Lord, make us unafraid, pure-hearted, and motivated as we live with and love on the “wrong crowd.”
  • Lord, make us holy as You are holy, equipping us to hold out Your Light while holding onto Righteousness.

Aug 10 2012

Who are you listening to? Part 2

A few posts ago I wrote about the importance of listening to Jesus in order to receive the words/message that He may desire you to pass along.  Thus, in our marketing-saturated society, we’ve got to be careful who we’re listening to so that we don’t miss out on the best messages.  Well, thanks to a series of life circumstances over the past couple weeks, I’ve got version 2.0 of that message.

In all honesty, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks, physically and spiritually.  Sparing the details, there were travelings, sicknesses, losses, disappointments, unmet expectations, flat bicycle tires, and often a general feeling of being spiritually assailed by the evil one.  Enter into that picture a simple children’s praise CD that has put various Scripture verses to music.  (Caleb requests this one a lot.)

[ band strikes up ]

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Matthew 12:34″

And that’s the song.  Remarkably simple, with a fairly catchy tune (come take a ride in our swagger wagon . . . I’m telling you, Caleb will likely request it.)

Well here’s the rub.  I realized that in the midst of this difficult couple of weeks, my mouth wasn’t “clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12) like I would want.  The lyrics/verse of the song provided the reason why.  I had definitely been short-changing my time in the Word in the midst of the craziness.  My heart was overflowing with more woes that it was with the Word.  So in response, I dove into Psalms to help find my bearings.

The Lord rewarded my obedience with Psalm 25 .  Go ahead, take a few minutes and read it.  Put yourself into the Psalmist’s shoes and pray this from your perspective instead of David’s.  Pay attention to your heart as you meditate on the picture of God described in the chapter.  Pray that God would keep His Truth in your heart . . . and watch how your responses throughout the day change.  ‘Cause ya know . . . “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”


Apr 13 2012

Even Easter can be … “poopie”

Disclaimer: slightly graphic content and straight-talk from a church planter.

Holidays are full of expectations, no doubt about that.  And in our over-marketed, media-saturated society, given that unmet expectations equal frustration, I wonder to what extent the Evil One preys on us through our holiday expectations.  Think back through some of the most recent handful of holidays and see if you know what I’m talking about: Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, New Year’s, Christmas.

Easter isn’t immune to the expectation quagmire.  And from a pastoral perspective, I feel that “church folk” stand to get the worst of it.  I certainly did.  Obviously Easter is kind of a big deal for a pastor.  As a church planter, I had to balance who was traveling, who we’re inviting, what rooms are available for renting at what times, who can play in the band, when can we set up, what will the celebration look like, etc.  I felt like we have an awesome plan.  I was totally stoked about some various friends who my family had invited to finally check our church out.  And along came Easter Sunday.

Make sure you hear me out: it was a great time.  For those who came, we loved on each other, gazed on Jesus, and enjoyed some great fellowship — I don’t at all mean to take away from that.  You see, there’s just this thing about expectations.  My friends didn’t come, I missed sharing the week with a number of our members who were away, there weren’t many new people, and generally it seemed like people didn’t treat the day like it was that big of a deal.

That last sentence was the thought that clued me into the issue of expectations.  On one hand, Easter is not that big of a deal because Jesus is just as risen and victorious every other day of the year, including Leap Day, so I wouldn’t want us to make a big deal about Easter for the wrong (empty rituals) reasons.  At the same time though, culture at-large sure makes a big deal about Easter, except without Jesus, so that makes me feel a certain responsibility to make much of the one who made Easter the most Victorious celebrationad infinitum.  So, these reflections simmered on “medium-high” heat in the back of my mind as we got home from the morning service.

As we disembark from the van, bathed in warm sunshine, ready to enjoy the rest of the special day . . . I enter the house to discover a massive, thick, putrid, milk-shake-consistency pile of dog poop in the dining room.  So I head back outside to help get the kids (and get away from the smell), and discover that Carrie is holding Hannah’s carseat with greenish poop dripping from the bottom … another diaper blow-out, awesome.  Later, Lillie has a near blow-out requiring some serious scrubbing, and Acuda makes another mess (this time on the carpet upstairs.)  Needless to say, this had become the “poopiest” Easter yet.

Well, then end of the story is this:  God is good.  As I stood outside scrubbing the car seat and vacuuming out the car (oh, guess I didn’t mention the spilled orange juice in the trunk), I found myself actually enjoying the tasks.  I was outside, the kids were playing with neighbors, and I was able to finish a few chores that I’d really been meaning to do.  Somewhere in the midst of all that I felt the Lord whisper, “Yep, even Easter can be ‘poopie.’  But I’m here; I’m with you; and my grace will always be sufficient.”

Amen to that.