Dec 4 2014

Risk-Taking Faith (a “post-script”)

Risk-HopeInAction

This past Sunday we kicked off Advent 2014 by taking a slightly different perspective on the traditional theme of HOPE. We specifically spoke of RISK and how essential it is to having a growing faith, built on Matthew 14:22-33. We noted the significance of faith to abundant life in that faith is described at “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Additionally, “without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is that which grounds us to HOPE; it helps us lay hold of that which we cannot see, like hope in the nature of God and hope for the promises of God. Risk, on the other hand, could be described as the action taken in light of faith/hope. This risk, taken at the prompting of Jesus, grows our faith. A risk-taking faith encounters the power and presence of God in mighty ways.

 

In the days following the sermon, I’ve had some great questions and conversations come up in regards to risk (from POINTgroup, from emails, and in person!). In light of these, here are some quick thoughts to prod you a few steps further:

 

  • If I had to define “risk” in terms of the spiritual truth that we are going after here (which I probably should have done in the sermon!), it would be this. “Risk is taking action, based on a perceived leading of the Holy Spirit, where the desired outcome is ONLY possible through the power of God.” This has three main parts. 1) Risk is action, not just attitude. 2) It’s based on God’s leading and/or His priorities, not simply on us having a “good idea”. 3) The outcome rests in God’s control, not ours, so that He gets the credit and the glory.
  • One way to evaluate whether you are taking risks, is a) whether you ever feel fear, and b) what you do about it. If you never notice yourself feeling fear, you probably need to ask Jesus why you don’t see Him and how he wants you to “get out of the boat”. Conversely, if you feel lots of fear, but it seems to shackle or control you, then you are probably still not taking healthy risks and finding Jesus faithful in the midst of your fear. Interestingly, in the story from Matthew 14, Jesus doesn’t condemn the disciples for their fear . . . He tells them to “take courage”. A healthy risk-taking faith desires to be with Jesus wherever He is, even when it’s scary. This opens the door for courage. Don’t feel guilty over fear or run from it. Look to Jesus and take courage!
  • We must self-analyze our risk-taking faith beyond what feels “difficult” or “challenging”. Perceived challenges can arise from too many sources to validate a risk-taking faith. In fact, challenges can arise because of sin, because our faith is being challenged (and we remain unyielding), because we are simply overextending ourselves in directions where the Lord isn’t leading, etc. I believe healthy risk will often be challenging, but in a profoundly hopeful way that is consistent with the promises of Scripture.
  • One of the absolute best ways to know whether you are employing a healthy risk-taking faith is simple. Are you growing in affection for Jesus? Can you point to ways that you’ve obeyed what He’s asked. I think this is why the “Hall of Faith” chapter in Hebrews is followed up by:

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

 

  • Here are a handful of examples of these sorts of risks from my life where I’ve seen God grow me, my faith, my relationships and ultimately my affection for Him . . . all of which have prompted me to desire to risk more!

    • Making time to read my Bible, whether I’m busy and/or tired
    • Go on short-term missions
    • Learn how to play the guitar (because I sensed God wanting me to do it)
    • Let someone hold me accountable to practical discipleship principles like time in the Word, Bible memorization, and overcoming sin
    • Giving tithes and offerings to the local church and other worthy causes
    • Asking a friend, “What is stopping you from following Jesus?”
    • Living within my means and saying “no” to certain wants, even if I could technically afford it
    • Having kids
    • Admit (to God and others) my limitations as a parent, husband, friend and leader, etc.
    • Prayerfully considering how to better lead and love my wife
    • Purposefully disciple another person
    • Be an invested member of a local church

 

I hope this goes a small way in continuing to grow a risk-taking, God-honouring, soul-satisfying faith! Here’s a parting thought from the Apostle Paul:

 “But Jesus said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Corinthians 12:9-10)


Nov 25 2014

GO Strat Recap

slider-GoStrat

Many thanks to everyone who joined us for some part of our series “Who Will Go For Us?: equipping the church to fulfill the call of God”. I was repeatedly encouraged throughout the process both by the content as it challenged my own faith and practice as well as by quality conversations about how you were encouraged/challenged. If you missed any part of the series or want to refocus on any part, you’ll find the whole series at www.celebrationchurch.ca/media/sermons/whowillgoforus . Today, I wanted to briefly offer a bit of a “postscript” in order to accentuate the hope that I have in us each owning the call to “GO: lead to Jesus”.

Allow me to remind those of you who have given your life to Jesus, that God’s Spirit lives in you. The Holy Spirit, the Living, Effectuating Power of God is in you. The power and creativity that called the world into being, the voice in the mouths of the prophets throughout the ages, the victory that defeated sin and death, the wind and fire that fueled the Apostles, the sustaining force that has marched the worldwide church on through the ages IS AT WORK IN AND THROUGH YOU.

Pause for a moment and re-read that last paragraph. . . . Try reading it once more and then close your eyes and as God to confirm in your heart whether that is true of you.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. . . . If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself 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 entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2Corinthians 5:16-21)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . [nothing] in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35,39)

 

Yes. God is at work in you, through you, and around you, and He’s not going anywhere.

What if we began to desire, explore, and display the kind of power and purpose that God has always worked through His surrendered children?!? Who among our families and friends and acquaintances would God use us to miraculously reach with the gospel? I, for one, would sure love to find out. I deeply desire to see Celebration! Church Ottawa go “all in” to fulfill the call of God, joining the Great Adventure.

Consider this an explicit invitation to join with us to:

 

L:         Look for where God is at work
O:         Overcome obstacles
V:         Verbalize God’s Story
E:         Encourage taking a step

 

What part of that needs some attention and development in your life? Remember that God’s power resides in you to make you awesome at this!

To close, let me encourage you with a report of what happened when the Apostle Paul and his company were faithful to do these things where they were (in Antioch in Pisidia):

And when [the people] heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:48-49)

 

Father, may this be so in our day, in our church, in our lives. Amen.


Oct 2 2014

Another Word On Thankfulness

Pursuant to last week’s sermon on thanksgiving and thanks-living (here, if you missed it), I’ve noticed in myself an increased sensitivity to thankfulness. As I’ve read the Bible the past couple weeks, I keep stumbling upon verses about aspects of thanksgiving. They have been colouring my reading of Scripture like the vivid changing leaves saturate the local landscape. Here is one such example:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. . . . He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2Corinthians 9:8, 10-12)

Three major impressions from these verses. One: We cannot overestimate or over-esteem the provision and sufficiency of God. Oh, to learn to rely on Him more fully, to trust Him more completely, and to yield to His promptings so that we “abound in every good work”, increasing the “harvest of our righteousness.” He IS able; draw near and join Him.

Two: There is a special enrichment in enabling thanksgiving. The context here is that the Apostle Paul is thanking/exhorting the Corinthian church for the donations that they’ve committed toward His ministry and the ministry in Jerusalem. Paul is pointing out that there is manifold blessing is the giving to effective ministry. When we invest in people and programs who are faithfully ministering on Christ’s behalf, it causes thanksgiving, praises, worship to flow . . . and the Spirit of God in us does a work IN US, “enriching in every way” for our generosity.

Three: Where you choose to invest matters. We live in the most marketed time of history. Everywhere you turn is a chance to buy something you need/want, a place to invest, a cause to back, a “start” to “kick”, a ministry to fund. When we consider an investment of time and talent in addition to treasure, the outlets of spending explode. Into this reality the Bible implicitly gives some quality advice. Invest yourself generously as a reflection of how God gives. Invest to provide for the “needs of the saints,” meaning be purposefully involved with and fund efforts to sustain worship and fellowship of God’s people. Also, invest where there is fruitful faithfulness, where more than merely meeting needs for believers, it is producing thanksgiving to God – even “overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” Choose wisely to invest your time, your talents, and your treasures in churches, ministries, or organizations that meet needs AND increase thanksgiving and worship to God in ways and places where there were previously none.

I hope you’re encouraged. Join me in praying and working to make sure that Celebration! Church Ottawa continues to be a place where these three observations are a functional reality.


Nov 1 2011

Growing in Grace

2Cor. 12:9 > “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (italics added)

Eph. 1:7-8 > “In him we have redemption through is blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us…” (italics added)

In a few short parenting moments last night, I turned a new corner in my understanding of grace.  What’s more, I’ve come to greater treasure the Lord for His lavish grace, and I’ve been convicted of how far I am from emulating Him as I ought.

The scene was fairly routine as the night began to wind down.  Bed time.  Long day.  Everybody is tired.  As we round the final corner and head towards lights out, Caleb asks, “Dad, do we have time to read a book?”  Now, I don’t have anything against reading books, but sometimes I just want the bed-time-routine to be over.  So selfishly, I just want to say, “No.”  But the fact that there is time to read a book together with the fact that he asked so nicely, it’s really hard to decline.  So here’s what I said:

Well buddy, I’ll tell you what.  If you can go finish your milk and have a good attitude through your bathroom chores, we’ll check the time and maybe read a book.

Seems like a pretty good response, huh?  Well, allow me to let you in on what what going on in my heart.

As Caleb headed to get started on that list of contingencies, I grabbed the Bible story book knowing full well that “there would be time.”  While grabbing the book and considering its contents the Holy Spirit split me wide open:

Don’t kid yourself, Jason.  You are not showing your son grace.  You’re making him work for your “favour.”  You’re making the expression of your love and generosity dependent on him conforming his behaviour.  Do you want him to have a good attitude because it makes your life easier or because you want him to know and do the right thing?  Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way with His grace and you?

Wow.  I sure am glad that God’s grace — the lavish grace that is sufficient for all that I lack and the grace that is greater than all my sin — isn’t couched in a list of qualifications.  God offers His favour to me unmerited, undeserving as I am, though I’ve done nothing to earn it.  Jesus is the one who earned His grace . . . I get it just by my faith-filled association in Christ.  What a privilege.

Now back to parenting, I don’t think the answer is to spoil my kids.  God has given me a responsibility to teach them right and wrong and the consequences of their actions.  But what I don’t want to do is to teach them that they need to work for my affection.  I don’t want them to learn love as a works-based privilege.  I want to be stern in discipline, teaching them what is right and wrong.  And at the same time, I want to be able to show them that I love them like God loves: freely, without manipulation, without qualification.  They are mine, I love them . . . just like I am His and He loves me.

Caleb and Hannah

Caleb and Hannah