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.


Sep 12 2014

A Curve-ball in the Rough

So I’m doing a pretty good job keeping up with our annual Bible reading plan. But I’m not boasting . . . I’m just leveling with you: I’m in Ezekiel. Ezekiel is a TOUGH section to stick through. Isaiah and Jeremiah are pretty long and intense books, but then to hoof it through 48 more chapters of primarily gloom and doom . . . it’s a difficult part of the yearly readings, for sure.

Sometimes I find myself skimming in order to power through a section in order to just check off another day. Oftentimes while doing this, I’ll sniff a curve-ball under the chin that I never saw coming (forgive the metaphor if you don’t like baseball). One such convicting surprise happened just the other day.

In my life context, I’m gearing up for a sermon and small group series aimed at better equipping us evangelistically. So I get to Ezekiel 33 & 34. Here the Lord calls Ezekiel a “watchman” of Israel who is told to warn the people of coming disaster. If he is faithful to warn and the people do not prepare, then the guilt is on their heads. But if the watchman fails to warn and the people are destroyed, though they may have been deserving of the punishment, the watchman will be help partially responsible.

Similarly in the next chapter, the Lord warns against shepherds who feed themselves, and yet do NOT feed the sheep, strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the straying, or seek out the lost. In light of this, there is a great promise that God will be the shepherd for his people and will seek out and provide for them.

In these two pictures, I couldn’t help but see a profound call to action for believers. Christ has commissioned us to be “watchmen”, to be “shepherds”, and to exhibit our faith through care for the marginalized, the needy, and the not-yet believers. Please join me in praying for our faith family as we take on this focus to be equipped and inspired toward more missional living. Pray that we will receive the call with surrendered hearts, and pray that God will raise up workers for His harvest from among us. I’m excited about the season that is spreading out before us. Will you join me in running toward what God has in store for us?!?


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.

 


Feb 6 2013

“find your joy”

Here is my contribution to kick off C!C’s Devotional Journal entitled “find your joy”:

I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

As the idea for this devotional journal began to take shape, I knew that I would need to “practice what I preach” and thus began asking myself: “Jason, where do you find your joy?” In response I decided to start a list and pay attention to when I found myself joyful at the little things in my days. My search became a catalogue of surprise joys, and seemed to deepen the saturation of enjoyment that these little moments brought. Allow me to share the highlights:

  • The “Daddy’s home” rush and outpouring of affection
  • Stealing kisses with “the wife of my youth” in the kitchen
  • Spontaneous laughter, five throats strong, at the dinner table . . . or the hallway . . . or the restaurant . . . or in the car . . . or . . .
  • Reading Ps. 16:9 > “Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely,” and knowing that it is true in me.
  • Realizing that my back isn’t hurting
  • Realizing that my back is hurting but that it won’t hurt in heaven
  • Sudden moments of conviction reminding me that God has called me to such important tasks that I cannot succeed on my own . . . in order that He can succeed through me.
  • Watching family and friends learn to value and apply courage
  • Each new word that my kids learn which make me anticipate future conversations
  • Being pierced by the Word of God via fresh encouragement OR conviction from a passage as familiar as my “work jeans”
  • Finding the beauty in the dance of shepherding my wife AND being shepherded by her

Where do you find your joy?


Oct 10 2012

Tasty Inspiration Toward Meaningful Community

Life lessons from chicken pot pie?  You bet.

 

As I write this I’m thoroughly enjoying a bowl full of leftover chicken pot pie, and it totally inspired this devotional article, trumping the previous would-be topic.

Here’s how I believe the pot pie originated: once upon a time an resourceful mother opened her dry cupboard to find a random assortment of ingredients all on the verge of going bad.  A look into the root cellar revealed the same situation.  Not to be dissuaded from her mission of feeding her family and managing resources well she daringly glared at the pile of ragamuffin ingredients and . . . threw them all in the same pot.  After stewing everything for a proper amount of time with the necessary savory spices, she tasted her concoction and low and behold it was fantastic.  However, it looked terrible.  And this sharp-minded chef knew that her kids would certainly judge the dish by appearances.  So she did the most sensible thing in the world.  She covered the dish with a pastry.  And ever since, generations upon generations have enjoyed this culinary casserole-marvel, cleverly concealed under a crusty cover of awesomeness.

Here’s the life-lesson.  We are just like chicken pot pie.  We’re a messy conglomeration of feelings, histories, conclusions, hidden talents, hopes and hurts.  Most of the time we’re pretty sure that people will judge us if they could see our character-casserole, and so we work hard to cover ourselves with a nice fluffy pastry for others to look at.  And whenever we interact with folks, we typically only let them into the crust level – gotta keep things nice and sweet, buttery and safe.

And this is where REAL community comes in.  Gospel centered community is like the gleaming silver pastry knife that slices all the way through us, scooping deep to retrieve and dispense a hearty helping of the messy mixture hidden beneath the surface.  Now here’s the best part.  When we let Gospel community expose and share who we really are, we begin to find that the Holy Spirit has “seasoned” our lives in a wonderful manner in order to mesh with other people’s lives.  We find that the “real” part of each others lives are actually pretty savory and contribute to a well-balanced Body of Christ.

I wish to encourage everyone to take a purposeful step toward letting Gospel community bring out the most in your life.  So come on, pastry top, messy middle and all . . . it’s gonna be good.

 


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!


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.


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.

 


Mar 14 2012

reflection on beauty — today and “tomorrow”

Upon meditating on some of the truths from this past week’s sermon (available online), I’ve been somewhat smitten by the reference to God’s people in Isaiah 61:3, that they “will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”  Reflecting on this Splendor has brought up vivid memories of bountiful gardens and opulent displays of the finest shapes and colours nature has to offer.  I thought of the harvest that my garden produces, bright and plump.  I thought of the rainbows of the Tulip Festival at its height.  I thought of the vast intricacies of the Butterfly House at Atlanta Botanical Garden, on and on.  Then I thought about the vast differences between each person’s life and journey with Jesus.  I thought of how Scripture seems to describe us as this carefully crafted exhibit where we each present a unique aspect of the manifold beauties in the Character and Acts of God – a “planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

I thank God for the work He’s done and continues to do in my life.  I praise Him for putting my friends, and particularly C!C, in my life so that together we display a portion of his splendor.  And yet, what’s more is the thought that all of this is but a shadow of the beauty in store in Glory.  Reflecting on the promise of future beauty brought me across some prophecies and a C. S. Lewis quote that I’d like to share.  Enjoy. (And feel free to read it a few times to let it sink in.)

Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength.  Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city.  The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you againIsaiah 52:1

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawnIsaiah 60:1-3

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stallMalachi 4:2

The city [Heaven’s Jerusalem] does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.  On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night thereRevelations 21:23-25

“God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough.  What more, you may ask, do we want?  Ah, but we want so much more – something the books on aesthetics take little notice of.  But the poets and the mythologies know all about it.  We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough.  We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.  That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves – that, though we cannot, yet these projections can, enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image.  That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods.  They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t.  They tell us the “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t.  Or not yet.  For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.  At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door.  We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure.  We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so.  Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”   C.S. Lewis, from The Weight of Glory