Jesus and Toenails

For the past 15 weeks, I’ve had to go to physiotherapy to rehabilitate my ruptured Achilles Tendon. Each week I have to soak my leg in a hot bath with jets, for 15 mins. What this means is that I have to take my shoe and sock off and reveal my bare foot to whichever onlooker happens to be around. It also means I have to keep my toenails well maintained; after all, they are on display.

There have been times, however, where I have forgotten to give them a little snip snip. Sometimes there are fuzzies from my socks. Although my toes are never too bad, there are those who have some gnarly looking nails. The kind that make you look away in horror.

It’s really easy to ignore your toenails. After all, when you wear socks and shoes most of the time, you don’t have to look at your feet. When you grow older or are injured, it is especially easy to ignore them, whether ignorance is by intention or not.

Jesus once said to the religious leaders,

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

All too often, we focus on the things that people see. When it comes to appearances, it is our clothes, hair, waistline. When it comes to the interpersonal, we smile, be friendly, compliment. There is nothing wrong with any of these until we neglect what we have hidden away, expecting no one to ever see.

We can focus on the perception of others to the detriment of what is happening on the inside. Just as I may look put together, but my hidden toenails are unruly, just as the Pharisee focused on the practices, rituals, and rules while neglecting their integrity and relationship with God. We can focus on the tangible while ignoring the intangible.

We need to set aside appearances and clip the toenails of our lives. Erwin McManus writes in his book Uprising, “If we are committed to being the genuine article, we’d first better look closely at what we’re made of. Authenticity without integrity is lethal.”

In a world crying for authenticity, we need, need, need, to have integrity. That means, dealing with what we have hidden.

I’m sure you have a junk drawer. In my house, we have about four or five… (I don’t want to talk about it). It is easy to stash things away and ignore the mess. However, it isn’t healthy. Ignoring a problem is only a temporary fix.

We must deal with the problem. Not hide it. Whether it be an emotional issue, integrity issue, or relational issue, eventually the sock has to be removed, and the toenails clipped, so to speak.

Pray and ask Jesus to help you. After all the Scriptures tell us,

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Let’s find ourselves in God. We need to deal with…

Jesus and toenails

Check out the resources used in this post

Erwin McManus Uprising.p.67


The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 23:25–28). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The New International Version. (2011). (Jn 15:1–4). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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We need you small church Pastor

A lot has been made these days about the size of a church. In comparison to many, I’ve only been on the scene for a minute, so I really can’t say if this is a new trend or not, but it has been around for my 15+ years in ministry. However, I talk to a lot of pastors, most of which would pastor small churches, and there is an overwhelming feeling of discouragement and a lack of confidence. It appears that their hope is dwindling

In my new book, Hidden Faces, one of the things I explore is defining ourselves as either a small church or prominent church pastor and how it has detrimental effects on our identity. The state of your church does not change how God views you.

Saying all this, I believe it is sad that we praise and honour the large and never acknowledge the sacrifice and important pastoral work of the small. I once heard Karl Vaters say that the large church is Ikea and the small church is a Starbucks. Both are great but they are different.

I think about how sad it is that there are a group of people serving God to the best of their capacity who feel as though what they do no longer matters to the broader church. These men and women have dedicated their lives to the greatest message of hope in the world, they have sacrificed and lived on little. Some have moved to communities where everyone else is running out, and many are one of the very few spiritual lights in their communities, and they feel ignored. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking about one better than the other. I believe it is about honour. We need to say thank you to the big and thank you to the small. We need to figure out how to help each other. After all, we are all doing kingdom work.

I think that instead of heaping shame (whether it be perceived or not) on why they are the size they are or offering them “advice” on how they can break the next growth barrier. Maybe, we could encourage.

Thank you for being faithful when others would have turned.

Thank you for ministering to people who would never dawn the door of the closest large church.

Thank you for standing in the gap in a community where there is very little light.

Maybe what others should do is ask, how can we help the dreams this pastor has in his heart for their community become a reality? After all, aren’t we all playing for the same team? Augustine once wrote, “…the life of bodies is superior to bodies themselves.” Though their flock maybe smaller is not the value of the people, they are serving just as vital. We need big and small in order to reach all people. Ikea and Starbucks serve different functions according to peoples needs.

I’ve heard it said, do for the one what you wish you could do for the many. It is because the smaller church pastor stands in the gap that half the worlds Christians have a someone to do for the one. The small church pastor can provide specialized care. 

Small church pastor, you are not insignificant, what you do has value.

Small church pastor, thank you. Keep the faith. Fight the good fight. You are not forgotten. God wants to change your community, and he would love to do it through your church.

Thank you, from a small church pastor.

Check out the resources used in this post

Augustin Confessions.p.42

Invite You To Move

This is a song I wrote a few years ago while my daughter was sick in hospital and we weren’t sure if she would live.
It is a song about inviting God to move in our life and declaring who He is over it.

You can find the lyrics & music below.

Chorus

D                    Asus

Be lifted high, in my life

Bm             G2

I invite you to move

D                  Asus

We magnify, you in our lives

Bm           G2

We invite you to move

             D

We invite you to move

Verse 1

G                                  Asus

Mighty, is the name of Jesus

 Bm7                                   G

For he’s the only one who saves

G        Asus

Strong holds, fall down before him

Bm7                          G

He deserves our only praise

Pre Chours

A

And when the water rise

Bm7

life filled with strife

G                  D

Only you can satisfy

A

but I’ll lift my praise

Bm7

My hands I’ll raise

G                          A

for only you can save

Verse 2

G                                  Asus

Higher, is the name of Jesus

 Bm7                                   G

For he has bridged the great divide

G        Asus

Holy, There’s none above thee

Bm7                          G

Great is your love in our lives

Bridge

Bm7

Our Father who art in Heav’n

A

Glory to your name

Bm7                                 A

You Kingdom Come, your Will be done

Bm7

Give us our daily needs

A

Forgive us and our enemies

Bm 7                   G

And lead us not into temptation

Bm7                  G

Yours all power, yours all glory

     D5                        Asus 

Be Yours for ever and ever

Bridge 2

G              D             C2               G/B

Yours Be, the Glory, for ever and ever      X2

Em        Bm7             C2                 G/B

Yours be,  The glory, For ever and ever

Remember The People

I was so uncomfortable. Mainly because my ankle was the size of an elephant trunk! (I ruptured my Achilles Tendon. If you feel inclined you can check out a pic of my ankle that night on my Instagram feed. It’s gross, but it’s worth the peak).

Here I was at District Conference just trying to concentrate when I heard one of the most profound statements about the ministry I’ve ever heard from someone who had all the accolades.

Some context. The current District Superintendent was about to honour a man who had been a credential holder in the denomination for 50 years. It is quite an accomplishment. This man had pastored many different churches and even was the District superintendent for a substantial time. Great things were accomplished in his ministry, yet when reflecting on his fifty years, he said no great memories of ministries stood out.

Then he said something that should have led to a mic drop.

He stated, “My memories are not the positions I had or the policies I helped administer. What I remember is the people. A man whose life was turned around. A marriage that was restored. The faces of the different lives that were changed.”

What a great reminder. Ten million people could read this, but is that really what I’m going to remember after 50 years of ministry? Is it the positions I held, or the accolades I achieved? Probably not. At least it hasn’t been so far.

Thus far what I remember are the teenagers whose lives have been radically changed by God. The marriages that are stronger today that were headed for failure. I recall the person who had suffered tremendous loss who has found joy in Jesus.

I don’t know your success or failures. Big–small–significant–minute. When we long to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faith servant” (Matt 25), we must remember the commendation of Peter, “Feed my Sheep” (John 21).

It’s hard not to get sucked in achievement, advancement, and climbing the ladder. Yet, when looking at ministry we must always keep our eye on what’s important, the sheep, the people.

In the words of a wise credential holder fifty years down the road of vocational ministry:

Remember the people.

Trees and Church

Last summer I was walking through Chapters when a book caught my attention. The book was, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and it rocked my world. I’ve never been into trees. I did work in a lumber mill for two summers, but that is more like the opposite of loving trees…

Anyway, as I read this book, the parallels between life in Christ and trees began to come alive. I would talk to my wife, who would usually laugh at me.

I believe nature has a lot to teach us about life. I especially think it has a lot to teach us a lot about the church. Maybe this is why the Scriptures speak of trees so often (there’s a lot, trust me).

Tree’s can teach us a lot. Now, when I say that the Church can learn something from trees, I’m not talking about your local assembly or parish. What I am speaking about is the church as a whole. Here is a short list:

1) Unity and togetherness will make us stronger
“…it is not possible for the trees to grow too close to each other. Quite the opposite. Huddling together is desirable and the trunks are often spaced no more than 3 feet apart.”

And so it is with the church. We need each other.

2) Don’t compete
“The average tree grows its branches out until it encounters the branch tips of a neighbouring tree of the same height. It doesn’t grow any wider because the air and better light in this space are already taken.”

This ties in with unity. We are not in competition with each other. The Southern Baptist church at the entrance of my neighbourhood is going to reach people for Jesus who I will never reach and vice versa. It’s not my job to recruit people from their church into mine. We’re already on the same team. One way of looking at it is, we might be different restaurants, but we have the same owner.

3) We are in this together
“Every tree…is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover.”

We need to help each other, not try and leach off each other. The Great Commission isn’t about recruitment from within the ranks. The Great Commission is about going out to those who don’t know the glorious richness that they can find in Christ.

When a church is struggling that is our opportunity to help them fulfill their God calling. It may be different than ours. Perfect, we need all types. It’s not an opportunity to kick a church when it is down or increase our numbers through solicitation. It’s a time for prayer and support.

4) Pastors warn other pastors about the weeds
“If a giraffe starts eating an African acacia, the tree releases a chemical into the air that signals that a threat is at hand. As the chemical drifts through the air and reaches other trees, they ‘smell’ it and are warned of the danger. Even before the giraffe reaches them, they begin producing toxic chemicals.”

The wheat is too precious for us to allow the weeds to strangle them, especially after they have done this in our own church. I’m not talking about the pastor gossiping. I am speaking of a pastoral warning that can hopefully help the redemption process of the weed and protection of the wheat that we are entrusted with. God’s grace is so amazing that it can turn even the vilest weed into the strongest wheat. However, unless we know that the weeds are there before they sprout, it could cost us much wheat (Matt 13).

5) Pray together
“Every day in summer, trees release about 29 tons of oxygen into the air per square mile of forest. A person breathes in nearly 2 pounds of oxygen a day, so that’s the daily requirement for about ten thousand people.”

Just as the trees join together in an exhale that brings life to us, what if the church could unite, putting aside theological idiosyncracies and pray together. With a joint heart, we could release something powerful into the air.

These are just a few of the lessons we can learn from the tree.

Check out the resources used in this post

Check on your friends

I had an injury this year. I ruptured my Achilles tendon. Two weeks in a cast, ten weeks in a walking boot, and now months of physiotherapy so I can get back on the basketball court and dunk on the competition (I feel that my recovery will give me superpowers, because I certainly couldn’t dunk before).

I think the hardest part of this injury was psychological. Yes, there was pain, but the sleepless nights and the lack of mobility begins to play games with your mind. There were times when I was in a poor mental state. I didn’t tell anyone, and no one asked.

I’m thankful for the few people, some of which surprised me, who asked how I was doing. I also was surprised by those who didn’t. Some friends never checked in or even asked about the recovery process (which is twelve months, if you were wondering).

But here’s the thing, I can’t cast judgement. Why? Well, while there are times when I have reached out to those who were encountering hardships, it certainly was not all the time, nor was it even half of the time.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned from my experience.

1) Speak up
By this, I mean that I, as the person suffering, need to reach out. None of us can do life alone. It is especially true when we journey through the darker moments of life.

2) Reach over
Remember to check in with your friends. Whether they have had a significant injury, job loss, marriage problems, or even if life appears to be okay, you never know what they might be going through. If the name of a friend pops into your head out of nowhere, consider it the Holy Spirit telling to you send a text, DM, or pick up the phone (heaven forbid).

3) Grace
Remember that you don’t check in on everyone, so don’t assume others know to check in on you. Whatever the situation is that we feel slighted in, always extend grace, when you don’t you place yourself in a sinkhole of self-pity — allowing presuppositions to float around in your head.

You may feel alone. You may feel there is no hope. You may feel as though you’ve reached the end of your rope. If that is you, know that when all other friends have abandoned you “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

If you are suffering, know that there is hope, and it has a name, Jesus. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

There is no need for you to feel shame; Jesus has come to break that. I encourage you to open up your heart to and allow his love to pour into you and finally, don’t forget to check in on your friends.

The New International Version. (2011). (Pr 18:24). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

The New International Version. (2011). (Ro 5:5). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Do we need another blog?

Does the world need another blog?

No.

Yet, Here I am starting another. This can only lead us to one question, why?

I once heard someone say, “If you have something to say, say it. Whether people listen, that’s up to them.”

And so it is up to you.

I feel that God has called me to write. Whether people read, that’s up to them. I, however, feel I need to be faithful.

WHAT TO EXPECT
This blog will deal with spiritual matters. Some will be directed to pastors. Some to the whole body of Jesus followers. I hope and pray that this content will aid you in your walk with Christ. I will try and not be lengthy; after all, your time is valuable.

The aim is not to be negative or divisive, as all too many blogs are. No, the aim is to be introspective first and create dialogue second.

If you just can’t get enough, you can check out my new book, Hidden Faces: Discovering our true identity. Available June