Your great love

Verse 1

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could say, a thousand times

         C         D             G

how much I love you God

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could sing, the greatest songs

         C         D             G

of melodies touch the heart

Pre chorus

C                                            Em

none of these can ever come close

       D                     C

To your great love for me

C                                            Em

Even when I fall short

  D                     C

Your love never fails me

Verse 2

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could touch, a million souls

         C                  D                  G

and never come close to your power

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could say the sweetest words

         C         D             G

that move the stone heart close to clay

Chorus

D                                   C         G

Jesus, your cross has said it all

Bm7                                      Cmaj7

you showed your great love for me

  D                                     C           G  

You lived, you loved, you took my place

Bm7                                  

you showed your great love 

Am7  Bm7   C2                            Am7  Bm7   C2

                           Your great love

Verse 3

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could serve, a billion lives

         C                  D                  G

To show how much I love you God

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

I could go the furthest mile

         C                  D                  G

To tell the world of your mighty works

Pre

Chorus

Verse 4

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

You gave your life upon that cross

         C                  D                  G

So I would how much you love

G  D     Em     C     D      Em

You rescued me, from the cruse

         C                  D                  G

even though I was far away

Pre chorus 2

C                                            Em

‘cause nothing will ever come close

       D                     C

To your great love for me

C                                            Em

Even when I fall short

  D                     C

Your love never fails me

Advertisements

What I learned in Africa… and it’s not what you think.

Most people when they go to a foreign country, especially those that have lesser means then their own, are impacted by the poverty, lack of opportunity, and many times, the hopelessness the local people have of ever pulling themselves out of their situation.

For me, it has always been different.

It is not that the aforementioned doesn’t enter my mind, how could it not. It’s just so often we go on these experiences which have a tremendous impact on us, and while we are on the ground, there is an emotional change in us! It’s deep. It’s powerful. It’s potent. However, the effects often diminish over time. It wanes, and it’s completely normal. We return, and our reality instantly begins to shade our experience. We say we will never forget the feeling, but how can we genuinely help it! Our cultures consumerism slams us in the face everywhere we go.

Heck, you can’t even use the bathroom at most restaurants without some tv screen on the urinal wall flashing advertisements in your face.

I have led a few trips and each time, knowing the “life change” amnesia can set in, I’ve tried to take simple life lessons that are easy to apply. When these lessons can be implemented, though they are simple, they can be revolutionary in the long term.

While I was in Malawi last year, I was talking with my missionary friend Jef when he said something that has changed my life, and those around me’s lives, for the better.

“You realize when you come to Africa that they do things on their own schedule. It is hard at first to get used to it because we are always go go go but….”

And this next little comment changed my life.

“You eventually realize that there isn’t a whole lot that actually has to be done right now. Most things can wait.”

WOW. This stuck with me. This lesson did need some help to set in.

Before we get into what came next you need to understand something about me, I’m a high energy, get things done on time, anal, church planter… What that means, I’m not totally sure. What I do know is that Sunday mornings stress me out (I write about this in chapter 9 of my new book Hidden Faces). So often, stressed out of my mind, I can be found storming around making sure everything is perfect as if the seam on the drape facing out is the deciding factor on someone accept Christ…

I needed to hear that lesson Jef taught me.

However, it only sunk in a little. I should say that I had been working on this for nine months, but sometimes we need a few impactful experiences to help expedite the process.

Right before I went, and increasingly after I had severe pain when I found myself in stressful situations. I pushed through. Why? Because weakness is the enemy! About two weeks after I returned from Africa, I started getting tingling in my hip, which turned into a numb spot about the size of a quarter. Then it slowly expanded to a hip that was completely numb with this intense pain that I spoke of earlier. This lasted for about a month until I was bedridden with pain, and small lesions appeared on my back.

I had shingles.

Stressed induced shingles.

I had two months laying in pain (only getting up to do the necessary) to reflect on Jef’s words, my patterns, and where I wanted to go.

“There isn’t a whole lot that actually has to be done right now. Most things can wait.”

Tony Stoltzfus, while coaching a pastor, observed,

“Let’s say that the people you lead follow your example instead of what you say – that they imitate the way you live. Say that everyone in your congregation worked your hours, had your stress level, spent the amount of time you do with your wife and kids, and had your exercise and eating habits. If the legacy of your ministry was that your people took on your lifestyle, what would you think of that.”

If I were helping someone in my congregation who happened to have my stress level (due to anal tendencies and a need to get everything done ASAP whether it needed to be or not), I would tell them to relax, breathe, gain perspective, realize you’re not God. I would ask them to look at Jesus. Was he stressed out?

The Gospel of Mark tells us,

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The New International Version. (2011). (Mk 1:35).

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray

The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 14:23).

It seems to me that Jesus took time to relax and refresh his Spirit. It appears Jesus took care of His soul. There were times when He dismissed the crowd, took too long to get to appointments, and went off script and had a meal or a party instead of rushing to His next thing.

For Jesus, as it turns out, most things could wait. Jesus demonstrated for us what the correct life/work balance looks like.

Africa changed my life. It helped me gain perspective. It’s been over a year since I was there, and while I have moments of regression I can honestly say, the cadence of my life is dramatically different.

It’s all thanks to what I learned in Africa…and it’s not what you thought.

Check out the resources used in this post

I Sent My Son

As it turned out, we were out of cereal. As it also turned out, I was hungry. I wrangled my two youngest kids to head to Sobey’s as well as a little surprise.

What was the surprise?

Breakfast+hunger+kids= (you guessed it) McDonald’s

The kids scarfed down their hashbrown and proceeded to the play structure. This particular structure was made of multiple circles with large holes in each one that allowed children (not too small or too big) to climb through to the next.

As they ran off, I was excited for a few minutes of just sitting. I was tired from a late night of watching sports (’tis the season), I had a sore throat, and my leg was a little sore (Achilles ruptured 21 weeks ago).

It wasn’t even five minutes before my son came running to me.

“Dad, Dad!” Zeke exclaimed. “Karis is stuck.”

Good Grief! There is no way that this tired, old, sore body was going to be able to contort through those tiny holes. Now, if I had been born a snake, I could have slithered my way up to the very very top of the play structure to my daughter. If I had to, I could have probably found a way. However, she got herself up to the top, and she could get herself down. After all, she knew that if she climbed to the top, she would get stuck. I even reminded her before she went.

Karis didn’t take too kindly to getting down. She was crippled by fear as she clutched onto the plastic bubble located 25 feet above the ground. She started crying, “Daddy! Daddy! I’m scared! I’m stuck!”

That is when I sent my son.

Even though Karis had got herself into the situation, she couldn’t get her self out. She needed help. Luckily, my son was more than willing to go.

I was so proud of him as he spoke to her with love and compassion reassuring her it was going to be okay and that she just needed to trust him.

“I won’t let you fall. You just have to trust me, Karis. I can help you down.”

10 MINUTES! If I were Zeke, I would have lost my poop by that point. He stood there continually reassuring her that it was going to be okay–over and over again saying, “You just need to trust me.”

As I stood there, my frustration over this predicament began to dissipate. I was starting to feel my emotions well up as the Holy Spirit reminded me of how when I was stuck, in the consequences of my own wrong decision, my heavenly Father sent his son, Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”

Even more moving, the fact that God didn’t chastise me from afar.

Jesus came in love and compassion, showing us the Father’s heart–hearing our cries–compelling us to trust him.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Zeke eventually convinced Karis to trust him, and they made their way down, but I think of how different it would have gone if instead of love, patience, kindness, compassion; he spoke vitreal, wrath, judgement, fear — knowing my daughter, probably not well. Luckily for her, Zeke was there (Ezekiel means, God will strengthen) to be her strength when she had none. He was willing to give her what she needed, how she needed it at that moment, grace through love (Karis is our take on Charis, which means grace).

Harold Fickett Jr. writes, “My favourite definition is, ‘Grace is God thinking in terms of what a man needs, rather than in terms of what he deserves.'”

It reminds me of that popular song by Hillsong United,
“I called
you answered
and you came to my rescue…”

As Psalm 40 says and U2 echoes,

“He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the mire and clay.”

Maybe you feel stuck. Call out to God. His son, Jesus, is waiting with grace-filled arms to help you. He doesn’t stand there with a pointed finger. He isn’t a master rubbing your nose in your dirt. Jesus comes with no condemnation, but in hope and hope secure. It is a hope that will never ever fails. I love how the King James Version put Romans 5:5, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Though we may be stuck God sent his son to bring hope. It’s a hope that doesn’t carry shame but one of freedom. It’s a hope that comes into our hearts and can consume even the darkest corners but we have to be willing to let it. Not shame, but hope. Not condemnation, but compassion. Not wrath, but love.

I am thankful that while in a McDonald’s playground, the Holy Spirit reminded me that the Father sent his son, just as I sent my son.

Check out the resources used in this post

Addict in Recovery Church

Recently while working on a message for my church on the “ROI of Church” I came across this quote from Russell Brand’s book Recovery,

“When my disease is on me, the loneliness and hopelessness seem real. One of the first measures I can take to alleviate it is to reach out to another addict.”

Russell Brand

It reminded me of a thought that I’ve had for a long time.

We’re all addicts.

Every.

Single.

Person.

Whether it is something destructive, visible and socially ho-hum or something that is seen as necessary, discrete, and socially praised, we are all addicted to something.

Maybe it’s drugs or alcohol, or perhaps it’s love and affection. Maybe it’s sex or pornography, or perhaps it’s success and praise. It’s time we realize we are all addicts.

I believe that when we begin to recognize that we’re addicts and we decide to start to live in a community of people who realize we are all in recovery, we begin to see fullness and freshness come to our faith and thus, our churches. The church thus acts as a place of recovery, not a place where no one needs to recover.

If each of us would recognize that we are all equally broken, just manifesting it in different ways, I wonder how much more open we would be to “reach out to another addict” as Brand states, and them to us.

In Luke 15, it tells the story of two brothers who on the surface appear to be in complete contrast with each other. The younger, brash and seeking instant gratification, spends all his money on hookers and wild living. He finds himself at the end of life’s rope.

The older is righteous and willing to resist instant gratification. This brother stays at home, denying pleasure, and slaving for his father. Of course, the elder brother thinks he doesn’t have a problem. He is responsible. He works hard.

The younger son decided it would be better to return to his father as an apprentice after losing everything and dangling from the end of life’s rope. After all, he says, “even the hired hands live better than me.” He thinks he has to return home and be a slave for his father.

The older after seeing that his father has welcomed his younger brother home, thrown a huge party, and is calling him a son again pouts and declares that he has denied himself all the wild living and chose to slave for his father. To which the father response was that he never was a slave and all he had to do was ask, and everything would be his.

Though it manifests in different ways, both of these brothers suffered from the same sin. Neither brother knew their father’s heart. While one thought he would become a slave, the other lived as one. The only difference is the younger son’s willingness to repent while the elder lived in self-righteousness.

Whether it is self-indulgence or self-righteousness, the sin remains the same. Just as both brothers lived opposed to the father’s desire, so we do too. We are addicted to doing on our own. Whether it is making ourselves feel good or trying to earn God’s love and affection. When we have a community that is willing to admit they have a “self” problem, no matter which end of the spectrum each person finds themselves, we can be an immense help to each other.

When we are tempted to ignore the father’s heart, we would have someone to call.

Let’s be addicts in recovery church.

Check out the resources used in this post

Our Problem Isn’t Our Problem

It all started back in 1994. It was the summer between grade 4 and 5. I had moved out of my love for baseball (back to back world series champions, the Toronto Blue Jays were my love) due to the MLB strike, cancelling the world series that year, and had moved on to a new love, the NBA. I was in with the Orlando Magic.

Shaq and Penny. What a duo.

But in summer of ’94, an announcement came that divided my heart. Toronto and Vancouver were awarded franchises. Basketball had come back to Canada. Suddenly my loyalty shifted.

This is why I needed to find a way! A way to what? To watch the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks. I saw on someone’s Facebook feed that there were links to sites where I could watch. I found a link, and I enjoyed the bliss of watching the Raps head to the NBA finals for the very first time!!!!!!

However, the next day, I had a problem. I was trying to back up my files to my external hard drive and but it wouldn’t connect. No matter which port I plugged the USB into, nothing. I tried all the tricks google would spit at me, and nothing still.

Immediately I rushed to the apple store. I was scared to death that there was a serious problem with my laptop. Hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, I imagined a virus attaching every file on my computer and me only being able to salvage the most pertinent ones. Luckily for me, I just looked like a dope.

Why?

Well, because as soon as the expert tried, the hard drive in question kicked in, booted up, and connected. The tech opened my chrome browser and began to google something when, pop pop pop pop! Popups were everywhere.

I went into the Apple store, thinking I had one problem, and as it turned out, I had another.

Being a pastor means encountering a lot of people. People begin to come to church or explore faith, thinking that they have one particular problem in their life. It might be their marriage, their kids, their job, or their health. They come looking for the answer to their perceived problem.

It reminds me of a story Walter Isaacson tells in his book about Steve Jobs. The predecessor of Steve Jobs’ second run at running Apple was Gil Amelio. While describing what he believed his role at Apple was, he said,

“‘You know, Gina, Apple is like a ship,’ Amelio answered. ‘That ship is loaded with treasure, but there’s a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction. ‘Smith looked perplexed and asked, ‘Yeah, but what about the hole?'”

Walter Isaacson

Amelio perceived that his job was one thing. However, it was clear that he was completely blind to the actual problem. THERE’S A HOLE IN THE BOAT!

It is easy to perceive what the problems in our life are. We want the issue that we think is the issue fixed and we pray to God to fix it. God, on the other hand, is more concerned with the root of the issue rather than treating the symptom.

It is like going to a mechanic because when you put your foot on the break it makes a grinding noise, but telling them they aren’t allowed to change your breaks and rotors.

It is hard to self diagnose. The marriage, the sadness, the lack of fulfilment are all symptoms. Just as I needed an outside voice to speak into my problems, so we all need an outside voice to look and see the actual problem. We think we have a hard drive problem when we are infected with Malware.

Usually, something from our past that has given us filters that we hear through and lenses we see through. Past circumstances have influenced why we have made the decisions we have made.

You might be able to say that if the Raptors never came to Toronto in ’95, then I would have never got Malware in ’19.

In my new book, Hidden Faces: Discovering Our True Identity in Christ, I speak of how we have diagnosed the problem and put different masks, (or faces) trying to fix the problem. In actuality, we have believed the lie from the garden of Eden, that we are not who God has said we are. God has declared that you are his child and that He has sent His son to make you whole.

For that to happen, we have to be willing to see the hole in the boat and admit that we need God to fix it. We must admit that our problem isn’t our problem.

Check out the resources used in this post

Drive-thru Faith

We love instant. Netflix and Prime help us get our shows instantly. Spotify and Apple music help us get whatever music we want when we want. Drive-thru restaurants, instant coffee, ready-made meals, miracle grow on our vegetables.

They say that in the early ’00s the average person waited for 8’s on a link to open before clicking again or moving on. Experts say it is now closer to 3. 3 seconds!

We are obsessed instant. Heck, who can blame us, instant is amazing. Why wait when you don’t have to?

The problem is we have allowed instant gratification to infiltrate other parts of our life where it has no business being.

Instant love. Instant celebrity. Instant sex.

We have also allowed this idea to penetrate our concept of faith. Whether it be the rate in which “discipleship” happens or the growth of our churches or even how rapidly we elevate up the sanctification ladder, there is an emphasis and desire for fast results and instant growth.

When I look at Scripture, however, this is not the picture I see. What I see is all about the refinement of time. Think about the disciples, three years of following Jesus in every imaginable way before they were finally released to do it together.

Even more so, some of the most prominent figures in the Older Testament needed years of being crafted and refined by God.

Joseph was seventeen when he had the dream of his brothers bowing down to him. If he would have seen this dream fulfilled within a short amount of time, I believe it wouldn’t be the happy ending of redemption and reconciliation Genesis tells us about. Joseph dealt, time and time again, with incredible adversity. Each time God used the pain and struggle to mold Joseph into the type of man who could fulfill the destiny God had planned for his life.

Or how about David. While his older brothers were off at war, David fostered his skills with a sling and lyre while watching over stinky bleating sheep. Yes, David was still a very young man when he began to achieve success in Saul’s army, but he didn’t ascend to be king. David endured great persecution, again refining his character. God used the abuse from Saul to shape David’s character, just as with Joseph, into the type of man who not only was royalty but lived like royalty (a little hint about my next book).

Finally, think about Moses, the most famous of the three. Forty years as an adopted Prince in Egypt. Forty years as a fugitive shepherd in Midian. Forty years wandering through the wilderness with a group of frustrating nomades. God first began to mold Moses as he shepherded sheep and then added a nation to the process. Both took a substantial amount of time before they were the type of people ready to inherit the destiny God had called them.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that God never works rapidly. The Apostle Paul was a rapid case. There have also been many throughout history who are redeemed, changed and are immediately called upon to do great things. That is their story, though, and it is not the norm.

Embrace the wait, savour the lessons of time, cherish all the lessons learned, and reject a drive-thru faith.

Worship Is A Verb

Andy Stanley points out “Christians, and church leaders in particular, use the term worship loosely. Let’s face it: We use the term as an adjective… We have worship music, worship leaders, worship centres, and worship services.” Andy Stanley Deep & Wide.p.214

Worship isn’t an adjective.
Worship is a verb.
Worship isn’t a thing. It is something that we do.

Is it possible that the reason we have worship wars and complain about anything we can think about when it comes to communal church worship is that we treat it as something, anything, other than a verb? We to often focus on our preferences rather than the God to whom we worship.

Leonard Sweet points out, “You don’t attend worship; you attend a concert. You participate in worship. You contribute to worship.” Leonard Sweet Giving Blood.p.257

Is it possible the concert trend in worship is because we the congregation has ceased to be participants? After all, if people won’t engage, maybe, we can at least entertain. I am not saying this is what has happened, but possibly it is a contributing factor. It is also possible that the increase in performance and having lyrically cool songs, that we have inadvertently weeded out participation.

I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I have a feeling that our lack of theological understanding of the purpose of communal worship has brought us to this point, but we’ll save that discussion for a later post.

Way back worship songs were Psalms and other like Scriptures. As the popular music of the time changes, so did the worship styles. Changes within church music aren’t a new phenomenon. I remember hearing a story about people complaining about a new church song in the 1800s. They said the song was too secular as well as other unchoice words. That song was Ode To Joy.

Just as the typical church song in the 1800s was a reimagining of the drinking songs of the day, so much of the current popular worship songs are on trend with today’s contemporary music. Complete with synth tracks, drum loops, guitar solos, and complex, ambiguous lyrical structures and melodies.

It may take time to teach our congregations what it means for worship to be a verb. In the meantime, maybe we need to try and meet them halfway. Perhaps we need to be a little more selective with our song choices. Reminiscent of the drinking 17century drinking song turn to church hymns we need to find songs that have a current style with easy melodies and lyrical substance that teaches them about a God whose love compels us to worship.

It is just a suggestion, but this might help us see that worship is a verb.

Check out the resources used in this post

Intimacy is Hard

I grew up in a traditional East coast Canadian household. Meaning, you’re never too open, and you’re excellent at surface talk, but never reveal too much (the British roots helped with that also). Add to that the fact that I was in a military family, and you move every few years.

You have to learn coping skills.

If you never let anyone in, then you will never be hurt.
Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.

Meanwhile, there is a longing in us just to be known–for someone to feel, think, and be with us. It is a deep longing that as much as you run from it, it sticks to us like a shadow.

I’ve come to realize this isn’t just a “me” thing. We all do it. Few have overcome it. While it’s downright frightening to open up our hearts and lives and draw near to someone else, it doesn’t change the fact that we are desperate for it.

Intimacy isn’t a sex thing.

Intimacy is a human thing. God has created us for interconnected relationship. We need brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, neighbours; we need relationships just as we need water.

We often spew the surface film over social media and blogs. However, there is something about intimacy that extracts the darkness that can so easily consume and can infuse light in its place.

While the typical Christian cliché is that God is “closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24), we need to take a step further still. We must rely on God! So true. However, we need each other. Paul equated it to a body, Paul and Jesus to a family, and Peter and Paul to a house. Bodies have lots of parts, and those parts are very much in an intimate relationship with each other. I’ve had various injuries, and you realize just how interconnected your body is. It is also true with a family. As much as we may love, like, or dislike our family, we need one (whether that be genetically or relationship). Just how in a house all the pieces connect to support each other to stay strong, so we must also.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

No one can carry your burden with you if you don’t first invite them into a relationship. We must trust people. We must invest in people. We must allow other people to invest in us.

Your intimacy issues are no ones but your own. Donald Miller points out, “It’s the one thing we all want, and must give up control to get.”

If we need–if we starve for it–then we must risk it. We must step into vulnerability. Yes, you might get hurt from time to time, but the wholeness you welcome will revolutionize your life. As Emmett from Lego Movie 2 says, “It’s easy to harden your heart, but to open it, that’s the hardest thing to do.”

Intimacy is hard.

Check out the resources used in this post

The New International Version. (2011). (Ga 6:2). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Donald Miller Scary Close.p.98

Lego Movie 2