Ambassadors or Adversaries

Sheep dog and wolf

We have a choice to make … will we choose to be ambassadors or adversaries in our relationship to the world around us. We cannot do both. If we are to impact society, we must learn to develop relationships with the people that we live and work among. To discharge our disapproval accomplishes nothing. To care sincerely gives us a framework to invest in the lives of others. Jesus never alienated the irreligious, he endeared himself to them. He was invited to their parties and celebrations. The religious excluded those that Jesus loved and they criticized Him mercilessly for this. What will you choose to do?

Unity and Diversity

One of the many things that I enjoy about being home is that time, space and friends are directly tied to memories. And shared memories are the best. Living abroad, memories were more short-term. The longest period of time that we spent in a single location was 16 years, in Fredericton. With certain individuals, I could look back that far and ask the the question, “Do you remember the time … ?” And that was nice, but outside the period of time we lived in that location, there were no shared memories.

There is one guy though. He’ll read this very newsletter. His name is Layton Ford, a.k.a., “Tigger”, his running nickname. We can reminisce all the way back to circa 1987. We have so many great stories. It seems like I must have known him all my life but that is where our stories intersect. WE still have contact, … not as much as I would like but geography is a minor thing to come between friends. Absence make the stories even better. Love you, Tig.

A high school friend now deceased, used to make me laugh quite regularly. Now we are going back 53 years or more. Glenn G and Anzonette U, “Do you remember the times we used to walk into class and someone would ask this mutual friend, ‘What are you doing?'”

His straight-faced reply always made me laugh. I’m not sure why. It was a stock response. “Just growing a beard.” He’s the only person that I ever heard, who used a response like that.

To me it was funny because of the way that it was said. It was funny because I don’t know of anyone who ever sits down intentionally to try to grow a beard. It was funny because, try or not, some sparse or dense stubble would appear, unless you happened to be a lady. It was funny because beard-growing is a slow process for most.

What he really was saying was, “I’m doing absolutely nothing.”

We all get asked that question here and there. Occasionally, I have wanted to respond to the what-are-you-doing question with a similar response, “Trying to build a church.”

In these years of my life I am realizing that:

  • I cannot build a church. I might be able to build attendance but attendance is not Church.
  • God is building His Church globally even as he builds locally.
  • Building a church means building people … building them up, helping them to grow stronger in their relationship with Christ, walking with them through celebration and sorrow and the ordinariness of everyday life.
  • Building buildings is not building Church
  • Implementing programs is not building Church. 
  • I’ll just wear myself out trying and burn others out in the process.

It’s really just looking for ways to participate in God’s ongoing agenda. I remind myself of this quite often when I am tempted to fall back into old familiar ways. I surrender to God’s plan and purpose for our lives at CLC. ‘We have this ministry … ” (2 For. 4:1). And we do have this ministry. It’s ours, one that offers hope to those who have to look hard to find it. As we point people Jesus-ward, He builds His Church.

One day we’ll look back at this time in the life of our Church and ask each other, “Do you remember that time when … ?” These are good days my brothers and sisters, as strange as they may be and as uncertain as they may be … they are good.

It’s not that it’s wrong
It’s just that it’s sad
To not see the good 
For all that is bad. (KI)

What we cannot do, God can. What we cannot see, God sees. He is at work and our part in what He is doing is many times, like trying to grow a beard. (Excepting the ladies) Thanks for being a part of what He is building at 1235 RT. 776. And thanks for being with us today.

From The Heart

Storm Chips …

It really is a thing and it is ours.

The phenomenon can be traced back to a casual on-air conversation in 2014. Stephanie Domet, who hosted the Mainstreet Halifax program on CBC Radio One, made an offhand remark about her plans to pick up some chips and dip in preparation for an upcoming blizzard. An enthusiastic discussion followed with a colleague who shared similar snack preparation rituals in his household.

This seemingly inconsequential chat resonated with listeners. Suddenly, the idea that storm preparations included a trip to the snack aisle gained traction. Media outlets noticed the pattern, and reports of noticeable spikes in chip sales emerged whenever a major storm was on the horizon. Read more …

Do you have YOUR storm chips?

What do you do on a storm day? It’s Wednesday and I, like many of you, are at home today, trying not to feel guilty about having some unproductive time … maybe.

Maybe you are catching up on the list. All those things that have been piling up because you have been busy with everything else. and what waits at home, comes last.

Maybe you are charging your devices in case the power goes out.

Maybe you have decided that you are not going to do anything at all. Every once in a while, or every so often, or more frequently than we do, … we ought to stop the productivity penchant. Busyness is not necessarily a badge of honour. Some times doing less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does is the best approach.

It’s the tension between what is urgent and what is important.

What is urgent screams for our immediate attention. Want is important waits quietly, patiently for us to assign it as a priority.

In a Chuck Swindoll book, I read the following illustration, some years ago.

Benno Schmidt Jr. had just assumed the presidency of Yale University. As you might imagine, this prestigious assignment was a relentlessly demanding assignment. He was being interviewed about the new position and he said this:

”If I can’t put my feet on the desk and look out the window and think without an agenda, I may be managing Yale, but I won’t be leading it.”

For many of us, our busyness mens that we are managing, but in truth, life is running us ragged. Life is making something out of us that we do not want to be or taking something from us that we dare not surrender.

We should be making something out of the life we have been given rather than being shaped by a life that we can barely manage.

There are many aspects to prioritizing the life that disappears so quickly. One of the most important is the value system that we choose to adopt.

An old Bob Dylan song gave us the lyrics, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” It was off one of his four gospel albums. This album was entitled, “Slow Train Coming”, an especially appropriate title. In the flavour of this newsletter, take time to listen to this song. Just click that link that you passed over. It might be an important reminder, whether or not you like Bob’s music. It’s a simple truth and a great reminder.

So this morning, we are going to talk about this critical difference. Are managing or living/leading?

Thanks for joining us this morning … at CLC, we’re in for life.

The One and Only

In our last church, in Fredericton, we were blessed to have a wonderful Christian lady who happened to be a doctor. Often, professionals such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, accountants are never off-duty when they come to a Sunday church service.

You know what I mean, right?

We have that one question that we feel we need to ask, to tap their expertise in an informal setting. It seems unlike work in our estimation because it is in another atmosphere. We are not in their office … it’s just casual conversation among friends. Most always, when I have been guilty of talking about “business” on Sundays, these folks have been gracious, likely more than I might be, I fear. The are the S.M.E.s (Subject Matter Experts) within arm’s reach.

I’ve stepped over those boundaries more than once and I feel badly about it.

This lady, Dr. Carman … attended to my father, about five years before he died. It seemed that he had a heart attack and I felt that if he were to be hospitalized, the DECH (Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital) would be easier for me to visit than the Regional.

So she agreed to care for him.

Dad, God Bless him … felt that he knew what was wrong with him and a heart attack was not one of the possibilities, in his estimation. I was there for their first meeting and consultation. I sat like a fly on a wall and listened as Dad explained his situation to this dear lady. She patiently absorbed every word he spoke without interruption. Carman had a beautiful, subtle perma-smile that communicated empathy, respect, humility and a host of other qualities that set my father at ease.

When he was finished, she ordered some bloodwork and I took dad home fro supper in New Maryland. We barely sat down at the table and I got a call from her office. She wanted dad at the hospital immediately. The blood work showed evidence that he had experienced a heart attack. I explained to dad that the doctor wanted him at the hospital. He was there for more than a week. I had the chance to visit him each day and enjoy some different kind of conversation than we had ever enjoyed before. Although he never admitted it, the heart attack and thoughts of his mortality, took us to a deeper level of father/son transparency.

And dad eventually returned home with something new, trust for a doctor, who took time and interest in him and allowed him to express himself.

In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, (Please don’t dismiss the book for the title. It’s really a common sense book about life and relationships.) Steven Covey asserts that people are influenced by us to the degree that they perceive we are influenced by them. Time and fixed attention are two of the most life-changing gifts that we can give people. Conversely, to be “in a hurry” or “distracted” when we are interacting with people, communicates that we really don’t value people, our spouses and children most of all.

A couple of things …

God knows the deepest realities of our hearts. Much of our prayer lives are spent as amateur diagnosticians, telling God what the problem with the world really is. We self-diagnose, self-prescribe and self-medicate.

And the blood work tells the tale, confirming or denying our prognostications. At the end of the day, He is the Great Physician and we are the not-always-so-great patients.

He wants to hear us express our hearts to Him in honesty and trust. This is the essence of relationship.Without the freedom to speak openly, there is no relationship. And that honesty must be reciprocal. When we are open, we want the same openness in return. This is word of God as it comes to us in different ways. Most specifically, the voice of the Spirit coming to us in Truth as much as we are able to comprehend it. And no one understands totally. “We see through a glass, darkly. (1 Cor. 13)

God longs to make us whole. He can cure the body, the mind, the soul and bind up the broken hearted. I love the sign on the cobbler shop, … “We mend the rips, patch the holes, build up the heels and save the soles.” And most of all,He can be trusted.

Thanks for being with us today at CLC. (As of this writing, I am seeing some snow forecast for Sunday. Here’s hoping that the roads will be bare.)

He Remains Faithful …

This is one of those scriptures that I cling to. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.” Paul’s encouragement to Timothy. I am so conscious of my tendency to faithlessness. There is a bad edit in this sermon that may leave you shaking your head. Somehow I lost a short, connecting portion of the message as I edited it.

PEACE … Life’s Essential Context

Peace … it’s an inside out thing but like so many other faith concepts, our tendency is to make it just the opposite. If we can order our outside world according to our liking and manage or control it then we assume that everything will be okay internally. But the propensity to manage and control is the very problem that makes our ends, so elusive. It creates the internal chaos that makes peace impossible.

The Advent themes: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love strike at the very heart of our desire to find our way independent of God and others.

This week we are highlighting the Peace that comes to us in relationship with God. It is the peace that you bring to life that matters, not the peace that you believe that you can find in life itself. We’ll chat that through in the CLC-ish way today, praying that God communicates Himself to you in the way that you most need Him.

Isn’t it amazing how easy and blessed an experience that we can find when we choose to focus on the Christ whose birthday season we celebrate? It still amazes me.