Sunday, December 28, 2008
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, how many would say, “That’s my King!” When it was declared at His birth that He was a King, Herod tried to kill Him. Thirty-plus years later, Pilate found himself eye to eye with this King, unsure what to do with Him.
Much has been said about this King. On Newsweek’s website in 2006, they asked their readers to express who they thought this Jesus was. Here are some of their responses.
“We don’t know many historical facts concerning Jesus, but apparently he was a rabbi who was an example of compassion. Since then he has been exploited by Christians, particularly Americans.”
“Jesus is real, in the sense that he exists for those who want him to exist.”
“Jesus is my personal Higher Power. He helps me stay sober one day at a time.”
“I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe I am a Son of God.”
“Jesus is about as real as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or King Arthur.”
“Jesus was a man who was nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change.”
“Jesus was a man we should pity more than revile or worship. He suffered from what contemporary psychologists now know to be delusions of grandeur, bipolar disorder, and probably acute schizophrenia.”
Who do you say He is? Many say, “That’s my King!” I say, “He’s my King!” To say He is your King is no light statement. I gave this some thought and here is how His Kingship is fleshed out in my life. When I say “He’s my King”, I am saying...
1. I recognize Christ not just as a good man, a wise man, an influential man… but as the God Man!
2. I choose to subject all my decisions, my thoughts and ambitions to His ultimate authority.
3. I read His word, not like I read the Whig Standard or McLean’s but as a sacred text full of mystery and the creed that governs my life.
4. I seek to honour Him in every crowd, conversation and contact.
5. I realize that His Kingship in my life is to be as true and real on Friday night as it is on Sunday morning as I sit in church where I am suppose to be good.
6. I pursue Him when times are good and when times are bad. When I understand where He is leading and when I do not.
7. I accept the mantle of being His ambassador, a vessel in which His Spirit can dwell. When people see me, they should see aspects of His Kingdom and this King living in and through me.
8. I live on my knees where I remain a student, embracing wonder and mystery. Not on my feet, self-assured and self-made.
9. I acknowledge that all we see is His. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and has graciously given me life on one of those hills.
10. I rest assured that He watches over me today, redeems my worst yesterday, and knows, and guides me into tomorrow.
This is my King!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
One of the reasons I write these weekly articles is to create a connection between you and me. I realize that, in a church the size of Bethel, it is impossible to make significant contact with everyone. Thus, I hope that these articles have helped in a small way to create a point of contact. I have very much appreciated talking and corresponding with some of you who have read the weekly articles and provided some input. This week I thought I would include the Kotchapaw Christmas letter.
God bless and have a great Christmas!
I find myself writing this letter sitting in a completely different context than the one I found myself in last year. Last year....
• Snow shovelling was a distant memory
• “Minus” temperatures only existed in the fridge or freezer
• Dreaming of a white Christmas was as far as it went
This year the shovel is out, I feel like I am living in the freezer and dreams are coming true. The Kotchapaw world has changed. We have returned, repatriated and been reminded of how challenging and unique the Canadian experience is - especially as winter bears down on us.
We wanted to write and provide a brief update on how life is for us now in the North Pole.
In terms of the church, Bethel, we feel we are fitting into this unique ministry setting. Bethel is a downtown church, planted right in the heart of The Ghetto. This is a term referring to where many of the Queens University students live. Queens is one of the top universities in Canada, and that deeply influences the demographics of our church. We are a multi-generational, multi-cultural church, embracing the very educated, least educated, rich and poor. We are truly loving learning about our new ministry environment and being part of what God is doing in this part of His Kingdom.
Rhonda is working full time as a teacher placement manager with Oxford Seminars. Her office is a 7-minute drive from our front door. Commuting is not much of a challenge but she is finding that the learning curve at her work is keeping her motivated and growing. We are very grateful for this job, especially in these economically difficult times.
Our kids are doing well. Lyndsey has had a great semester in her second year of university. We think she is having more fun than ever but is still keeping her grades up. Landon is working at a Deli in downtown Ottawa. He is taking a Gap Year before heading off for more schooling. Taylor is in grade 11 and keeping busy with academics, working part-time at Tim Horton’s and keeping his social life nurtured.
We are all very grateful on how well our adjustment has gone in coming back into our own culture. In some ways we feel like we never left. In other ways, we see how our lives have been deeply shaped and influenced by living oversees for six and a half years.
We hope that you have a great Christmas and find some good down time to invest in relationships and celebrate the birth of Christ.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Connect The Dots
Ever played "connect the dots"? Probably not recently seeing that you are likely an adult reading this article! Many of us though, have played connect the dots in our past. As kids we connected the dots in the right sequence and spelled words or drew pictures. There was an element of surprise as the word or picture became clear. For the overly ambitious once the dots were connected, the coloured crayons would come out and add artistic flare.
I think life is like connect the dots. Like dots on a page we can feel disconnected and alone. However, as we converse with each other we sense a greater connection with the other “dots”. Conversation connects you with me as we realize just how much we have in common. And while there are many issues that connect us, one issue that connects us all like a line between two dots is our brokenness. Some of us carry heavy loads - we wish we could somehow off-load burdensome luggage. Worse yet, some of us walk all alone, “dots” weighed down, feeling like we are the only one on the page. Let me share with you what for many that brokenness looks like.
Divorce - I would imagine that if we were to take a survey on a Sunday morning with a show of hands, that the majority of people would raise their hand acknowledging that their lives had been touched by divorce. Most of us, if not having walked through divorce ourselves, have a close family member whose life has been scarred by such a break up. For example, this Christmas, how many of us will be juggling kids between our home and the spouse we have divorced? How many of us will not see a particular family member because divorce has removed that person from the family circle. How many grandparents will attempt to offer up a little more TLC because their grandkids have been exposed to the harsh winds of divorce? Unfortunately many of our lives are connected by the trauma of divorce.
Alcoholism - Since returning to Canada I have been amazed with how many people have alcoholism in their family background. I have learned much about what it means to be "a child of an alcoholic" just by listening to peoples' stories of growing up with an alcoholic parent. Some kids become perfectionists, trying to please the parent who binges and never nurtures a child who so desperately needs love. Others attempt to become "the strong one". Never acknowledging their own need but instead being "the fixer"! What alcoholism has left in its wake is not pretty, but I have seen many stories of God's deliverance and healing. Unfortunately many of our lives are connected by the trauma of alcoholism.
Physical Sickness – This can come in a number of packages. One such way is sickness that accompanies an aging body. As someone said to me “I think at times the golden years have lost their shine.” There are many seniors who are wearing a path down to the doors of medical clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, all in an attempt to deal with the aches and pains that come with time. Then there is mental sickness, addictions, and terminal illnesses that can ravage the body regardless of age. Unfortunately many of our lives are connected by the reality of physical sickness.
We are not “dots” all alone on a page but we are connected by brokenness. Each of us could probably tell a story or two, fill a few pages talking about how divorce, alcoholism or physical sickness or other events have shaped our lives, influenced our prayers, occupied our minds and tried our patience.
However, for many of us there is another reality that connects us, like a line between two dots - it is our hope in the Christ of Christmas. It is our journey of faith! Many of us could tell a story or two, fill a few pages talking about how faith has sustained us, how God’s Word has strengthened us, how the Body of Christ has rallied around us.
It is our brokenness that draws us to the manger where we join the magi and worship this Christ. The Son of God of which it was said:
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:21-23
And then as He began His public ministry He said of Himself:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,  to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." Luke 4:18-19
We are not dots all alone on a page. Our lives are connected. Our journeys intersect at many points. Yet I am most grateful that what connects us most deeply in this life and will connect us for eternity is not our brokenness but our hope in this Christ of Christmas!
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!  "Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?"  "Who has ever given to God,that God should repay him?"
 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
During this past weekend (Nov 29) we had a mini retreat at Ewen Mackenzie’s home. The purpose of our meeting was to look at how Bethel plans to fulfill Christ’s command of making disciples. Bethel has several great programs, we have many great workers and leaders but it is extremely important that all our efforts go into prioritizing what the church should be doing - making disciples (Matthew 28:19,20). If lives are not being transformed to be more Christ-like, then we seriously need to question what we are doing and how we are doing it.
During the mini retreat we discussed:
- How our own lives have experienced transformation. What have been the factors that have contributed to our growth?
- What a disciple looks like.
- What the process might look like at Bethel regarding a disciple-making ministry.
- How important it is that we execute well. Sometimes we can over-promise but under-deliver. Elephants should be eaten one bite at a time.
- The importance of handling change well. We need to be highly sensitive to how people process change and we need to take time to help people work issues through.
- The value of establishing true authentic community at Bethel. We all agreed that when we looked at our own lives, relationship was a key factor in our growth.
- The importance of not being a “busy” church but a “purpose-directed” church.
We would very much appreciate your prayers as we continue to move along in this process. We have another meeting scheduled this Tuesday (Dec 9) and another retreat scheduled for January 2009. We are committed to leading Bethel into becoming a community where people are transformed by the power of Christ and live contagious lives every day of the week, proclaiming and demonstrating Emmanuel- God is with us!
For the elders’ team,
P.S. Feel free to ask us questions concerning this process. We learn from the dialogue. In the New Year you will have opportunity to contribute to the discussion. Many of you have already.
Destined For The Dust Bin!
At one of our staff meetings recently we took yellow post-it notes and stuck them on everything in the room that was destined to become dust. As you can imagine, there were yellow post-it notes everywhere. I even had one stuck to my forehead.
Why would we do such an exercise? Because it led to a discussion about how we should live, what we should invest in, in light of the temporal things with which we are surrounded. Here were some of our comments:
- All this “stuff” is not an end in itself but a means to a greater end – Loving God passionately and serving others significantly. Sometimes in ministry (and relationships), we can become so busy that we feel we don’t have time for people. In fact, we can even find ourselves too busy to spend time cultivating our relationship with God. Instead of the temporal being a platform that propels us in to better loving God and serving people, it can actually have the reverse effect. We can become bound by it!
- Sometimes we can get quicker results with the temporal stuff than with the eternal priorities. Think about it: investing in people can be a slow, arduous, “not visible” process. However, checking off my to-do list for the day can produce results. All those check-marks bring a sense of accomplishment.
- We can quickly forget when working on a team that what is often more important than the task is the person on the team. We can push ahead to finish but not realize that the partnership in ministry is an awesome opportunity to invest in the person or person (s). We may celebrate a job well done, but sometimes what is more important is using the project to invest in the person!
- We live in a culture that is finding it increasingly difficult to know how to cultivate a rich relationship with God and people. For example, when people get together, it’s often not to pursue each other, to know each others’ hearts, or to wrestle with the issues of the soul. Sometimes people unknowingly hide behind “doing things” as opposed to getting to know the person. We do things “together” but remain distant from really knowing the other person’s heart.
" 'Love the Lord your God (eternal) with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbour (eternal) as yourself (eternal).'"