Wednesday, December 20, 2006


So, I just returned from Colombia. My time away and the realities of catch-up mode since my return have meant little action on this particular page lately.

I simply want to reflect briefly on one of the many lessons I learned during my time away: Jesus transforms lives!

For those of you, like me, who grew up without tyring too much of the wild life it can be easy to forget how desparetly we need to be changed from the inside out. Hence, we can underestimate the radical life-quake that comes when a person says with conviction, "Jesus is Lord!"

For those of you who have forgotten this transforming reality, and for those of you who think it's just a bunch of bunk, I can only say that I saw, touched, and heard first hand the truth of what I speak. In Colombia I met people whose lives have been so rescued from the gutter of life, from the trash heap of society, and from the grips of evil that I could only weep. It's not just that they became nicer, or willed themselves into new clothes, no, they were completely and utterly morphed into new people - that's what they said! It's almost like they were born again! Hmmm...

So, the simple truth for you and me this Christmas: That baby transforms people when he is born in us!

I bring my offering yet again...and wonder and hope and smile.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


So, I'm off to Colombia this week to once again have my eyes and ears tuned to things beyond my own parcel of real estate! Inevitably these trips to other places always remind me of a couple necessary truths...
1. God has people who belong to him and are doing incredible things for Jesus everywhere!
2. People with less than me often live more free and selfless than me.
3. I am part of a culture that is drowning in it's own over-abundant pleasures.
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4. I love being part of what God's doing in the world - including the part he is doing in me!

Where are you being tuned? Where are you being rescued from drowning?

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no."

Those words of Jesus sound so simple, don't they? Of course I mean what I say and say what I mean - or do I? The discipline of truthfulness and truth-telling is very difficult in this age of spin.

It disturbs me how often I use my words to justify who I am, why I'm doing something or why I'm not doing something. It irks me that half-truths are easier to tell than full-truths. Many of us don't out-right lie, we just withhold or speak our minds behind the back of one who deserved the truth of our thoughts. Even husbands and wives can live in secret from one another - daring almost to live in hiding where they are to be most fully seen. To be a Christian is to know the truth that sets free and live the truth of that freedom.

How can we be the Church if we aren't full of truth? How can we be a body if the right hand deceives the left? It saddens me when distrust infects the body of Christ - when brothers and sisters reject the harmony created by our diversity for a hiddenness, a facade, a camoflouge, a less than truthful co-existence that not only denies the truth, but actually fears it. I think that is actually more to the point - we fear the truth because to speak truth is to come out of hiding and then we have to completely trust God to embrace us and we throw ourselves upon the grace of others with nowhere left to run. In living truthfully we are exposed bringing to life that nightmare of standing in your underwear before the gathered throng.

I pray for more truthfulness in me - more "yes" and "no" that comes from His Truth alive in me.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Recently I have had several conversations - face to face, phone to phone, or keyboard to keyboard - in which I heard the insecurity of very wonderful people. For some reason we seem very reluctant to share our views, thinking that in doing so we...
a) Will have nothing intelligent to offer, and we don't want to look stupid.
b) Will be rebuked for half-baked ideas, and we don't want to be put in our place.
c) Will be seen as the opposition, and we don't want to create conflict.

I want to emphasize how incredibly beautiful the diversity of the body of Christ is. Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41) worked through their differences, stood by their personal convictions and multiplied their effectiveness (perhaps this is a generous reading of the text, but I personally believe that they parted on good terms given later references to Barnabas by Paul in his letters).

People - we're all different! And this is a profoundly good thing! Unity is not found in uniformity, but in the diversity of God's gifts planted in a diversity of individuals who in their own unique way offer themselves in humble servie to one another and to their King.

We ought never be ashamed for speaking what we see or sense. Yes, we ought to remain teachable and willing to adjust our sails, but we need never feel like we're stepping on toes by "calling it as we see it" when we're willing to welcome the other's view as well. It is in this way that we begin to realize the presense of the Spirit who leads us into truth and a unity of heart and mind. It is in this way that we will rediscover the discipline of living in Christian community.

So, be you and let others be too - we may just become more whole in this beautiful dance of the redeemed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


How's your embrace of people? How's mine?

Our culture is ultra social and ultra lonely. This saddens me deeply and is causing me to ache for genuine community - for the Church to be about the embrace of people for Jesus' sake. I've got a long way to go.

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Friday, October 06, 2006


Laugh. I think I'm forgetting how.

Today my son ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up. He's asked me this before, but this morning at the kitchen table it struck me in a new way that I am none of those things my child-heart was captured by. As I reflected on his question throughout the day I came to the conclusion that I have grown up to be a leader. I didn't choose this vocation, it chose me. And along with this vocation that chooses you can sinisterly arrive the laughter thief.

You see, as a leader, I think about people. I think about problems. I think about possibilities. I think about change. I think about the status quo and then think about how to remove the static. And, as a leader, the dilemma is that you don't just think about these things, you act on them. At least you better, because that's what people need and expect and at the same time what they don't want. A leader is there to take people, whom they deeply care about, through problems to possibilities. A leader is there to create a culture where a better life is shared. And, a leader is very often lonely on the journey to a promised land that can be only a speck on the horizon and as a result you can forget to laugh.

Why? Because you can't accept life as it is and life as you live it as the leader is still life as everyone else experiences it - with its pain, disappointments, frustrations, and of course joys. But, since you're not free to live solely in the now it can mean a heavy heart which does a laugh no good.

Laugh. I want this reborn in me again. Not at the expense of my vocation, but in order to make it alive. American artist Ralph Kozak beautifully captures what this can be like for one who bore more than I'll ever have to and has transformed more than I can every dream.

So it is possible. Lord, teach me your laugh.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


In light of the evil that invaded an Amish school room in Pennsylvania what does it mean to love your enemies? How is it that we are to live as Jesus' apprentices when you just want to scream and dish out vengeance?

Without doubt we will soon here the Amish community in Lancaster County verbalize forgiveness and the media will marvel at the wonder of such grace, which of course is entirely "pie in the sky" for those of us in the real world. Which camp will you be in?

Justice in this tragedy will never truly be served. Not here. The killer is gone and his family remains to bear the shame. Children died, reminding us once again that something is terribly out of sorts in this world. Sin is. Evil cannot be glossed over. Hell sends postcards. How ought Christians respond? Will we respond as a desparate world expects or as they hunger and thirst for? Will we be windows to a world not made by hands?

If you love those who love you what reward will you get, even pagans and child-executioners do that. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you. These be hard words, but they point to a way of life that is not bound by evil and will shine like a lighthouse in a world of eye for eye.

Monday, September 25, 2006


What is the response of the Church to the myriad of obstacles that oppose the advance of the Kingdom of God in the world? Any disciple of Jesus is aware that we very often respond very poorly to this ever present challenge.

I see five different ways in which we tend to respond to obstacles...

1. Ignorance is bliss - in this case we don't think; don't pay attention to the cultural realities we live in, live in a nostalgic past, and are duped into believing that obstacles don't exist at all. We think this is a faithful position for we're clinging to that which was handed down to us, when in fact it is highly unrealistic, even insane, and not blissful at all, but the place where the blind lead the blind.

2. Retreat and run for cover - in this case we are clearly aware of the obstacles and respond by fearfully running for cover, barring the doors, and segregating ourselves from a corrupt culture in the name of preservation and holy living. Here we observe culture for the purpose of knowing what to abstain from in our spiritual bubbles. This may appear wise, even understandable, but it hides the light under a bushell and produces legalists of the first order.

3. Can't beat 'em, so join 'em - in this case we recognize that the current of culture is truly an obstacle and so we accomodate ourselves to the drift of the world around us. We believe this makes us relevent, when in fact it makes us unnecessary and leaves us without anything to say that prophetically challenges the culture we've swallowed hook, line, and sinker. We end up being irrelevent even to ourselves.

4. Can't join 'em, so beat 'em - in this case we are not living in ignroarce. We also see outright accomodation as an untenable position, but neither is retreat, and so we fully engage the obstacles by beating up those in the opposite camp. We become champions of the "us" versus "them" and become placard waving militants who are constantly berating rather than embracing. We see evil in everyone who doesn't see it our way. We end up incapable of love.

5. Troubleshoot - in this case we clearly recognize the cultural obstacles that stand in our way, but we creatively search for ways to join the debate, live the Christ-life, love our enemies, and advance the Kingdom by all means possible. We are not ignorant of reality, but neither are we naively swallowing every seductive sales pitch or so selling out to the culture that we present no discernably different voice. We look for ways in the power and wisdom of the Spirit to turn obstacles into opportunities that will bring all things under Christ. We have eyes for where God is at work; where he is present; where his Truth is, even if it is presently unseen.

So, how are you joining the advance of the Kingdom of God's light? How are you responding to the obstacles of these days in which you live?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I've been reflecting lately on what it means to have balanced leadership in a local congregation.

First, what purpose do leadership gifts serve within the body of Christ? To answer that we need to turn to Ephesians 4 where we find that the gifts of apostle (course-charter and initiator of new Kingdom advances), prophet (those who remind us "thus saith the Lord"), evangelist (they gifted in moving the Church toward effectively sharing Christ), pastor (the nurturers), and teacher (they who awaken our understanding of God's word and make it applicable to daily living) are given to the Church in order to move the body toward maturity and unity. These leaders are called to equip the saints for ministry, not to do ministry for them. They are coaches and trainers, not the athlete before the spectator. Balanced leadership, then, would mean a body calling out people with these gifts and releasing them for their God-appointed purpose.

Second, most congregations hire, after the first or lead pastor, one or more pastors who are generally asked to oversee a specific task or demographic within the body (youth, children, worship, etc.). In essence we add supported staff as new programs are birthed or as problems arise that need fixing or as our volunteer pool runs dry. This is not balanced biblical leadership. Balanced leadership would actually mean having supported leaders that function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the equpping of the saints. So, rather than think of balance according to programming function, can we begin to think of balance in relation to these gifts? We may ask a pastor-gifted servant to oversee youth, but the purpose would be the nurturing and discipling of youth and the equipping of youth for that purpose, not to run a cool program to entertain. The focus here is on balanced equipping of the body to become an initiating, Truth speaking, Christ-sharing, care-giving, and Truth instructing people.

Third, in our own context at Zurich Mennonite I am wondering what this would look like? How do we begin to balance our leadership as above? I see myself as primarily a prophet-teacher and Associate Pastor Tim is an apostle-evangelist (to clarify here: I believe each leader is capable of all the gifts to degree, though one or two will be dominant and the primary place where that individual truly is a "gift" and feels alive - in this sense I would secondarily be an apostle while Tim would be a teacher [according to what I have observed]). So, it would appear we as a body are not as well equipped on the pastor-nurturer side of things and ought we consider what it might look like to call out supported leaders in this area to provide a little more balance? We have taken baby steps toward this by calling out a Leader of Pastoral Care on a volunteer basis for a mere five hours a week, but is this enough to provide true balance?

Balanced leadership fosters a healthy, maturing Church - that's God's plan. How do we move further in this direction?