Exploring the interplay between ortho-doxy (right belief) and ortho-praxy (right action)...

...and encouraging a life where these intertwined thoughts and deeds simply happen... by default.

28 November 2005

good will toward us

At the time of Christ’s birth, the angels said to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2:14) Isn’t that an amazing idea that God extended His good will in our direction? He did so in the very act of Christ taking on our flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14). It’s the act of incarnation. Christ gave up the comfort and prestige of heaven and willingly chose to live a life filled with discomfort and mockery. Our Lord went through times of loneliness, being misunderstood, physical exhaustion, hunger, agony, pain and yes, death.

Christ knew from eternity what would come with His incarnation. This Christmas, perhaps we can recognize our calling to be like Christ in this way. We are called to go into the world in the same way Christ did. All too often Christians instead choose to live cozy lives of faithful church service attendance, Bible studies, and friendships with other believers. We are quite comfortable to speak to each other in Christian-ese and continually listen to our favourite style of worship music.

Of course, I’m not trying to devalue the utter importance of Christian fellowship. Quite the contrary. I’m just saying that our calling includes so much more than fellowship. We must go into the world. We must learn the language of the world. To do this we must risk being… uncomfortable. It means we don't force people to listen to our stories until we've listened to theirs. The willingness to do this doesn’t come naturally, but super-naturally. May we have the courage of Christ in us to motivate us to sacrifice our comfort, reputations, productivity, lifestyle or anything else that is keeping us from fully answering our calling to be incarnational.


22 November 2005

humble pie inc.

It's interesting how various Bible verses have their 'day in the sun.' A very popular verse recently has been 2 Chronicles 7:14. This verse has made it's way into many articles, books and songs. It goes like this:

"If my people, called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

I've heard lots of talk about what this verse says about prayer, seeking God's face, and turning from sin, but I've not heard a lot about humility. If you look at the verse, humility is listed first.

What is the opposite of humility? Pride. I believe that pride comes from having confidence or assurance in anything other than Christ. Boasting is prideful. Paul said that he would not boast in anything except in the Lord. Paul's confidence and assurance was not in himself, but in God. This exemplifies the kind of humility alluded to in our featured verse.

Humility means more than boasting only in the Lord. It also means that we must not ignore the way things really are. By this, I mean that we must admit when things are not as they should be. After all, is there really ever a time when we have it all together? Is there ever a time when we don't need God? Is there ever a time when we can truly depend on ourselves?

In Christian circles, we learn all too quickly how to speak Christian-ese. We are taught to always be happy, positive and enthusiastic. Happiness comes and goes. Joy, however, lasts through even the tough times. Joy admits it when things just aren't going well, and Joy isn't shaken because Joy comes from confidence and assurance in Christ.

God uses tough times and allows 'negative' circumstances in our lives to cause us to be more dependent on Him! It was at times like this Paul said that when he was weak, then he was very strong! Weakness in yourself = strength in the Lord! Humility about yourself = boasting in the Lord!

According to the featured verse, we can pray, seek God and try to turn from sin, but unless we are humble, it doesn't matter.

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." - James 4:10


7 November 2005

love and firewood

Attention couples!!!

We're quite educated in the ways of showing affection, aren't we? Two flawless bodies on a billboard with arms and legs intertwined in new, creative ways... just shocking enough to make you want to buy the clothes they are half-wearing... two people on a park bench rubbing each other up and down as if they were freezing to death... Should we be listening to these suggestions though? Why or why not? Affection is harmless enough, right?

Don't worry, I'm not going to waste any time trying to discourage any certain forms of affection. I do, however, want to think for a moment about the contrast between physicality and commitment.

The physical stuff is visible, concrete and undeniable. The ideas behind them are invisible, abstract and often cloudy. Also, the two can sometimes be totally separate. Consider people in modeling or acting. The physicality is there, but I doubt there is any commitment or relationship. Conversely, in some marriages gone cold, there may be a certain level of commitment, but no passion or intimacy.

So how in the world can we build strongly committed relationships with healthy physicality? How can such a balance be started and maintained? Is it possible?

I think the answer lies in a helpful analogy I've learned from Tommy Nelson in his study on The Song of Solomon.

He relates physical passion to gasoline, and rightly points out that a relationship built on that alone may have large flames for a little while, but has nothing left afterwards. He talks about the need for the 'firewood' of commitment and character.

I think it's interesting to note as well that the more firewood you have, the longer the fire lasts! Are we sometimes guilty of impatiently gathering a few small twigs, drowning them with gasoline and feeling frustrated that the fire doesn't last? Possibly?

God is more than aware of the pain and hurting that comes with failed relationships. He doesn't want us to go through the pain! He wants to give us His best!

I'm not a fan of all the charts, graphs or rules that people try to create for successful relationships, but I will say this: For the sake of your heart, keep the gasoline in the can until you've gathered the firewood of commitment and character. Then you can enjoy the warmth and security of a committed relationship.


31 October 2005

excuse me, do you have the time?

Recent world disasters (tsunamis, earthquakes, plagues, terrorism, war, hurricanes, etc.) have many people wondering about the 'end of the world' and whether or not we are close to it. I think it's good to talk about these things and have an answer for anyone that asks. Lots of Christians disagree about the timing and details, but I think there are a few things that we all can agree on that are really important.

1. Jesus is indeed coming back. (Acts 1:11, 1 Cor. 11:26, 1 Tim. 6:14-15, Tit. 2:13, Heb. 9:28)
Jesus was and is real. He really walked, talked, healed, ate, drank, spat, slept, prayed and much more on this very planet. He really was crucified, buried and resurrected. He really is coming again.

2. Nobody but the Father knows when it will happen. (Mt. 24:36, Acts 1:7)
This one should silence a lot of people, but unfortunately hasn't. The point is to be ready, not to obsess over when it will happen.

3. It will come 'like a thief in the night.' - (Mt. 24:43-44, 1 Thes. 5:24, 2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 3:3/16:15)
This means it will be a surprise, or happen very suddenly. Again, the emphasis is on being ready, not on trying to figure out when it will happen.

We're not the first people to wonder when the End is coming. Matter of fact, you could easily say that every generation since Christ ascended to heaven has expected Him to come back in their day. Various people over history have even had the nerve to try and predict the exact date or year of His return! They've been wrong, and more importantly, they've missed the point.

We were never expected to figure out when it will happen. We ARE expected to be ready. A popular Christian leader has well said, "We must BE READY as if His coming could happen at any moment, and MAKE READY as if His coming is a long way off."

I think the Enemy likes us to be distracted by the what, when or where. Therefore, we must remember to be more concerned with the who (Christ and others!) and the how (love!).

Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour...” - Matthew 25:13


25 October 2005

still hangin' on

"I'm hangin' on... you're all that's left to hold on to." - Bono in Red Hill Mining Town

Yesterday I had two conversations about relationships. You know, the romantic kind. Aren't they exciting? I mean, isn't the thrill of discovering that someone else is thinking about you just priceless? It's a little more than obvious that the human race is consumed with obtaining this feeling. I just saw an ad for yet another online dating company, mate1: intimate dating. What a joke! Intimate? Online?

Both of my conversations yesterday touched on the undeniable pain and misery of 'breaking up.' We talked about how all of your hopes and dreams come crashing down in mere seconds when this happens.

The common thread in my two discussions yesterday was this: both people I talked to shared with me the belief that we should never put our 'hopes and dreams' in anyone other than Jesus. All three of us were speaking from much experience as well. The thing about humans is that it's not a question of if they will let you down, it's a matter of when!

In a song called "Wedding Dress," Christian songwriter Derek Webb refers to 'lovers less wild' that draw us away from Jesus, the One who loved us (as another of his songs points out) 'to death.' He is the One who died for sinners. He is the One who won't take back His love. He is the One who will never cheat on you. He is the One who will patiently put up with your junk.

May you be able to say to Jesus, "I'm hangin' on... You're all that's left to hold on to."



17 October 2005

now that's relaxing

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
- Jesus in Matthew 11 (emphasis mine, and maybe Jesus, too)

For some people, this passage is refreshing, freeing and memorable. Others simply give it an affirming nod and move on. Others (if they're honest) might admit they're not sure what Jesus is getting at with all this talk about rest. Rest from WHAT? What does it mean to labor and be heavy laden?

Practically, we know that Jesus was referring to what Judaism had become. The Pharisees had placed too much emphasis on rituals and outward things. Jesus had a radically different way of life in mind. Still some of us may find it hard to see how this relates to us today. After all, only about 1% of the world's population is even Jewish.

There is a Pharisee inside all of us.

The Pharisee mindset has to do with proving your worth to God by doing good things. And not just doing them, but doing them better than others! Unfortunately, the Pharisee mindset often drives many really positive acts of ministry and Christian organisations. This 'philosophy of works' can slip into the minds of the most genuine Christians.

We must never mistake 'works' for 'fruit.' Fruit is a natural by-product of a relationship with Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. God Himself inspires, directs and empowers our actions. And these 'fruit-actions' never have anything to do with us getting the credit. 'Work-actions,' however, can be and are done without a relationship with Christ and have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all. As much as we may try to claim God's 'sponsorship' of our efforts, we really want the credit to go to us. We want to be known as 'spiritual' or 'a good, serving Christian.'

Fruit and Works, Relationship and Religion, Devotion and Duty. They often look the same to us, but to God, one is worthless and the other priceless.



10 October 2005

the gospel blimp: a review

I've just finished a book called, "The Gospel Blimp, by Joseph Bayly." It was published in 1960, but it's amazingly relevant to Christians today.

The story begins with a group of typical, white, middle-class, protestant Americans having a get-together in one of their back yards. The discussion turns to evangelism, and after some time, an idea is floated that would change their lives for the next few years: a Gospel Blimp. The proposed Blimp would be visible to the whole city and would carry a simple Christian message. They look across the fence and notice the neighbors smoking and drinking beer as usual. This all-too-familiar sight provides the necessary motivation and soon all agree to commit to making the Blimp everything it needs to be to evangelise their city. They especially pray that the next door neighbors would be the first to be saved through the blimp.

Over the next few years, the group sees International Gospel Blimps, Incorporated (I.G.B.I) grow and develop far further than they ever expected it to grow, finding support from many Christians. Prayer meetings, publicity personnell, PA systems, lighted signs, the works. The I.G.B.I. committee experiences ups and downs, family trouble, interior conflict and resolution, sacrifice, success, tradgedy and a host of other twists and turns. Possibly the worst of these is that the couple with the next door neighbors eventually leave the committee altogether. That doesn't hinder the commitment of the rest of the committee. They press on.

Eventually, the story closes when the couple that had left invites the committee over to their house again for a BBQ. Also invited to the BBQ were the next-door neighbors. Only they had become Christians. The various committee members are eager to hear the long-awaited story of how God used the Blimp to touch their hearts and draw them to faith. The committee is shocked when the neighbors said that God hadn't used the Blimp to save them. They instead had been deeply moved by their neighbors recently increased involvement in their lives. Their love and care for them through some tough times had been a huge witness to the love of Christ. Toward the end of the BBQ, one of the committee members thinks he will take this golden opportunity to invite the new Christian husband to the Blimp hangar the next morning to help others with their work on the Blimp. The neighbor has to decline because he has plans with a couple of his neighbors to go bowling.

I recommend reading this book in it's entirety, because I think it vividly portrays how many sincere, genuine Christians can be a bit misguided in their efforts. An essential ingredient for Christian witness has always been and will always be love. Selfless love. Even if you have to miss a few Gospel Blimp prayer meetings, or not be involved altogether.



4 October 2005

let's see some I.D. please

One of the most bizzare notions in the entire universe is also one of the most important doctrines of Christianity. It's the idea of a new identity.

The over-abundance of self-help books, 'inspirational' seminars and 'inner-peace' tapes/CD's only begin to show our human obsession with life change. We want it. We crave it. We need it. We know something is wrong inside of us, and we will try anything to make it better.

Unlike the comforting, feel-good, wholeness, positive message of these mediums, the message of the Cross is offensive. The Cross doesn't hide our weakness, but painfully exposes it. The Cross doesn't try to fix our broken lives, but ends them! In the book, Grace Walk, Steve McVey rightly points out that we don't get our lives changed, but get them ex-changed!

At times we forget that the Empty Tomb and the wonderful promises of newness of life come only after the Cross and it's shame. Humanity would love to have the power of the Empty Tomb, but is too proud to humble itself to bow to the Cross. Take a fresh look at the following verses:

Jesus in Luke 14:27, "The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple." - (Phillips)

Jesus in Mark 8:35, "Whoever wants to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's shall save it." - (New American Standard)

The Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me; and the life which I now live in the body I live through faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up to death on my behalf" - (Weymouth)

Paul in 2 Timothy 2:11, "This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him." - (New King James)

This dying is not a once in a lifetime occurance, either! For God's life and power to flow through us, we must take Jesus' advice in this last verse:

Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." - (King James Version)


26 September 2005

yokes, disciples and dust

Note: I've shamelessly 'borrowed' some of these concepts. You can find them yourself if you research Judaism. Also, Rob Bell covers them quite well in his book, "Velvet Elvis" and his Nooma DVD entitled "Dust."

Studying the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament, or the books of Moses) is an integral part of Jewish life. In Jesus' day, Jewish boys would begin Torah study around the age of six (bet sefer), and would memorize it entirely! Around age ten, while the majority of the boys would begin learning their fathers' trade, the best of these Torah students went on to study other Jewish writings and memorize the rest of the Old Testament (bet talmud)! That's right, even Psalms and Proberbs! Finally, in their early teens, the best of the best of these would apply to a rabbi's disciple (bet midrash). They didn't just want to know what the rabbi knew, they wanted to DO what the rabbi DID. If a rabbi thought the student could 'do what he did' (known as a 'yoke'), he would 'call' the student to be his disciple by saying, "Come and follow me." The student would then leave family, friends and his whole life to follow the Rabbi and take his 'yoke.' Each Rabbi's 'yoke' was shaped and influenced by the interpretations of the Scriptures that the Rabbi had, so some 'yokes' were more strict or 'heavy' than others. Following the Rabbi wherever he went inspired the Jewish blessing, "May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi."

Jesus was a radical rabbi...

When other rabbi's looked for the cream of the crop, Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors! That's right, He called those who didn't even make it past learning the Torah! He also said that His yoke was easy, and His burden was light!

These radical actions and words of Jesus highlight His turning away from burdensome, strict, ordered processes of learning and teaching. Jesus' emphasis was on relationships. He must have believed that if His disciples loved Him, then they would be like Him!

Perhaps this sheds new light on the Great Commandment to love the Lord your God, and the Great Commission of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. He wants us to share a way of life with eachother and the world that He said was easy and light. He wants that way of life to flow from a relationship with Him.

Are you involved in a discipleship relationship?

May you see the importance of your relationship with Christ above all others.
May you realize the calling of Christ to disciple-making.
May you understand that this means disciple-being as well.
May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi.


20 September 2005

god's toolbox

"Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves . . . When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given, at that moment, what you are to say. For it will not be you, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:16,19)

God has a big toolbox. Contrary to popular Christian tradition, his tools are people. The verse above says that He is sending 'you.' We commonly refer to organisations, programmes or church meetings as tools. Sure, God can and does use these, but He still chooses to create these through people. The people are His tools. We are His hands and feet.

Even though most every Christian realises this, we still often tend to rely on human inventions rather than on God and His Spirit working through us. Allow the following illustration:

Concerning evangelism, we have a mindset that says we are to lure our non-christian acquainences to various church services or 'gospel meetings' so that they can encounter the gospel, be confronted with the message of Jesus and hopefully place their faith and trust in Him.

This IS a valid method of evangelism, but it is ONLY ONE method! Thankfully, God has a LOT more ways to reach people than just gospel 'meetings.' And to be completely honest, there is somewhat of a large contrast between this method of evangelism and Jesus' method, which is not gospel meetings, but gospel lifestyles.

Jesus tells US to GO. He wants US to share the Gospel with the world and teach them about Christ. We cannot and MUST not rely on 'the preacher' to tell our non-Christians about Jesus. 1 Peter 3:15 says,

"But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord, and always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you whenever someone asks, with gentleness and respect."

Like it or not, if you are not prepared to share the Gospel with your friends, you are in disobedience to Christ.

And by the way, we MUST share the Gospel with much more than only WORDS. As a popular author has said, we must share the tesimony of our LIFE and LOVE, and earn the right to share the testimony of our LIPS.

Will we make ourselves ready to be used by God, or will we continue to stay buried in the bottom of the toolbox?



12 September 2005

asking the wrong questions

"Love someone. Any way you choose to love them is fine, but you need to do it at the right time, with the right flowers and at the right restaurant."

Stop and think. What is wrong with this command? Read it again carefully if you need to.

It tells me when to love, with what to love and even where to love, but what other details might you need? How about who and how? Do the what, where and when really matter if you have the who and how figured out? I don't think they matter one bit.

Isn't it refreshing that God's New Covenant commandments to us don't even bother with the what, where and when? Let's look at the Two Commandments of Jesus Christ.

1. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you see anything in these that have to do with what it looks like to do this, or where or when to do this? Of course not. It appears that God isn't as concerned with what, where or when we love Him, but instead is concerned that we indeed are loving Him and how we love Him.

Another example about this from Jesus is His discussion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well in Samaria about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. She reminded Jesus that Jews believed that the Temple in Jerusalem was the TRUE place for worship, but that the Samaritans were actually the right ones, because the real TRUE place for worship was the mountain in Samaria. The reply of Jesus is paramount. He told her that the time was coming and had already come when she would not worship God on the Samaritan mountain or in Jerusalem. (What!?!) He then tells her that True worship is not where, but in Spirit and in Truth (how).

Who do we love? The LORD first, and then our neighbor.
How do we love them? With everything that we have. Every affection, moment, possession, thought, feeling and effort.
Where and when do we do this? What do we do with with? It just does NOT matter.

Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for not attending the latest, hippest Christian conference.
Don't let anyone pressure you attend an event.
Don't listen to those that tell you you MUST read this book or do this bible study.
Don't believe the idea that certain rituals of prayer, bible-study or worship are any better than others.
Don't let anyone control you but God.


5 September 2005

but it looks like love

What does it look like to love God and my neighbor?

I know, I know. You might be getting a bit numb to the topic of love. Maybe you have love figured out. If so, stop reading right now. This article won't apply to you. If you're like the rest of us, you can probably admit you have a thing or two to learn about True love.

Wouldn't it be nice if there were clear, precise, practical examples of what True love is? Then we could stop guessing and just do it, right? Some of us long to be told just what to DO in order to demonstrate True love. Would that help? I'm not convinced that it would.

You see, what looks like love isn't always the real deal. Truth is, we ALL know what love LOOKS like, even if we don't know what love IS. Just think of all the donations to charities all over the world that would never be made unless someone was looking. There just has to be something in it for us. It's not flattering, but it's the truth. The world runs on selfishness. And what's really scary is when selfishness is disquised as humility or generosity.

So I won't waste any time telling you to talk to your neighbor even if they aren't like you; I won't try to tell you where the line is between affection and disrespect for your boy/girlfriend's body; and as much as you might like me to, I won't try to tell you how to learn to love people you don't like or that don't like you. That is behavior modification, and it doesn't work. Sure, it might make things look a little bit better, but at the end of the day, no change results.

What I WILL do, is point you once again to the best example of love that we have. The one act of Grace that echoes through all eternity, silencing all other acts of love. The sacrifice that out-does all of our petty performances of trying to love others. The death of Christ.

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He l oved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." - 1 John 4:10-11

May God's love be perfected in us... period.



29 August 2005


Last night, I saw the movie "Crash" with a group.

It basically told several inter-weaving stories of people dealing poorly with people. The themes included rage, impatience, vengance, racism, power-trips and more. We weren't left with a very hopeful solution for humanity, but I could appreciate the realism with which the topics were addressed. Kinda nice to know that we are nothing like the people in this movie, huh?

Not really. Truth is, those same emotions are in all of us. Yeah, you. We're all guilty of some serious over-reaction to various annoying things.

The sub-heading for the movie was something like this: "When you're moving at the speed of life, you're bound to collide."
That is actually quite profound. Why does this happen?

Perhaps we really ARE shockingly disconnected from one another.
Perhaps we really ARE disqustingly comfortable.
Perhaps we really ARE lethargic to do anything to change this.
Perhaps we really ARE terribly self-centered.

As long as we insist that the problem is with someone ELSE, we are going to continue to be frustrated.
As long as we insist on placing high expectations on others, they will continue NOT to meet them.
As long as we insist on finding fault with others, we will continue to NOT see (or rationalise or lessen) our own faults.

Slow down, think, be honest with yourself. Why are you so frustrated with him/her? Why are you allowing their opinion of you to control you? Etc., etc.

"Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret - it only causes harm." - Psalm 37:8



15 August 2005

are you sure you want love?

We need to ask ourselves this question again.

Is it really love we are seeking? Have we forgotten again what real love is? Just about anyone will admit to the universal desire to love and be loved in return, but we are seriously going to hurt and be hurt if we fail to not only realise what true love is, but act accordingly.

Our picture of love is very incomplete. We have images of companionship, smiles, hugs, kisses and a host of other wonderful things. What we love to forget is that alongside those nice images, there need to be a few more. Sometimes love is stern, grim and menacing. Sometimes silence, rebuke and conflict is a more than necessary part of love.

The difference between love and true love is that true love is rooted in Truth. It must be. It has to be.

We are all guilty of what I like to call ‘keeping people at arms length.’ We like companionship, smiles and hugs, but when someone gets close enough to us to see faults, we take a few steps back. Often times, the people that care the most are the ones that care enough to say a few things we don’t want to hear. THAT is why seeking comfort is so harmful to growth! We stay a safe distance from those that will ‘sharpen’ us, and spend oodles of less meaningful time with others who we simply ‘get on’ with.

“Mockers don’t love those who rebuke them, so they stay away from the wise.” – Proverbs 15:12

So let me ask you one more time…

Are you SURE you want love?



9 August 2005

a comfortable amount of discomfort

In the Christian life, one mistake we can make would be to think that we have no further need to grow. How ridiculous is that? Thankfully, I don't know many people who think that. However, a much easier mistake to make is to fail to recognise how growth happens or fail to allow growth to happen in my life.

If we don't understand how growth happens, we are likely to either falsely percieve growth that isn't really there, or falsely believe that it can't or won't happen. Still yet, even if we do understand how growth happens, we are likely to resist the process.

We want growth to happen, sure enough, but we can't get past the biggest obstacle: o ur desire for comfort.

Growth requires discomfort. That fact is unavoidable. It's as true as the reality that water flows downhill.

If we are ever going to grow as Christians, it means that we are going to have to give up level upon level of comfort in our lives. Read this next sentence carefully.

If you want to be more loving, you will HAVE to learn to put up with un-lovable people.

(Might wanna read that one again.)

Truth triumphs over feelings. We can't rely on feelings. Frankly, I don't FEEL like loving people that aren't like I want them to be. But when my mind is renewed with the TRUTH that I am no better than they are, I am enabled to love them, whether I FEEL like it or not.

May we recklessly love one another in a true, self-less, Christlike way.

Grace and Love,


1 August 2005

painting with no canvas

Evangelism, evangelism and more evangelism.

This is the desperate cry of many churches around the world (or at least in the wealthy, comfortable, 'established' parts of the world). We are losing members fast, and we want to get them back. So, we launch ourselves into much activity to bring about the desired result. Books are written, strategies are implemented. Seminars are given. At least two groups arise out of the activity.

1. Individuals who are oblivious to the lack of 'evangelism health' and are not moved to action.
2. Individuals who are obsessed with need for evangelism, and feel the need to force the others to action.

Evangelism is a commandment of Jesus, but to emphasize the Great Commission while forgetting the 1st and 2nd Commandments is a grave error. The purpose of the Church is not merely to evangelise, but firstly to bring honour and glory to God. It's not the first Good Idea, it's the first and Greatest Commandment! That means it cannot be excluded! If we are just trying to do all right things without doing them out of devotion to Him, then we are just contestants in a rather large morality contest.

An over emphasis on Evangelism often reveals a mis-placed priority on the number of people in our churches. Do we want to reach people because we love our Master or because we love the idea of being "spiritually successful?" Let's consider this analogy:

If we're building a house, the order of progression goes something like: foundation, floor, walls, roof, wall-board, many other things, and finally... paint. If we use this analogy to represent evangelism, let me say that I think we are standing around during the entire project holding a brush and a paint can. We're not really interested in the 'foundations' and 'floors' and 'walls' of the Gospel, love and self-lessness. This is lazy evangelism. The fact is, you might have to actually CARE about the person you are trying to reach. If you do care about them, you might start doing some radical things like... oh, I don't know... making time for them, investing in their lives, meeting their needs and the like.

"I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing." - Jesus



18 July 2005

fools and rules

Last week, we talked about how important thoughts are.

This week I want to continue that theme as we look at a passage in Galatians. Our thinking about sin and righteousness just plain matters. In the first century, Paul, who was a Jew among Jews (Gal. 1:13-14), was radically transformed into the Apostle that we know so well for reaching Gentiles (non-Jews) with the Gospel. When he converted, he eventually joined the rest of the Apostles. In Galatians, Paul recalls a 'disagreement' he had with Peter (yes, Peter.) and a few of the other Apostles. (And you thought disputes in church were a recent thing?) Paul literally got in Peter's face about being a hypocrite. When Peter was at Antioch, he had no problem eating with Gentiles until some folks arrived that said that believers had to be circumcised. Peter was afraid that he would be seen eating with these uncircumcised Gentiles, so he stopped eating with them!

Paul openly rebuked him, asking him why he should expect Gentiles to live as Jews, when he (a Jewish believer) lived as a Gentile? Paul then reminded Peter that justification (being made right with God) was not from keeping the Law (Old Testament requirements), but by faith in Christ!

Now, I could rant and rave about how churches have all kinds of traditions that they force people to participate in, but I'd rather address a deeper question...

What is your salvation based on?

Some of the early Jewish-Christian believers of the 1st century struggled to welcome Gentiles into the church. After all, they were the good, moral, circumcised, Sabbath-keeping ones. They were appalled by these Gentiles walking around like they own the place. After all, these 'other' people didn't keep the Sabbath, they weren't circumcised, they ate pork and other non-kosher food... they just weren't like them! How could these people be believers?

The Apostle Paul consistently reminds us that we are not saved by what we do, but by the grace of God. That's it! It's true! Done deal! You don't have to jump through all the right hoops or measure up to any standards.

"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from the law, then Christ died in vain." - Galatians 2:21

May we recognise where our life comes from, and extend grace even to those who don't dress, talk, smell, look or act like we do.

Trusting in His Grace,


11 July 2005

help! i'm not acting right!

Thoughts, Feelings, Actions

Here's a theologically loaded statement:
Right beliefs (ortho-doxy) create right feelings and lead to right actions (ortho-praxy).

As Christ-ians, our life (and thereby, our life-STYLE as well) is all about Christ. This is true isn't it? Whatever we think, feel or do ought to be thought, felt or done in regard to Christ. Pretty amazing to think that Christ wants to renew our thinking, give us joy, and (as if that's not enough) DO great things through us.

It starts with our thinking or our beliefs, doesn't it? They are of utmost importance. When we actually believe that the God of the universe would not just merely be interested in us, but also would be willing to die for us, that has an effect on us!

Once we are thinking straight, and it starts to sink in that Christ paid a debt that we would never have been able to pay, I'm just guessing that our feelings should take perhaps a small positive turn! That is what joy is all about! Would a prisoner that had been freed from a death-sentence show no emotion? Well, whether you realise it or not, or just have forgotten, If you are a Christian, you were a prisoner, and you have been set free from your death sentence!

This is where it gets interesting. We tend to be terribly distracted when our actions (or someone else's) are either lacking or not of the right "kind." If we're not careful, we can slip into a pattern of thinking that our actions shape and form our beliefs. It's the other way around. Our REAL thoughts and beliefs are seen in the way we act. It's a tricky distinction that can easily be missed. Put plainly, you can't serve your way into having Christian beliefs. You can, however, believe your way into serving in a Christian way. As church-type-people, we often act like the former statement is true. We care less about what people believe or how they feel, and instead just try to find ways to get all of the Christian jobs done! We must not do this.

If you are experiencing a 'dry spell' in your Christian life, check your beliefs and feelings. One of the many great things about the Christian life is that we are not simply converted and then put on a shelf, we are grown, tested, tried, bruised, etc. These bumps are to cause us to remember Who we are intended to rely upon. The dry spells aren't there to get us to try harder, but to help us realise our inability to please God with our flesh, and remember Who our strength is. One of the greatest passages in the Bible about God's will for living the Christian life is the beginning of the 12th chapter of Romans. Among other things, it says to "be transformed (continually) by the renewing of your mind."

Thoughts are important.




4 July 2005

i love you because...

Find True Love Now...
What's More Fun Than Love?
Live. Love. Learn.

Perhaps you've seen the following tag-lines for one of the latest online dating services, called True. The success of such services says something about the way we think about love.

We seem to want it really bad.
We seem to hope we "find" it someday.
Also, we seem to be extremely afraid of getting hurt by it.

Thoughts matter. The Bible says, "as a man thinks, so is he." (Proverbs 23:7) Our thoughts determine our actions. So, what is wrong with our thinking about love? It's not just about romantic love, either. May I make a few suggestions that will hopefully apply to all of us?

We are all familiar with how abused the word love is, right? I love ice cream... I love God... I love my brother... etc. It appears that we often think that love is simply what it means to like something so much that your affection for the thing moves outside the realm of 'like' and into the green pasture of 'love.' While this is partially true, I think we're missing one of the most essential aspects of love.


As humans, we are just selfish. This is the easiest truth to demonstrate. We love ice cream because it does something for our taste buds, or we might love email, because it makes it easier for US to stay in touch. When we apply this logic to inter-personal relationships, we end up 'loving' people because they do something we like, make us feel a certain way, etc. As long as they maintain this appealing quality, we continue to 'love' them.

Stop thinking like that. (Romans 12:2)

If we continue to love one another like that, we are destined for failure. The minute someone lets us down or doesn't meet our expectations, we withdraw from what we thought was love. Imagine if God loved us like that! We would have NO hope. Perhaps that's what Paul was getting at when in 1 Corinthians 13 he talks about this long-suffering, not self-seeking, patient kind of love. Perhaps that's what Jesus was getting at when he challenged the disciples to love their enemies, for "if you only love those that love you, what reward is there in that?" After all, Christ died for us "while we were yet sinners."

You might be starting to realise just how HARD it is to love people that are... well... HARD to love.

Next week, we'll look at what Galatians 5 has to say about HOW to love like that.

In His Grace,



28 June 2005

no offense...but you're worthless

It's just not what you read in the newest self-help books.

It's completely contrary to every trend in society. We adjust grading methods to make students feel better about themselves. We say that everyone is special and don't stop to consider that by saying that, we make no one special. (this is well illustrated in the brilliant movie-cartoon: The Incredibles) Why do we do this? What's the deal?

So many of the belief-systems in the world struggle to deal with the condition of humanity. I think this is very interesting. The fact that humans are bent on selfishness is quite possibly the easiest truth to demonstrate! We all hide our wrong and promote our good. Yes, even in churches! We look for the fastest lane in traffic, and the shortest line at the grocery store. We're always looking out for our own best interests!

I love Christianity for many reasons, one of which is it's realness. Jesus wasn't out to flatter humanity. His disposition with humankind is very succinctly described by His half-brother James, who wrote that God "opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

One of Jesus' most striking message to humanity was that we aren't good enough. He raised the 'bar' of morality so high that nobody would be able to say they were good. That is why Jesus was always barking at the Pharisees! He called them white-washed tombs, and made no 'bones' (pardon the pun) about how he felt about their self-righteousness! In sharp contrast, He forgives and welcomes sinners who are repentant and aware of their moral bankruptcy. The Apostle Paul echoes Jesus' message in passages like the third chapter of Romans, where he quotes various passages in the Psalms: "There is none righteous, no, not one... none who seeks after God... they have together become unprofitable (see title of this article)... etc., etc.

As Christians, our confidence is NEVER in ourselves. Not in the past, not now, and not in the future. We were never good enough, we are still not good enough and we will never be good enough! The technical-theological definition of grace is undeserved favour. Take a good guess why it is undeserved. Because we can't earn it, and we don't earn it!

Why are so many Christians BORED with the Christian life? I think we have forgotten just how BIG a deal God's grace is!

May we live in the awe of God's grace to the point where we see for ourselves just how 'amazing' it really is.

In Him,



20 June 2005

through the week


So how was your church on Sunday?

This phrase illustrates how grossly incorrect we use the word 'church.' We use the word as if it means a place and a time (most commonly the church 'building' on Sunday morning). Some of you will be familiar with the greek term behind our english word church which is 'ecclesia.' The literal meaning of this word is 'those called out' or 'called out ones.' So in the book of Romans for instance, the apostle Paul was not writing to 'the building in which Christians meet' at Rome, but to 'those called out' at Rome. Many of you will know that many early churches in the first century met in homes. For centuries, however, the majority of Christians have met in buildings. Lately, you will have noticed that the trend of 'home groups' has been popular all over the world.

Can I just say that I don't really believe it matters WHERE or WHEN the church meets? Can I also say that even though we must meet corporately together, the Church is not (or at least should not be) defined by what happens when 'it' meets? We tend to compartmentalize our lives in to sacred or secular sectors, and this ought not be so.

In Acts 2, the earliest christians met daily in the temple because that was a central place of community for their Jewish culture. Reading these kinds of passages, you quickly get the idea that there was never a time or place when the early Church was not being the Church. We ought to follow their example. Didn't Jesus himself say that WHENEVER two or more are gathered in His name, that He would be there with them? So why do we argue about where and when to meet?

In modern days, Christians are very concerned by how our services run, and what percentages of people are in small groups, etc. We find safety and comfort in such noble things as mission trips, bible studies and meetings. I'm interested in joining God in being a part of a culture of Christians that are letting Christ live in them to the point that it makes sense that they bear His name. Not a once or twice a week irrelevant gathering of warm bodies, but an ongoing, constant culture of self-sacrificing, serving, slaves of Christ. May we begin that culture in our own hearts.

In His Grace,



13 June 2005

tough going


Let me share what I'm learning about how God shapes us.

People approach the Christian life with different mindsets. Some literally think that God's sole purpose for their existence is that they can be happy, fulfilled, financially independent, popular, etc. True, the Christian life
comes complete with times of happiness and fulfillment. And yes, God will allow many Christians to live quite public and comfortable lives. He even sometimes uses that for His glory. But none of these are His sole purpose. He wants us to KNOW Him.

Our relationship with Him is a relationship that is not just initiated by faith but also grown and/or shaped by faith. And yes, I think the whole idea of faith has been prostituted in the church. Faith is dragged through the mud as some kind of force that you grab a hold of and harness and if you can manipulate it, you can have huge blessings. That idea is a gross mis-interpretation of biblical faith. Perhaps the best synonym I can think of for faith is the word trust. We don't manipulate God to do something for us, but we trust that even if we don't get all of our greeds, He will still provide our needs.

So how are we shaped by faith? God allows really frustrating things to
happen to us. Yep. If God wants you to be more loving, He doesn't create the most likely environment for love, but instead will allow the most frustrating person you've ever met to cross your path. To build patience, He'll allow you to switch from lane to lane on the motorway only to find that each lane you force yourself into becomes the slow lane! He's not
interested in our comfort, but our character!

"Hey church! When you fall into different trials, see the joy in it, and know that God is testing your faith and wants to build patience!" James 1:2-3 (Dale's loose paraphrase)

ByDefault is all about knowing God to the point of being compelled to love others. A mis-understanding of God's work in our lives can be a real barrier to knowing Him more. Right beliefs lead to Right feelings, which lead to Right actions.

In His Grace,



6 June 2005

not the Doctor


Last week we addressed how poor usage of time can and will keep our churches and lives from being 'hospitals.' Hopefully, we all took a much needed look at just how busy we are.

This week, let me share some more thoughts, taking the hospital analogy just a bit further...

How DARE we act like WE are the doctor!!! What am I talking about? Am I contradicting myself? Let me explain...

We are NOT the doctor. Nope. Not in the 'hospital' of the Church. We can be assistants, nurses, janitors, and even patients, but we must never call ourselves the doctor. The Great Physician, Jesus, is the One who mends broken hearts, heals wounds and saves souls. We are His apprentices, and yes, sometimes His patients.

As apprentices, we need to KNOW the Physician more and more. As we do, we will get better and better at the work He wants to do through us. We must not try to improve on His methods or timing, but trust that He knows what He is doing. Are you trying to be the Doctor in someone's life? Are you trying to 'fix' them? Or are you leaving room for God to grow that person, using His methods and in His time?

As patients, we need to TRUST the Physician. He allows us to get hurt but has a purpose for it and wants to use it to grow you. Later in life, you can be there for someone going through what you're going through now! Are you upset that God is letting you go through a certain situation? He is NOT there to keep every bad thing from happening to you (though many Christians act, believe and pray this way). He IS there to be TRUSTED. Let the Physician work. Are you resisting the authority of the Doctor? Are you trying to 'fix' yourself? Hello? YOU CAN'T!

He will allow you to struggle and struggle to 'fix' yourself and succeed for a while and then fail. You know the cycle? Up, down, up, down. You have to take your hands off the wound for the Physician to get in there and heal it. Yes, taking your hands off of it might mean others will see it, but it's the only way for REAL healing.

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." -Jesus

In His Grace,



30 May 2005

what all did you do today?


Last week we looked at an anaolgy between churches and hospitals. Makes sense enough, right? Well, there is one thing that will KILL our ability to turn our churches into 'hospitals of grace'...

Being busy.

Want to know one force that NOBODY has ever been able to stop or even slow down??? The force of time. It just keeps on going. That's why it is so precious!!! Many, many attempts are made at helping us 'make the most' of our time. The race is on to see how much 'stuff' we can get done in theleast amount of time.

Much more could be said, but suffice it to say that our busy lives are killing us. We are tired, worn out and lethargic. This has a lethal effect on our ministry. We show up for 'church' once and twice a week, and wonderwhy it often seems so meaningless, so irrelevant, so.... dead.

We need to make more time for church in our lives. No, not more of what we do on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights (or whenever), but time for the growing of relationships. Ironically, the church 'building' isn't usually the best place for 'church-building'. (that sentence might deserve a re-read)

Please, I beg you, take a look at your schedule. Write it all out if you need to. Cut out the bad stuff, cut out some good stuff, then leave time open for the best stuff. STOP patting people (or yourself) on the back for being busy! It's cancer to individuals and the church!!! And we're all prone to get it!!!

"for my yoke is EASY, and my burden is LIGHT" - Jesus

Love and Grace,



23 May 2005

excuse me, nurse?


This week, I want to focus on 'realness' in our Christian lives. Let's be honest, most of the time, Christianity is a dog-and-pony show where the 'most spiritual' award goes to the one with the least sin, and the biggest smile on Sunday morning. Is that the goal? Is that even reality? Is that what Jesus had in mind for the church? I think not.

We need to be open and honest with eachother. I look at a church (not the building or the time spent in the building, but people) as a HOSPITAL. Hospitals are full of people that are hurting. Hospitals are places where people go to have their wounds healed. Can you imagine how rediculous it would be if an injured person went to a hospital and the doctors and nurses were apalled and disgusted by the wounds they had?

"I'm sorry, miss, but we don't allow bleeding here, can you please cover that wound? It's making many of the others uncomfortable."

Is this not what we do in our churches? Sure, we give much lip service to the idea of being a place of healing, but secretly, we wish for good, clean, sin-less, happy, european, comfortable church members that are more 'like us.' I desire to be the kind of Christian that people know they can come to when they are hurting.

This week, ask the Holy Spirit two questions...
1. Am I the kind of person people can confess sins to? Can people be 'real' with me?
2. Am I confessing my sins (specific) to anyone? Am I being 'real' with others?

May our lives and our churches be hopitals of mercy and clinics of grace...

In His Grace,



fully automatic

Alright folks,

I understand how busy each of you are, and want to respect your time, so each week I'll keep it simple...after all, these truths aren't really hard to understand, otherwise I would be wasting my time trying to understand them myself.

The concept of ByDefault is not mine. I think it's God's, so that's that. I have learned (and continue to) much from several people about these truths, but again, they don't belong to me or anyone else. They're from the Bible, a book that I haven't always thought to be very relevant, but have seen how alive it really is.

ByDefault will address a problem that I believe is of the utmost importance. That problem is that we are not real. We have relplaced the gospel and spiritual life of true, biblical Christianity with an aesthetic, non-spiritual game-show that we ALL play. In other words, Christianity sometimes is reduced to a morality contest. While morality is a good thing, and a natural by-product of the Christian life, it is NOT at the center of our faith. Christ is. We forget/minimalise how sinful we are, and forget/minimalise how great our Saviour is. This week, think about how refreshing it was to know that you can come to God empty-handed, without 'cleaning up', and be forgiven by what GOD has done, not what YOU have done.

Christianity is not D-O (what I can do), but D-O-N-E (what Christ has done)!!!

In His Grace,





I'm starting a weekly email called ByDefault...

I almost had my email groups set-up before my laptop was stolen, and I'm just now getting them ready. I want to use ByDefault as a chance to encourage all of you in your personal dependence on Christ. Some of you might not have had my email before, so here ya go...

It would be great to hear from you all. I'd love to know what is going on in your lives! Some of you I already have had the chance to get to know really well, but I'd love to get to know others more as well. I want to do anything I can to encourage you, so here's my 'foot in the door.'

Why call it ByDefault? Well, my desire for my life, is that I would have a dependent relationship with Jesus, and be keenly aware that I can't (and shouldn't) do anything without Him. Then, as I live in that attitude of surrender, by default (automatically) I would experience His life being lived through me!

"I am the vine, you are the branches...without Me, you can do nothing." - Jesus

I look forward to hearing from you!

Dale Campbell
Youth Pastor
Ngaire Avenue Bible Chapel
3 Ngaire Ave., Epsom
Auckland, New Zealand, 1003