The Value of Suffering

The Value of Suffering

Recently, I came across a line which the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Philippi: "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" (Philippians 3:10 emphasis mine)

What the heck?

Why would Paul say he wants to suffer with Jesus?

I love Jesus. I would prefer to love Jesus without great pain or suffering or loss, if given the choice.

All of this leads me to ask a question: Is there a redemptive value in suffering?

Am I Doing The Whole Christianity Thing Right?

Am I Doing The Whole Christianity Thing Right?

So, what is the point of Christianity? I reject the answer that it's about 'getting to heaven'. To steal a line from N.T. Wright, the scriptures are pretty clear that God's purposes aren't about getting us into heaven, but rather getting heaven into us.

There's talk of us having the fullest possible life. There's the part of the Lord's Prayer asking for God's kingdom and will to be present on earth. In John 17, Jesus prays for everyone who will ever believe in him (v.20) and he specifically says, "I’m not asking you to take them out of the world..." (v.15).

No, our goal isn't to escape this world. It is to be part of God's restoration of this world. To prepare the way for God's justice and redemption by seeking those things in the areas of our life where we have the opportunity to make a difference.

So then, back to the question at hand. How do I know if I'm doing this correctly?

How to Evangelize Without Guilt or Threats

How to Evangelize Without Guilt or Threats


When you see that word, what do you think?

Do you picture a guy with a bullhorn?

Do you picture yourself telling the lady sitting next to you on the plane about how she's heading for hell?

Is it the 'Jesus sales pitch' you learned in Sunday school complete with visual examples, like your keyring?

I gotta tell you, I don't get excited by any of those situations. Let me explain why: I love genuine relationships and chances to build community with people. But when somebody has an ulterior motive, it ruins the chance for relationship.

If you start telling me about how you think I'd be a great sales rep for your multilevel marketing business, we're probably done talking. I don't think you're interested in me, I think you're interested in what you can get out of me.

But on the flip side, I take Jesus seriously, and he talks about making disciples throughout the world. So how can I spread the Good News of Jesus without coming across as a disingenuous huckster?

Dear Fellow White Christians...

Dear Fellow White Christians...

In the last couple of years, conversations about race in America have gotten louder and more inflamed than they have ever been since my adulthood (I was 14 when the LA riots happened in the aftermath of the LAPD-Rodney King incident).

From Trayvon to Ferguson to Eric Garner to Freddie Gray, the conversation has been growing, especially on social media.

Hoodies. Hands up, don't shoot. I can't breathe. Black Lives Matter.

As a white man living in a suburb, what am I supposed to do with all this? Anyone who isn't white may be disheartened to hear this, but It would be pretty easy for me to ignore all this.

How Much Money Should Christians Have?

How Much Money Should Christians Have?

Well, I didn't win the $1.5 billion Powerball.

You can tell because I'm not writing this from my new gold plated space shuttle.

I know some people will have a problem with this, but I bought a ticket. I never for a minute thought I would actually win. The reason I bought it was so that my family could enjoy the entertainment of the 'what would we do with it' conversations.

I’m not too disappointed that I did not win, because the thing is - that much money would probably ruin my life.

Why Should I Forgive?

Why Should I Forgive?

Forgiving is hard. Jesus wouldn't lead us to do this just because he wanted us to be miserable. If Jesus calls us to do something hard, it's because it is the path to something better - the path to a fuller life

Forgiving people who have wronged or harmed you or a loved one is difficult, but life giving.

Let's look at the reasons why you should forgive someone who harms you.

Healthy Engagement with Politics

Healthy Engagement with Politics

Breaking News: we have a presidential election occurring here in the US later this year.

You may have missed it, or perhaps you noticed a web article about it.

Or newspaper article. Or magazine article. Or a TV commercial. Or news coverage. Or trending twitter topics. Or one of the debates. Or a billboard. Or a robo-call to your phone. Or unending posts about it on your Facebook feed.

It’s hard to miss, is what I’m getting at here. 

My question is this: in the midst of often 'spirited' debates, how can Christians debate and discuss who to vote for and retain our identity as the Body of Christ?

How To Deal with Imperfect People

How To Deal with Imperfect People

"You're scum"

That's what religious leaders in Jesus' day called the people who were at a party with him one evening.

It was hard for me to realize that I was more like those religious leaders than I was like Jesus, and I knew I needed a big change in my life.

Radio Interview on Life FM

Radio Interview on Life FM

I recently got the chance to do a radio interview on a show called The Forum with George Penk on Life FM in New Zealand. It was a lot of fun talking with George and getting a chance to interact around some ideas which I have written about recently!

The topic from our first broadcasted conversation is around 'Loving Your Enemy'.

On this Valentine's Day, when we celebrate love, let's also remember that Jesus challenges us to be WAY more loving than any of us would choose if left to our own ways and means.

Check it out!

But What If Christianity Is Wrong?

But What If Christianity Is Wrong?

Deciding what religion (if any) to adhere to seems like a risky proposition.

I mean, what if you don’t pick the right one? If you pick the wrong one, does everyone else basically get to hear the losing horn from “Price is Right” in the afterlife — if there is one?

I happen to be a follower of Jesus, and I really do believe the things He says about God and the nature of reality. I have found a fullness of life which I simply didn’t have before making the choice to believe in Jesus. I’m never going back.

But if you are not currently a follower of Jesus, I can totally understand why you might hesitate to make a commitment. So allow me to consider what it means if people who take Jesus at His word are just flat out wrong.

How To Have A Conversation

On Christmas Eve, Sarah Silverman posted a tweet about Jesus being gender fluid.

Now, as a follower of Jesus, how am I supposed to react to this?

Should I get angry? Should I try to 'educate' people about the subject being posted? Do I ignore it?

Personally, I'm always interested in ways to get into a conversation about faith. This seems like a great conversation starter.

When is violence the answer?

In the aftermath of the Parisian attacks last month, French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" responseagainst ISIS.Within days, France had bombed an ISIS target in Syria and performed numerous raids within France itself, killing and capturing several terror suspects.

We can all understand this response. Terrorist attacks against civilians are horrifying. In an effort to seek justice for the slaughtered and to prevent future attacks, we turn to violence in our response.

As a Christian, should I have a problem with this?

How To Get Your Prayer Out Of A Rut

I don't know about you, but I have the tendency to get myself into ruts. I find myself eating at the same 2 or 3 restaurants on a weekly basis, or I realize that I've been checking the same handful of websites over and over throughout the day.

The most problematic rut I get into involves the snooze alarm function on my phone.

When it goes off, I snooze a few times. To counteract this, I set the alarm earlier, which leads to more snoozing, which leads to an earlier start time.

After a while, my alarm is going off an hour and half before I actually need to get up, but being snoozed 8 or 9 times before I actually get up.

Every couple of years, it gets to a point where I declare alarm clock bankruptcy. I set the alarm to go off when I actually need to get up. It works for a few weeks or months before I decide to back it up a few minutes to accommodate the snoozing that inevitably follows.

Your ruts probably don't look exactly like mine, but we can all find ourselves stuck in a repeating, unthinking cycle.

How Relevant Should Christians Be?

On December 9th, a new reality TV show is premiering on Oprah's TV network, Oxygen.The reality show is about a pastoral couple named Rich and DawnCheré Wilkerson called Rich in Faith. The show has gotten some attention because these are the pastors of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

I got a chance to hear Rich speak at the Catalyst Next conference in DC recently and it sparked discussion among our own church staff regarding whether what they are doing is appropriate. While he doesn't necessarily have a presentation style that I prefer, Rich and DawnCheré preached boldly about the greatness of Jesus and how much we are loved by our saviour.

One of the things that Rich discussed in an interview after he preached is the fact that God is giving him influence in circles that most of us would never be able to access.

I loved that.

You need access to gain influence, and that's a good thing because you can't influence people who aren't paying attention to you.

Why I Don't Hate Muslims

In the past week, there have been several notable comments about Muslims. Donald Trump made a statement that he believes all Muslims should be blocked from entering the United States.

Additionally, the president of Liberty University - Jerry Falwell Jr. - said that Christians should arm themselves so they can 'end those Muslims'.

I can understand why such comments and dispositions would be taken. Fear makes us want to put big, strong walls around the things we care about.

Is God Mad At Me When I Doubt?

So there’s this story in the bible I like a lot. It’s recorded in the book of Mark if you want to read it for yourself, but here’s the gist:

Jesus has been up on a mountain praying, away from the crowds that follow him everywhere. He comes down the mountain to find a chaotic scene.

A father who has a son with some serious issues has been asking Jesus’ disciples to heal the kid. The disciples have tried and failed.

The father brings the kid over to Jesus and I’m going to let what Mark wrote tell the next couple parts here:

(The Dad says to Jesus)  “Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.”

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus then punched him in the gut and said, ‘Come back when you don’t have any more unbelief, chump.” Then he rolled out with his posse.

In case you aren’t sure, I made that last part up. What actually happens is that Jesus heals the kid who suffered by major seizures and gave him back to his dad.

The father in that story is one of my heroes and I don’t even know his name.

How To Respond to Terrorism

We've seen an increasing number of mass shootings in the United States recently (353 in 2015, so far), not to mention attacks in places like Paris, Nigeria and Mali. When we find out about the latest violence, it can be tempting to shake our heads and long for the day when believers in Jesus get to escape this world and live for all eternity in heaven where there is no pain or tears.

The problem is, that viewpoint is completely antithetical to what the Christian scriptures teach.

The Bible teaches that Christ followers are supposed to engage in the world, not escape from it.

Why Christmas is Unfair

This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas when we spend time considering the meaning of the birth of Christ in our world. Speaking of this event, the prophet Isaiah wrote: "Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means 'God is with us')." (Isaiah 7:14)

I love that the name 'God is with us' is used. In our world, we deal with many challenges and difficulties, large and small. From personal struggles to global problems like terrorism and refugee crises. I am grateful that God is with us in the midst of these problems.

This year, my church is considering the idea that God has invited us to a gift exchange.

When you are going to visit family or friends for Christmas, you try to make sure that you bring something that will make them happy. It would be terrible to receive a great gift and have something underwhelming to give in return.

Yet, in the original meaning and concept of Christmas, we find ourselves in exactly that situation.

3 Things a Christian Should Consider During Election Season

Sorry to bum you out, but for the next year, you're going to be hearing wall-to-wall political coverage. What the latest poll says, who won the last debate, how each election or caucus turned out, who got an endorsement, attack ads, scandals, etc, etc, etc.

Canada just had their longest election season ever. It lasted 3 months.

Most of the American political candidates announced their campaigns with over 16 months to go.

Since we're going to have to deal with this topic all over our phones and computers and televisions for the next year, it would probably be a good idea to consider how being a follower of Jesus should impact this part of our lives.