Jesus' Mission Statement

Jesus brought a simple message of hope into this world. You could call it his mission statement. Standing in front of people who had watched him grow up, who knew him and his family, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah.   The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,     because the Lord has anointed me     to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,     to proclaim freedom for the captives     and release from darkness for the prisoners,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor     and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,      and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty     instead of ashes, the oil of joy     instead of mourning, and a garment of praise     instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness,     a planting of the Lord     for the display of his splendor. (Is. 61:1-3) When he finished, Jesus told his listeners that this passage was about him and his ministry or mission. What a needed mission in our world today! To proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom to people who are tired of this sin-sick world. To bind up the brokenhearted and help those in pain. To set people free from captivity that robs them of life. To turn sadness, disappointment and grief into joy and praise. To establish people with great strength. What a difference this makes. This was the mission of Jesus and it needs to be the mission of his church. As a pastor I get distracted with so many things. The towels in the washroom need changing. Our internet is down again. We need more Sunday school space. The sound system isn’t working properly. And on the list goes. All these things need to be cared for but they aren’t why we are a church. In doing these things we can’t forget our main calling as a church; which is to echo the mission and message of Jesus. Otherwise we fall short. I’m committing this passage to more prayer, spending more time examining my activities and believing more than ever that Jesus is still in the business of doing this kind of work. It’s what the world needs but more importantly it what I need. Let’s make room this coming season at Crossroads for Jesus to do his life giving work. Let’s be people who actively cooperate with the mission of the risen Savior. Nothing could be more significant. 

Ready for Anything!

I like to spend some time during the summer months getting organized for the next season ahead. Once September comes along I find I’m non-stop busy until Christmas. If I don’t do some planning I get overwhelmed when the rush comes. So I’ve been doing some reading on being more productive at work. I want to be productive and engage in meaningful work but sometimes it also means hard work and difficult circumstances.   What was the most productive time of your life? Can you think of a period of time when you experienced great productivity and perhaps great personal growth? I bet as you look back there is a sense of satisfaction as to what was achieved and what was accomplished. I also bet that, given the choice, you wouldn’t want to go through it again. Our growth, our productivity, often comes in times of pressure, hardship and opposition. When I think about the international moves our family has made I know they were challenging but also brought growth. There is a sense that we are stronger and have achieved something that we would not have it we hadn’t jumped into living overseas. We grew through some very hard trials.   Our personal and spiritual growth often comes in those difficult times; the breaking of long-term relationships, the death of a loved one, changing jobs, losing a job, health issues and illness, or difficult financial times. None of us ever wants to enter those periods but when we emerge we know that God has used those times to enrich and build us. It seems so counter-intuitive. I often say that the Kingdom of God is the upside-down kingdom. The easy-going times are times for coasting but the difficult times are times for growth and productivity. You can get very good at lifting a five pound weigh but you won’t grow muscle until you add some new weigh and struggle to lift it. So James writes:  Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4) As crazy as it seems joy can come in the midst of difficult circumstances and hard times. That’s because joy that comes from God isn’t based on our surroundings but rather on our relationship with him. Because we know him, because he loves us, because he is in control – we can have deep seated joy in the storm. We just need to remember he is present. 

High Tech, High Touch

I was having trouble last week with my banking card. So I decided to call the bank and find out what the problem was. I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down at the computer and called the bank. I was prepared to sit through several minutes of listening to music while on hold, perhaps an endless round of pushing numbers until I got someone to speak with. Imagine my surprise when after three rings an actual person answered the phone and then proceeded to help me with my problem. No waiting on hold. I was impressed. When the culture around us changes gradually we don’t often notice the differences that are occurring. Remember, way back in the late 1980s, it was considered cutting edge to have an answering machine in your home. Of course, it was attached with many wires to your land line which probably had a rotary dial. In the early 1990s we had a friend who got ‘caller ID’ on his land line. He could decide whether or not to take your call. We were all amazed at technology. The other night my son and I ‘rented’ a movie on iTunes. I tried to explain to him that we used to have to go out to a store and rent a VHS tape. We’d have to rewind it before returning it to the store the next day. He didn’t really understand what I was talking about. Kids these days! Things have changed. We feel so much more advanced now. Always connected to the internet we check Facebook, Twitter and our email multiple times throughout the day. We have in-depth conversations with people around the world while sitting quietly in the same room with our family members. I’m not going to complain about technology today or scold people for using devices which have become so common. But my encounter with the bank reminded me that it was nice talking to an actual person instead of dealing with a computer screen. In the 1980s, as new technology was taking off, John Naisbitt coined the term “high tech, high touch.” Among the many things that this phrase has come to mean is the idea of finding balance between the high tech skills that are necessary for life and the high touch skills that are essential for enjoying life. Naisbitt understood that the very technology which was intended to free us from certain tasks could end up enslaving us. With great foresight he argued that we need to be involved in activities that keep us healthy, creative, energized and in relationship with other people. The prophet Isaiah asked an insightful question: But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it?     Is the saw greater than the person who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it?     Can a wooden cane walk by itself? (Isaiah 10:15 NLT) In other words, people are more important than the tools they use. Advances in technology have always been with us and will continue to be. But technology is meant to serve us. Too often we find ourselves serving the technology, tied to our devices and desperate for a digital fix. Finding the balance isn’t just helpful – it is essential. Our spiritual life and development depends on it. We must stay connected to God and the people around us in a meaningful way. The world has lots of ‘high tech’; what it needs now is some ‘high touch.’

Who Is He?

When I was growing up there was a popular TV show in Canada called Front Page Challenge. A panel of journalists had to guess the identity of a mystery guest. The mystery guest was usually a well-known person who was currently in the news. Guests could include famous musicians, politicians, authors and various types of celebrities. For the panel, the trick was to guess the identity of the person in as few questions as possible. The show ran for almost 30 years. It’s similar to a party game that many people play today. The contestant is given a mystery identity and must ask questions to find out who he or she is. Basically players have to answer the question, “Who am I?” Jesus asked similar questions of his disciples except he wasn’t in the dark about his identity. He asked his disciples two questions. First, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18) Jesus had been ministering for some time among the people. Yet, he remained somewhat vague about his identity and mission. People were beginning to form their own ideas about who he really was. Many thought he was a prophet come back from the dead. Then Jesus asked his second question, “But who do you say that I am?” This is the key question that each person must answer. It doesn’t matter what the crowds say about Jesus. Their opinion is often wrong. What matters is whether or not we correctly understand who Jesus is. Jesus has left a lot of evidence about who he is, what he has done and what he will do. Each one of us has to examine the evidence and come to a conclusion. Peter concluded that Jesus was “God’s Messiah.” (Luke 19:20) Our life now and life in the future rests on how we answer this one simple question, “Who is Jesus?” He is either the savior of the world or he isn’t. There is no in-between answer.


He was warned. But he got eaten by the alligator anyway. A marina owner recently put up a sign next to the bayou, “Beware of Alligator.” The twelve-foot-long reptile had been seen lurking about the area. Alligators are common in that part of Texas but don’t usually hang around developed areas. Local people were advised to be careful and everyone had been staying out of the water. But one young man ignored the warning. Two of the marina employees told the 28 year old that it would be dangerous to go for a swim. But he went anyway. Horrified, his girlfriend watched as the alligator grabbed the man and carried him underwater. It was the first time in 179 years that someone has been killed by an alligator in Texas. Sadly, it didn’t have to happen. What is it about human nature that refuses to take warnings seriously? Despite the risks, people do careless things every day that endanger themselves and others. In Genesis 4 we read about two brothers, Cain and Abel. Cain was angry with his brother because Abel’s sacrifice to God had been accepted and his wasn’t. God sought to help Cain deal with this issue and then warns him about harboring anger in his spirit.  “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7) God warns Cain about the dangers of sin. Sin is waiting for Cain, ready to pounce on him. Cain needs to be alert or he may wind up doing something terrible. But he doesn’t listen. Instead he ignores the danger and kills his brother. As believers we have many blessings in Christ. Over the years we grow stronger in discipleship and maturity. But beware: sin is crouching at your door. We should never dismiss this warning. It’s why we need to be on guard at all times. Examine your heart regularly and watch out for sin that wants to overpower you. God gave us a warning in the early chapters of the Bible and it still applies.

Debts That Can't Be Paid

The front page news here in Europe is all about the debt crisis in Greece. On Sunday Greeks voted against a bailout package. No one is really sure how this is all going to play out or what it means for the future of Greece and the Eurozone. But it’s going to be painful. One thing seems clear: Greece will never be able to repay all its debt. While the IMF has recently acknowledged this fact, it’s also true about most other countries. Overall national debts in many industrial countries today are so high that the likelihood of ever getting out of debt is almost zero. History tells us that many great city-states, nations and empires came to an end because of bad debts and their inability to repay. God is concerned about debt. In the Old Testament, Jews were forbidden to charge interest on loans. This was done to ensure that people would be able to repay and not spend a lifetime in servitude. The law required that every seven years all debts be cancelled so that people could have a fresh start. Debt has a way of squeezing life out of people and removing any chance of hope. This crisis has caused me to pause and give thanks that my debt has already been paid. The Bible calls sin a debt. Each one of us has a debt of sin greater than we would ever be able to repay. Paul says in Romans 4:25 that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Furthermore he reminds us that “you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14) The hymn writer put it this way: I had a debt I could not pay, He paid the debt He did not owe, I needed someone, To wash my sins away So while I pray that a reasonable solution can be found to the crisis in Greece, I am also giving thanks that my greatest debt has been paid. Jesus’ death and resurrection has given me a fresh start and hope for the future.

3 Things For Summer

One year Tom and Janice bought their dream house. It was a big step financially but they had been planning for some time and were overjoyed when they finally moved in. A week later their car died and they needed to buy a new one. When the summer holidays rolled around someone asked them if they were going to take a trip somewhere. “No,” said Tom, “we can’t afford to. So we just plan to sit in the house and look out at our new car. And then when we get tired of that we plan to go and sit in the car and look at our new house.” Whether or not you get away on holidays in the next couple of months I hope that you can slow down and enjoy the summer season. Here are three things I try to fit in during my holiday time. 1. Rest. Taking rest means ceasing from work. It’s important that we put projects and deadlines behind us for a while. It’s sobering to think that if you suddenly died your work place would continue on without you. We like to think that our work is indispensable but truthfully we can rest without everything falling apart. So ignore the emails and take some time for yourself. 2. Relationships. Holidays are a great time to reconnect with the people we love. Take time for your spouse and children. Spend an evening with old friends. Play silly games with the kids. Surveys tell us that camping trips are among the most stressful things a family can do but they also make for the best family memories. Make some good memories this summer. 3. Reflection. We need to pause and think about the season we have just come through. You might be filled with gratitude for the way God has blessed. Or you might find yourself experiencing disappointment or sadness with events that have taken place. Talk with God about how you are feeling. Just as important is thinking about the next season that lies ahead. You can mentally and spiritually prepare yourself through thoughtful reflection and prayer. After a particularly busy day of work and ministry Jesus said to his disciples, “‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32) I pray that during these next couple of months you’ll find a solitary place and time alone with Jesus.

Will This Matter a Year from Now?

What problem are you dealing with today? What issue has you all worked up? Is it an argument with your spouse? Did you make a mistake at work? Did you lose some money or have you missed a great opportunity? Are you feeling ill and needing to take some time off? Has someone disappointed you? All of these issues can seem so important in the heat of the moment. But ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” Playing what Richard Carlson calls the “time warp” game can be very helpful in bringing us much needed perspective. Imagine that whatever you are dealing with today isn’t happening right now but a year from now. Then ask yourself, “Is this situation really as important as I’m making it out to be?” There may indeed be occasions when it is – but usually it isn’t all that significant. The other day I sat beside a river and watched some ducks and a couple of swans as they swam around. A passage from the Sermon on the Mount about how God cares for birds came to mind so I looked it up. Here are Jesus’ words to us: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34) That passage brought me much needed perspective and peace. I struggle and fight against things I have no control over because I’m worried about many things. But my heavenly Father is in control of all things. So whatever it is that’s bothering me today, I need to trust that God has it all under control. And a year from now – I will have probably forgotten about it.