The Fine Art of Missing the Point

I realised this week, afresh, how easily I can miss the point. I was teaching on Galatians 6 and came to the familiar passage “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. You reap that which you sow.” I have often used this passage to comfort myself when I saw “the wicked prospering.” My take on this passage was that judgement is unavoidable and that a kind of Christian karma exists that will recompense evil doers justly. This time I asked myself if the same was true of actions that sprang from “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.” Do these activities contain the same ‘seed’ which ultimately bring about harvest? Does every small act of Christian kindness contain the dynamic power to result in multiplied yield? Paul goes on to admonish us “not to weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap, if we do not faint.”

Too often I consider feeble efforts at Kingdom kindness, as small. Paul makes clear that God sees them as powerful seeds through which He will bring about an abundant harvest. Like a gardener who plants seed and sees nothing for a season, we sow tiny goodnesses, though we see no immediate result. God’s first command was to “Go and multiply.” This has not been rescinded. Paul makes clear that sowing and multiplying continues to this day. What we sow and what multiplies is our choice. One of the key factors keeping us as poor Kingdom multipliers, is a sense of our puniness and ineffectualness. We easily are duped into complacency, but Paul wants to activate us to lives of daily sowing. We then leave the harvest to God who promises that kindness, love etc. will indeed bear fruit.

This view of the God of the harvest, using the smallest kindness as seed ought to thrill us and constrain us knowing we can indeed have a consequential impact, not by our own efforts but by God’s almighty power working in our weakest efforts. A cup of cold water becomes a dynamic weapon for the Kingdom of God. I dare not withhold that cup or that cheery smile, or helping hand or word of encouragement, because each missed opportunity is one less seed sown for the Kingdom of God and one lost chance to partner, in a small way, with God in Harvest.

On a personal note, I am slowly getting back to active life. My back remains relatively pain free. The wound on my back from the removal of a growth is slow in healing. It has been three weeks and I still wait (a bit impatiently) for it to heal completely.

We are experiencing some of the challenges of community living at Threshold House, as quite different personalities learn to live with one another. This is not easy, and we covet your prayers for this, especially at this time.

We are starting “Breakfast & a Message” Saturday September 24th and plan to make this a monthly event. We will be offering a hot breakfast and inviting a guest speaker to share a message of hope.

Our Friday Night Drop In continues. We had a really good group last week when we had a barbecue. We hope to continue to build our network out.

New Heroes

When I was young I had some heroes. Some of these were sports figures like Frank Mahovolich or Russ Jackson but many were biblical heroes I learned about in Sunday School. David and his slingshot, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, Samson before his hair cut, young Samuel in the Temple, these and many others filled my head with the glories of following God! Now I still find biblical role models, but they are apt to be nameless and faceless characters in the biblical narrative.

This week I read about just such ‘heroes. The main cast of characters are identified: Jesus, Mary, Martha, and dead Lazarus, but the folks that drew my admiration and I hope emulation had no name. Most of us do not leave a huge historical footprint but that does not mean we cannot play a meaningful role in the drama of the in coming Kingdom of God. These nameless faceless people in the story become then a moral template for us.

Jesus says, “Roll away the stone!” The Gospel writer does not tell us who obeyed this command but soon the stone is indeed rolled away. How might the rest of the story have unfolded but for the instant obedience and energy of these nameless heroes? The story can continue because of them, and Jesus goes on to call Lazarus to life. Jesus gives one more command to the nameless ones. “Take the grave clothes off him!” It is not recorded who jumped to obey but it is taken for granted that it was done.

I believe that my role, and probably yours, in ushering in the Kingdom is to do the nameless tasks. To see where and how I can be a part of “rolling the stone away” so that people can clearly hear the Lord call their name. I must avoid putting obstacles in people’s way but instead be removing those obstacles. As one of the countless nameless ones I am called to love and serve!

Another role is to help people out of their grave clothes. We are all called from death to life, and we bring baggage from our pasts. We come into this “new birth” with a variety of hurts, habits and hang ups from which we need to be freed. It is my task then to be involved in helping in this endeavour, all the time being aware that I am entangled as well!

The key, I think is that neither of these tasks is an individualistic endeavour. These are team sports! You may very well be able to worship God in nature (I do) or on the golf course, but you can not rid yourself of the ‘grave clothes’ that so entangle all of us. This is the work of a community of faith. Together we pitch in and the task that is impossible for the individual becomes entirely do-able in community.

The one work, stone rolling, is evangelistic in nature. The other is discipleship. A wholesome exercise of both is key. This is our emphasis at Threshold House. We work with men and connect them to Christian community so they can find freedom from their grave clothes. We also seek to offer teaching, modelling, and opportunity to engage in rolling away stones so others can hear the Lord call them to new life. For us this is the heartbeat of the Gospel.

On a personal note, this has been a consequential few weeks. Through treatment and prayer my back is so much better than it was. If I can avoid “doing something silly” I should be able to go about life as normal. A couple of weeks ago I also had a cancerous growth removed from my back. The doctor dug especially deep in hopes of getting it all. He suspected it was a non-life-threatening type but sent a biopsy off to confirm that. Just this week I received a call to say that his estimate of it was correct and that since he took so much surrounding tissue there would be no need for further treatment. I am thankful to God for these answers to prayer.

Here is a picture of our van Gough experience

An Odd Beach Head!

When preachers or teachers explain the “already but not yet” aspect of our experience of the Kingdom of God, they often use the ‘D Day’ analogy. D Day of course was the determinative day of World War Two. The Allied forces landed at Normandy and formed a “beach head”. Once these forces were ensconced on that blood-soaked beach, the course of the war in Europe was set. The forces of Nazism were on the wane and its doom was inevitable. The teachers use this to illustrate the victory of the blood-soaked cross of Christ that makes inevitable His return to reign!

I was reading the other day about another ‘beach head’. This beach head was established by a singularly odd character!

Jesus crossed from his familiar territory to the Gadarenes. This was a gentile enclave known for its secular society. Galilee across the lake prided itself on being a ‘God-centred’ society but on the far side was a society that prided itself on being free of religious constraints. It was in this way a Godless society. Legion was its most extreme citizen. Rather than freedom though Legion found only bondage. Rather than self-satisfaction he found only torment. Finally, he shed the last vestiges of civilization along with his clothes and indeed his sanity. His life was one of torment at the hands of unbridled demonic forces.

Jesus no sooner steps ashore than he is confronted by secularism which had hit rock bottom. With compassion, and unheard of authority Jesus set Legion free. His new-found freedom did not resemble the freedom the secular world view offered. Soon he was clothed and in his right mind.

The many demons fled at the word of Jesus and entered a nearby herd of pigs. The pigs ran squealing and shrieking to their doom as a stark symbol of the end which Godlessness brings.

Jesus is soon shown ‘the left foot of fellowship’ as he is asked to leave their shores. It seems the Kingdom Beach Head is to be lost but God has another and better plan. Legion now wonderfully free wants to accompany Jesus to holier ground but Jesus forbids this. Instead, he instructs him to return to family and friends and tell them about the ‘Son Who Sets Us Free’. Where Jesus is not welcome has become Legion’s mission field. He is the beach head Jesus has established on the Gadarene shores. He has not been through seminary or even an Alpha Course. He is to simply tell: his former life, his current hope, and his wonder-filled personal encounter with Jesus.

I believe I, like Legion, have a beach head ministry. In fact,I believe all Christians have such a calling. In our neighbourhood, in our family, in the areas where Jesus is not yet welcome, we have the opportunity of sharing our story. The power of a changed life opens doors which are firmly shut to Jesus. Unlike Legion we live on this side of Pentecost. God’s Spirit enables the willing and softens hearts.

The key question then is “Am I willing?”  

On a personal note, my back which has been so painful is vastly improved. Thank you to all who have prayed!

We just got back from a short visit in PEI. We experienced an immersive Vincent Van Gough exhibit, visited the aboriginal community of Lennox Island and visited a 98 year old family friend. David and Victoria were able to join us for the exhibit. PTL