Don’t shoot the messenger

We all have people in our lives that we’d rather not have in our lives. An annoying coworker. A nosy neighbour. That weird uncle that only shows up at holidays. We avoid these people at all costs and even begrudge them when something good happens in their lives. We hold on to our dislike—hate even—like a security blanket. So long as that person keeps doing the things we dislike, we can grip our sense of superiority over them.

Jonah experienced a similar feeling when God brought him to a certain city in a rather roundabout way. Jonah finally made it to the city of Nineveh by way of fish. It probably wasn’t the most popular mode of transportation in his day, but it did the trick. Jonah was finally where God told him to be—surrounded by people he didn’t like. Not only did he have to be there, he had to share a certain message.

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

Jonah 3:4 (NLT)

Still believing himself to be above the people in the city, Jonah shared his message with a great sense of satisfaction and then found a prime spot to watch the promised destruction. Yet that destruction would never come. Because, in spite of his hatred for the people of Nineveh, they had received and embraced his message.

The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they decided to go without food and wear sackcloth to show their sorrow.

Jonah 3:5 (NLT)

I doubt this was the response Jonah was expecting. In a city he hated, Jonah was forced to watch as his reluctant message was acted upon. Repentance ran rampant.

What all the saints make a matter of joy and praise, Jonah makes the subject of reflection upon God; as if showing mercy were an imperfection of the Divine nature, which is the greatest glory of it.

Matthew Henry

The account of Jonah is not merely a story of delayed obedience. It is a story of attitude, of mercy, of grace. And it is an account that show us that, even if our attitudes do not reflect our message, God can still work in the hearts of even the greatest sinners. But, unlike Jonah, when our message is received, our hearts should rejoice along with those who have received the gift of grace.

It is the neighbour we like the least that needs the most love. Hesitation on our part to share the Gospel is like shooting the messenger before he even has a chance to tell his story. We do ourselves and our neighbour a disservice by holding on to our hatred and dislike. We want to show our superiority while God wants to show His grace.

Immediate obedience to God’s instruction is far easier on our egos than waiting until the last possible moment.  Let us share in the glory of God’s grace rather than hoarding our own personal comfort.

Daily Bible reading: Jonah 1-4, Revelation 9

Shoe93

Every church wants a good growth strategy—at least they should. We also want to see community and global outreaches at work. Some churches focus on one more than the other and that’s okay. Organisations like the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) have figured out a way to get relief to war- and disaster-torn countries faster than any other organisation. The Association of Faith Churches and Ministers (AFCM) figured out how to build a leadership and church structure on the Peruvian Amazon in a way no one had been able to accomplish before. Victory Churches International (VCI) has been able to plant churches in 43 nations while also feeding communities and providing other necessities like job skills training and orphanages.

When a small church looks at organisations like these, it can be daunting. How can we possibly make a difference? My church is a part of Victory Churches International. We provide funding for a lot of what the organisation does in Canada and abroad, but we also want to make a difference in our own community—especially since our church is located in the inner city. We see the effects of poverty and drug abuse on a daily basis. And for the five years we’ve been in our building have tried all sorts of things to add value to the community. This year—as we go into our seventh year as a church, God planted a vision in our pastor’s heart that caught fire and spread quickly.

There is a school across the street from our building. It’s the poorest school in the city. Kids come and go all the time because of the transient nature of the neighbourhood. When we approached the school about what we could do, a surprising dilemma presented itself. These kids need shoes. In the spring, we handed out shoes to kids in a migrant camp in Mexico. That was expected. To have kids right across the street from us without shoes was completely unexpected.

So began our Shoe93 campaign.

Why Shoe93? Each year, we host several events which we call Reach293 (two-ninety-three). We work to invite people to fill all 293 seats in our auditorium. Shoe93 started off as a bit of a joke, but caught on. Why not try to collect 93 pairs of shoes? Well, collect 93 pairs we did, and then some. Folks who don’t even attend our church (or any church at all) felt a tug on their hearts to give. And, as of the writing of this post, we have somewhere in the vicinity of 175 pairs of shoes (and constructed a shoe-ninety-tree). We’re now hoping to keep going and get a pair of shoes for every student in the school (about 270).

What does this have to do with today’s Bible reading? Every pair of shoes has a tag that reads:

And on your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong.

Ephesians 6:15 (ICB)

2017-09-30 11.01

I am convinced that, as kids put on their first pair of new shoes, that the preparation of the Gospel of peace (as the New King James puts it) will go with them. That 270 kids will be running around town spreading peace like we’ve never seen before and that those little feet will be preparing the ground for the Gospel to be planted in our city. I believe that this little vision turned big will be the start of a revival in my town and this won’t be the last you year of Shoe93.

If you’d like to contribute to Shoe293, visit www.noperfectpeople.co to give online. 100% of all donations will go directly to the purchase of new shoes.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 29-30, Ephesians 6

Learn

What skills have you learned?

That’s a bit of a trick question. What skill do you have that you haven’t learned? There are very few things we do as humans that we don’t have to, at some point in our lives, learn.

I believe that one of the greatest skills we can acquire is also often one of the rarest and most difficult to attain. Obedience.

Many people are under the impression that obedience should come naturally. Once we accept Christ, we should be good to go, right? Hardly.

Even Jesus had to learn to be obedient.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

Hebrews 5:8 (ESV)

This is a loaded statement. We know, in the end, what Jesus suffered. Yet he was still obedient. He was not coerced into obedience, but took it upon himself as a man to be discipled, instructed, and directed to do the will of His Father.

It can be argued that Jesus was fully God and therefore, obedience came easily to Him. Do not forget that He was also fully man. Had He learned obedience in theory only, how could we then learn from Him? Someone who has lived in the city all their life could describe for you the Amazon Jungle, but how much more effective would the description be coming from someone who lives there? Yet even more so from someone who has seen both the city and the jungle.

During His life on earth, Jesus saw both the city and the jungle. And, not only did He see them, He experienced them to the fullest so that we could trust His word on both.

And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.

Hebrews 5:9 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 49-50, Hebrews 5

REACH293

Since purchasing our building over four years ago, Chilliwack Victory Church has been working hard to see a big vision come to fruition. For a small church, it was no small feat to make the big decision to purchase a building that could seat over three times our regular attendance.

Like many churches making a move, a large number of those who heartily agreed to support the church in attendance and finance didn’t make the move with the us and we were left with a small crowd in a large room and even larger building. I’d only been a member of the church for a few months at that point, but I could see glimpses of the vision that Pastor Morris Watson was putting before the church.

Since then we’ve seen many ups and downs, but now we’re going up.

On October 2 of this year, we are going to fill every seat. All 293 seats (we tried for 300, but they just wouldn’t fit!). It’s a big vision for a congregation that’s held an average attendance of 60 over the summer.

There are some in the church who may say we’re biting off more than we can chew. They are probably the same people who said the same thing when we took over a behemoth of an ageing building. Look where we are now. Where orange was king on nearly every surface, a little paint and a lot of sweat equity has changed the physical atmosphere. Now it’s time for  the spiritual atmosphere to change.

Where there is no prophetic vision the people [are discouraged].

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

I firmly believe that October 2 and the weeks leading up to it will serve as a catalyst for growth and change in our church. For those of us who can see the seats full and the building in constant use with classes and community enrichment programs, we will see the miracles, signs, and wonders promised in Mark 16:17. For those who cannot grasp the vision, they will be like those in Proverbs who see nothing but discouragement in a room full of empty seats.

Will you see with me? Will you ask God to open the eyes of your spirit to see the great things He has planned not only for Chilliwack Victory Church, but for every other church in our city, in your city?

And when we see, we can stand. If the church doesn’t stand up for herself, who will? It’s time Church. It’s our time. Now.

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 28-29, 2 Corinthians 7

One Voice

I live in what is considered to be the most churched city in Canada. As in, we have more churches per capita than any other city in the country. There are those who say, “That’s great!” In a way it is, but in other’s it’s a testament to the selfishness of the church.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV)

One voice. The church should have but one voice. I don’t believe that there should be only one church in each city because different styles appeal to different people. And that’s fine. Some prefer a traditional hymn service over a contemporary worship service. You may like one pastor’s style over another. That’s okay.

What bothers me about seeing so many churches is that, in a city of just 80,000 people, there are many churches of the same denomination. Where some may have been extensions of the original plant, others are new plants entirely. What was so wrong with the original that a new one had to be planted? Why could the church no longer glorify God in a single voice, but instead had to lift a new one?

What would happen if the Church – the global Church – would glorify God in a single voice rather than each individual church trying to make it’s unique voice heard? We are not called to be many, but one.

It is my prayer that the day will soon arrive where the Church will stand up and with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 105-106; Romans 15:1-20

Joy!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

James 1:2 (ESV)

Joy? Really? I’m supposed to have joy in trials?

I will readily admit that joy is not usually my go-to response to a difficult situation.

But what is joy? Joy is not equal to happy. Let’s set that one straight.

HAPPY: lucky, fortunate, successful, prosperous, having secure possession of good.

So if joy isn’t happy, what is it?

JOY: a delight of the mind, from the consideration of the present or assured approaching possession of good. To rejoice; to be glad; to exult.

In Acts, Paul and Barnabas stirred up a bit of a ruckus. They had spent several weeks preaching the Good News of Jesus and people were responding. Of course, the leaders of the city would have none of this and they stirred up people against the boys. Paul and Barnabas left the city, shook the dust off their feet and moved on.

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 13:52 (ESV)

Were they happy that they got kicked out of a city where the population was responding to their message? I doubt it. Yet they still had joy because they still had a purpose and they still had the Holy Spirit. The leaders in the city couldn’t take that away.

The next time you face trials and difficulties, try to separate your happiness from your joy. Happiness comes and goes, by joy comes from the Lord.

Daily Bible reading: Job 33-34, Acts 13:24-52