Post-Truth

You may have heard of the term post-modern, relating to the era that some would say we are in that is after the modern era. Depending on who you ask, the modern era with its values, ideas, practices, and general way of doing things started somewhere between the 1600’s or as late as the twentieth century.  The starting date is not important for this discussion per say but just to know that it has existed in our history.  When it comes to postmodern, it is even more elusive.  Some would debate if there has been a significant change in eras from a modern to a postmodern.  Yes there have been changes in thought and how we identify our selves but I cannot significantly define if this is big enough change for people or not.  What I can say that in this change of thinking which could be placed in the postmodern era, is that there has been a push away from  what we call absolute truth.

The idea of absolute truth, an idea/fact that is true no matter what or in what ever context.  In passing you may have heard the question, “what is truth?”.  Have you taken time to really think about this question?  At times I have heard the question, start thinking about it and then get distracted.  Other times I have taken a great deal of time to think about how truth affects my life.  By the way I do believe in an absolute truth, and I believe that Jesus fits into the role of absolute truth.  So in my life, as a pastor, but also as a husband, father, and friend, truth is at the heart of my life.  Truth is important to me and I try to live out this truth.  So it is troubling when I have heard the term multiple times this past weekend, the term post-truth.

It hit me after reading some Facebook posts about theology which then started me thinking back about different news articles and a radio program I was listening to that talked about false news, especially in regards to the United States presidential election.  In the news field, it is easier today to get and transmit “news” through social media by way of what is called citizen news writing.  The ethics of news industry, which I have been unsure of in the last number of years in some cases do not need to be followed.  I have heard arguments that now we are free from the over arching influences of the media providers when we have regular people sharing the news instead of people with an alterior motive in presenting the news the way that they do.  Yes we all have biases no matter how hard we try to be unbiased, some of our biases come through in how we receive information and relay it to others.

If you have had a longer conversation with me you may have heard that I think we are on the verge of a new dark age because we are becoming more and more reliant on retrieving information without knowing if it is true or not.  We are learning less but have more information at our finger tips, but we are becoming less and less sure if the information that we have is true, fact, opinion, or total fiction.  Even the idea of claiming truth is becoming passé and yet there is a subtle move to impose other’s truth on to me even when it is debatable whether their is any backing to that truth.  Truth is being defined by the loud majority and when this is challenged they are defined as a new heretic, oppressive, bigoted, etc.  I will admit that this argument can be used against the Christian church for upwards of 1500 years.  It has caused harm to people and cultures but as people are reacting to this harm that has been caused we need to be careful that the reaction that goes against these historical facts don’t become the modern oppressors.

The struggle that we need to really engage in is not whether or not there is truth, but how do we work together with those around us to live in truth and not be beaten down by truth or beat someone else down with truth.  Truth exists.  As a Christian I am continually learning how to love others while living with the truth that Jesus is and has given to us.  If we try to say there is no truth, we create a paradox, but more importantly we harm ourselves but belittling our own existence by saying that we are each the highest level defining, essentially that we are our own gods.  In doing this our hope is reliant on our own abilities, strength, hope, relationships, etc.  What happens when we fail ourselves?  What happens when we look so far into ourselves that we lose the important relationships that bring life and meaning?

Post-truth is not a good thing, it is a very dark place that we could drown in.  However, the truth of Jesus’ life, reaching out and helping the hurting, lonely, sick, even those who are dead we see that there is hope instead of nothingness.  In Jesus’ death we see that God is willing to go to this great length to reestablish a relationship with us. The resurrection of Jesus shows us that the hope that the disciples had in Jesus was not unfounded and neither should our hope in Jesus.  Jesus overcame even death, imagine what He can do in your life. You don’t need to be alone. Jesus is waiting to hear from you.  He has already sent you the message.  What will you do with His truth.

Is discipleship a priority in your church?

discipleship-a-relational-process

Discipleship has been on my heart lately.  I have been studying it from other people’s perspectives, taking a course on it, and trying to see how this idea that Jesus demonstrated, called people to and even told His disciples to continue and pass on to each of us and we are to continue to pass it on.  But part of that is wrong, it is not simply passing it on.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:19a “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. . . ”  Jesus told His disciples to be intentional about it and not to just pass it on but we are to make disciples.  We can pass  a baton, but that does not mean that the next person suddenly becomes as good of a runner as you.  We can pass on information but that does not mean that we the person that we pass on the information to will have any idea what to do with the information.

Jesus said to make disciples.  The word make is a verb, an action word, that involves one person acting on or interacting with another person in this context.  To make a disciple there has to be interaction between two or more people with one person guiding the learning and another person being willing to accept learning.  In our case all should be learning something but I believe at least one person does need to be directing the majority of the learning.  Jesus brought together many people but we remember only twelve disciples and we know that of those twelve disciples only three of them got the special time together.

Most of us know all this, it is right there in the scriptures more specifically in the Gospels but why do we forget about it in our own lives?  When did so many of us stop thinking that go out and make disciples of all nations stop including us?  Going over what I have read I have struggle to see if I have truly been discipled.  How many of us can remember an extended relationship with someone that was dedicated to refining us, making us accountable to one another and to Jesus, and helping us to live a life where Jesus is our center? I’m not talking about something where we were sequestered away in some remote place and got up at dawn and were praying and reading the scriptures all day, although that might sound nice.  I am talking about the need to have someone that walks with us through life and meets with us for a few hours each week and helps us to grow in our faith, in our walk with Jesus, and helps us stay accountable.  I see this happening in so many other areas of people’s lives but somehow this can get lost, yet this was one of the founding principles of Jesus’ church.

I’m not saying that I am great at this.  I struggle with it.  I have lots to do like so many of you.  But one thing that I am trying to do is take this time with my kids.  Helping them to pray and read the scriptures and then helping them to apply them to the rest of their lives.  I am still working on this and have not perfected it especially with those entering into the teenage years.  I do have someone I am meeting with who is helping me along with this.  But I realize there is so much more to it.  It would be wonderful if we could all be in a discipling relationship, learning and then helping others to learn but not just from each other, learning to learn from Jesus.

dietrich-bonhoeffer-quote-on-discipleshipCan you imagine how the your community of believers would look now if we were to all be into a discipleship relationship and be committed to continue to disciple others.  The worry would not be about not having enough people but that many lives are being changed.

Remember discipleship is not just about passing on information, it is about allowing Jesus to be at work in your heart, mind, body, and soul.  Discipleship is more about learning to live in Jesus and allowing Jesus to live in us and see how He changes our lives and invites us to help others’ lives to be changed and in so doing change our community with the love and grace of Jesus.  If we stop at just ourselves we are disobeying Jesus. It is more than just Sunday School, or passive participation in worship or a small group it is about actively participating in a growing relationship with Jesus and others with us.

Sin and grace

grace3The church over its history was meant to show and share God’s love and grace as people continue to live out their lives. One reality that we can all relate to is that we have sinned and experienced the sin of others also.  The community of faith was and is supposed to show us how to show people grace as we work through sin.

It seems harder in our day and age and in our society to confront sin, part of it is because what is sinful keeps changing both in society and also in our understanding of the Bible.  Another aspect that makes it harder to deal with sin is that we don’t know how to respectfully.  Too often sin has been dealt with by using the jagged edge of gossip.  This neither confronts sin nor does it does it bring God’s grace into the equation, in fact, gossip puts grace farther out of reach.  The sad truth is that we also let sin slide because we benefit from sin.  In a society that does not show the same loyalty as it used to, where if we are unhappy or challenged or our needs are not being met, we move on, we leave and go somewhere else.  Also when it comes to the idea of work, it is almost unheard of for a younger generation to even conceive of working with the same company for their entire working career.  And sadly the same is true of relationships, it is more about happiness than commitment.  It has become about the quick fixes for the immediate gain rather than working towards a better life that is realized over a lifetime, not just a couple of months or a year.

With all these factors a reality, it becomes harder and harder to confront sin, because we have forgotten what this really means.  It is about bringing the life changing love and grace that we see with Jesus, who dealt with broken and sinful people and offered them the hope that there would be change, the reality that they were loved, and the help to be free from their sin, not that their sin would be accepted but that they would  be freed to heal and move forward.  Jesus over and over again said, “Come and follow me.”  He invited people into a relationship with Him where He was the leader, the one that cared for them and the one who helped them to grow and change and to live.

Discipline in the church used to be about this life changing grace being lived out where sin was confronted and people where helped to change their lives and the community was stronger because of it, not just the individual.  The grace of Jesus is to benefit the community and the individual, not just one or the other. Another aspect of discipline was to train ourselves to give and receive God’s grace in our own lives to guard us against sin and to bring us out of the pot hole or in some cases canyon of sin.  That these would be stops in the journey of life, not becoming life itself.  Jesus came to free us from our sin, not to reenforce our belief and life in it.  But as I write this I wonder if the biggest problem that our society has with sin and grace is not the disbelief in God or Jesus, or even not wanting to confront sin, but that we as the body of Christ, a community of faith, followers of Jesus, do not believe that God’s grace is as powerful as we say it is and we don’t live it out ourselves because either we don’t understand it or are afraid. Yet God says in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

May the grace of God as written in His word, as lived out through Jesus, and as given by the Holy Spirit live in you and through you, changing you and giving you life to the fullest.

Wisdom

I am not about to make any definitive claims on wisdom other than this one and that is it comes from God.  This is where I see wisdom coming from and I think that it is important that we get this out of the way first.  For some of us and some of you, wisdom is important but it is important for all the wrong reasons.  Some people draw on wisdom as a means of power and control, not as a means of freedom that I believe God is giving it for.

When we look at the readings for this past Sunday, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 and John 2:13-22, we see that people from various places are having trouble with what God is doing and understanding the why.  The officials in the Gospel of John ask Jesus by what authority does he do what he is doing?  Instead of just saying it is from God, Jesus challenges their understanding of the temple but also of who Jesus is, and who we are as the people of God.  Jesus say, “if you destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.”  The Jewish officials thought that Jesus was talking about the temple but He was really talking about Himself.  Sometimes when we are confronted with God’s wisdom we are so focused on ourselves and our own understanding that we miss the bigger picture of what God is doing.

People have the same problem with the cross.  It is even harder is some Western contexts to relate to the cross because of what it represents.  The cross represents pain, suffering, sinfulness, hatred, anger, wrath, oppression, rebellion, hopelessness and so much more, but all of these things are stumbling blocks because at times we try to hide, to hide from, to ignore, to lie about all of these things in our own lives, we are told to, we are encouraged to, we are told that these things are bad, and yet they are real and Jesus confronts them in us and with us.  On the cross, Jesus takes all of these things and dies for us so that we can find hope, peace, love, healing, grace, faithfulness,  and life. A symbol of death is also a symbol of life, a symbol of failure becomes the shining light of success. Sinfulness is confronted and washed away, bring those who come to Jesus into holiness because of all that Jesus has done and is doing.

The Cross doesn’t make sense if your starting point is you.  The Cross only makes sense if your start with God and His life saving love.  God’s wisdom is not your wisdom or my wisdom, it is the wisdom that humbles us and lets us see that it is not about me but about the one who saves me. Jesus.

Mark 1:4-11

This was the main text that I just preached on this past Sunday.  There is so much here and I have been told so much that sometimes we miss what is right infront of us.  One person was telling me about their Bible study where they parked on the line “and the heavens were torn apart”. The vividness and rawness of this sentence and this has stuck with me for ten to fifteen years.  I talked about how baptism was a part of ceremonial washing, a turning back to God, Jesus’ obedience, dying to ourselves and being raised in the new life with Jesus, but there is even more than this.

One thing I like about these blogs is that I can come here and share with you things that I did not include in the sermon but also things that really struck me as I was thinking back over the sermon/message.  John the baptist was teaching about repentance, and when you think about this even more, the big idea here is that there is a second/third/forth/etc chance to come to God.  In my own life I doubted that God could or would possibly forgive me, and yet the simplicity of this event is that John was saying there is still hope for someone like you.  No matter what your sin is, God still has love for you.  This is incredibly important because there are people like myself who do or have thought cast out by God and John is saying turn back to God, turn away from your sins and turn to the God who loves you. Not will love you (i.e. if you do something, then God will love you) but does love you (right now this instant without any action on your part).

Dealing with our world

The world that we live in, with all of its advances and comforts, is tough.  Whether you are trying to just survive from one day to the next, or are trying to forge a new path in a new direction there are difficulties and worries.  Some of the worries that we face are health problems, work problems, worrying about kids and their futures, worrying about the environment, hearing about violence, hate, destruction, rape, and war or the threat of war.  One of the biggest questions that people ask is if all of this is going on where is God?  or since all this is going on isn’t this proof that there isn’t a God?

The Bible talks about all of this.  God says that all of this is going to happen.  It is troubling that so many people forget that God said all of this would happen, and yes God is allowing it to happen.  God doesn’t want all of this “bad” stuff to happen but in many cases God is stepping back and allowing us to have what we really want, a world without God.  We sometimes forget that God loves us and we get mad at God and tell us to leave us alone.  Well if God is the God of love, of life, of grace, of hope, of peace, and we ask Him to leave us alone, what do we expect to have left in our lives.  When we don’t have enough time for God and don’t show our families, and the people in our lives the importance of having enough time for God, we are taking away from them the God who tells us what will happen without Him, and we are taking away the God who has come, is coming, and will come again in and through Jesus and His Holy Spirit.  God enters into the darkness and the worry of this world to remind us of His eternal love, grace, hope, and forgiveness. He shines in the darkness of this tough world and invites us to be transformed and to help others experience the Holy Love of God.

Yes this life is tough, Jesus told us it would be, we will face many different struggles and trials, but we do not have to accept the invitation of the darkness and sin of this world but we can grasp onto and cling to Jesus who brings us the life, love, grace, and hope of God, strengthening us and renewing us.  Will you invite Jesus in or ask/tell Him to leave you alone?

Love

After reading about 2 police officers being shot in New York and also reading about the abuse of women and children in Iraq and Syria by IS, it is hard to think that there is a God who loves us and is in control, but remember there is.  Some would say that some of the worst violence in history has been perpetrated by those who profess to love God.  In some case they are right.  But what does it mean to love God?

It is easier for many people to love those we see.  To love those that we can see the love physically and tangibly returned to us, and I think that for many people to day we do not always see God at work in our lives and are not taught how to see God at work in our lives. Others may have trouble believing that they can see or relate to God.  Yet God has revealed Himself in Jesus, through the Bible (the inspired word of God), through His Holy Spirit, and through the many miracles that surround us every day. But most of all God has come to those He loves and invites us to love Him.  In the life of Jesus, the aspect that was most troubling about Him was that He was showing God’s love through actions, not through rules.  Yes the rules were still there and Jesus was working within the realm of those rules, but Jesus highlighted the love of God and showed His disciples, the people that He met and those He healed how powerful God’s love was, not how powerful God was, not how quickly God could wipe out a city, or get revenge, how powerful and important the love of God is in our lives.  No it is not going to suddenly take all our problems away. But it is real and it is inviting us to come to Him, to be renewed by Him, to be loved and accepted, and to grow into the people that we are meant to be, not just the people we choose to be or told by our society or culture we are suppose to be.  We are given value and are valued by the creator of the universe, not by a passing fad, not by a prideful culture, not by the majority or the minority, but by God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. God’s love that came down at Christmas, meets where we are at no matter how perfect or messy our situation is, and calls to follow Him, not leaving us where we are at, but bringing us along to something precious because He is precious, because He has loved us and invites us to love Him.  What is stopping us from loving Him with everything that we have?  Is it because we are too busy, too stress, too comfortable, or we are too unsure and we are afraid to commit because what happens if we are wrong?  In the Bible the people are continually pointing to all the things that God has done and is doing.  Why do we now doubt what the Bible says, what our friends and families might say about God and Jesus.  Are we taught to question everything and trust nothing?  If so we are in trouble because we have been taught to trust things that have only been around for a short period of time and doubt what has been tried and true for hundreds of years.  I’m not against change, or science, and I don’t think that science and faith need to battle against each other but I do believe and think that we need to remember to love the one that has loved us for longer than we have been alive.  We need to trust God who seeks to lift us up, not push us down.  We need to trust in the heart of the Gospel, the truth that God has given us in Jesus, and in His Bible, and allow His Holy Spirit to lead us.  We need to allow truth to be real, because in the truth that comes from God is a deeper love than anything or anyone can offer.

Joy

As I am sitting here thinking about the message from yesterday, I am contemplating two things.  The first thing is that joy is more of a state of being than a feeling, and the second is that we are taught to not be joyful.

When I read the verse, “Do not grieve, the joy of the LORD is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10b, I can’t help but think that there must be more to joy than just feeling happy.  Nehemiah is talking about being joyful in a time that you could be grieving.  Mary is in a situation where she has gone away, most likely sent away from her immediate family and community while she is pregnant, all because she was faithful and God gave her a child even though she was not married.  She could have done a number of things, bragging about what God has done because she is so good, she could be saying woe is me, but instead she is thankful and is praising God.  In her faithfulness she is still able to praise God, even though things aren’t going as easily as she would want them to and then there is the fact that God has interrupted her life plans, or has He?  She strikes me as someone who had the goal of being faithful to God no matter what.  Would I be that way, am I that way?  The answer to that is some days are better than others.  What about you?

The second part of this is that if we were to live lives filled with the joy of the Lord, which I am seriously doubting our society really wants because if we did, our society and economy would fail.  As I look around I see instances of encouragement to live and experience joy, but this joy is not satisfying, it ends.  If we truly live lives of joy, we would not be constantly trying to get our fix of joy. We would be more thankful, loving, and I think we would look and act more like the people that Jesus talks about when He answered the question about the greatest commandment, “To love the LORD your God with all your heart, mind, body and soul, and the second is like it, to love your neighbour as yourself.”  God wants us to live lives of joy but for some reason we get caught up in dissatisfaction instead of joy.  We covet, we are envious, prideful, and greedy (every one to a different degree) but in our wanting more we move a way from the joyful humility that Jesus displays, lives out and calls us to follow in.  In our strivings are we striving to follow Jesus or to fit in in this world?  Jesus came to bring us and call us into fullness of life but too often we try to fill our life with things that do not bring us Joy.  Maybe we need to be spending more time with Jesus to find out what real joy, a life of joy really is, I bet it is bigger and deeper than many of us can imagine.

Peace

If you are looking for a blog on world peace, this is not it.  I like to think about it but I don’t have all the answers to world peace that someone else hasn’t said already.  I can’t say that what I am about to write about is new.  It is my experience of peace that I need to remind myself about and maybe you need the reminder of that also.

Before we go any further, it might be helpful for you to know that yes I am a technophile.  I like technology, I use it everyday.  However I must admit that technology has not brought me the greatest peace that I have felt.  Yes at times, I have used technology to unwind or to relax, but the greatest peace I have experienced has been when technology has either been absent or used to see the intricacies of God’s creation (I do like to take photographs).  I love being out in God’s creation.  Yes some of it scares me, I’m not much for heights even though I do like walking up mountains, I don’t like snakes but I have come to a place where I don’t freeze up and start screaming, but most of God’s creation brings me peace.  Even a few weeks ago when the electricity was out and even though it was cloudy and I couldn’t see the stars, it was a peaceful night for myself and I enjoyed going out for a walk.  My kids and I were not on the same page but I still enjoyed the windy quietness.

The peaceful times of being out in God’s creation without the hum of technology and the brightness of electricity generated lights, have meant a lot to me.  I grew up out in the country and enjoyed walking through the woods, or by streams.  Seeing the animals run through the under brush or sit and try and figure me out while I stood and tried to figure it out.  There is a naturalness to this time together that I believe is stepping closer to God.  Not that a piece of God is in the tree but the tree is also a creation of God.  I also get a similar peaceful feeling when I am with people that are important to me but also people who have God’s supernatural peace about them.  I am privileged to have six kids and there are times when we are together when I can feel the peace of God because we are sharing the love of God.  No matter how much we try to make something special, or our lives more comfortable, if we do not have the love of God in us and are sharing in the love of God, we will never find the depth of peace that God is offering to us.

God demonstrates His love for us through Jesus, and shows us that He is making peace with us.  I don’t think we will ever find the true peace we are looking for until we stop fighting against God, and be at peace with God, because I think this is what we are really looking for deep down even though we don’t always want to admit it.  Come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and peace and in it you will find the eternal love of God.

Patience

I don’t think that I have ever consciously noticed the relationship between patience and hope.  Sometimes what we hope for, we get right away.  Whether we were prompted to hope by someone who was about to give us something, not that we really thought about wanting it before, and then gave it to us.  However, most times that we are hoping, we don’t get what we want right away.  Now we could be impatient and cause ourselves and those around us more and more stress and anxiety.  This time of year whether you are driving through a snow storm or braving crowded stores looking for that perfect gift you could be impatient.  If you choose to be impatient, you may teach those around you strange hand gestures, or strange sounding words followed by wrinkled up facial expressions (strangely enough there is a whole industry to stop wrinkles and it has very little ties to stopping impatience) and people may want to stop being around you.

However patience is tied to the journey of hope.  Without hope, do we have a reason to be patient.  Instead of choosing the impatient actions that seem so easy to choose, we choose to be patient, we are showing love to those around us and seeing value in the journey that we are facing.  Patience shows that you have hope, whether it is for a person or a situation (this then helps other people to hope).  When we are being patient, we are also being loving and showing our faithfulness.  Paul rights in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that faith, hope, and love will last forever, will you live these three out in your life, practising the fine art of patience like Jesus is being patient with you?

Loving Jesus and worshiping in a caring country church