the new Easter

A few months ago, maybe longer, I heard a sermon about heaven.

It was a classic kind of sermon. “Is your name written in the lamb’s book of life? Do you know if you’re going to heaven? I know I’m going. I am assured of my final destination” etc…….

The natural question that a sermon like that leads to is what would it take for you give up your spot?

That’s where you head was going right? It’s not just me that see that as the logical question in the middle of a sermon like that? Anyone…….fine it’s probably just me.

Picture this with me.

You have arrived at the gates of heaven. Jesus comes to you and says “well done good and faithful servant” and is about to usher you in. He then stops and says “ Ummm….I don’t usually do this but your wife/husband isn’t getting in. I don’t have their name down.”

You look back, devastated and plea “there must be some mistake?! You have to help!”

“Ok.” Jesus says, but there’s a deep sadness in His eyes.

“Really!? That’s amazing! Thank you so much!”

“There’s a catch” Jesus starts “I can’t just let them in. But much like I did you can give up your spot. You can take their punishment. And let me be perfectly clear, this is not a test. This is not an opportunity for you to show you love and devotion and you both get in. If you say yes, they’re in and you’re out. Period.”

Do you do it?

I’m serious this is what goes on in my head during church and it doesn’t stop there.

I tell myself I’d do it. If it was me or Sarah I want it to be her.

But what if it wasn’t Sarah? What if it was Nolan, my son? I’d like to think I’m a father that will always put him first.

But what if it was my mom? My brother? My sister in-law? My nephew?

What about my best friend? My good friend?

What if Jesus said to me it’s you or your neighbour?

What would you say is Jesus left you the option of you or your most hated enemy?

I know what Jesus answer would be.

He’s already done it and he’s called us to follow along.

The life of compassion is not an easy one. Following in Jesus foots steps is really hard. He’s called us to daily say “I’d give it all up for my enemy”, to live our lives by putting other first. We have been called to lay down all the we are owed and the rights we have in order to place others before ourselves.

That’s why we give up our time and our money. That’s why we commit to relationship and the messiness that comes with it. We’ve been called to give up our comfort and security for our enemy. To reckless share love and grace with those who don’t deserve it.

Is that how you live? I know I often don’t.

Do I put everyone else before myself? No. Should I? Probably.

Looking forward to Easter Sunday and the sacrifice of Good Friday, are you willing to do the same? Willing to be the one who sacrifices (money, time, comfort) and is left in pain?

Are you willing to show by your life the same commitment to others Jesus has for you?

Are you willing to let others see Jesus in you?

Are you ready for your own personal Easter?

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heaven here and now

Monday wasn’t super practical.

It’s a cool idea with some really important implications but what does it look like when we share heaven with people? What is life like if we are choosing the relentless pursuit of heaven in every moment? What are the actions of one with that as their goal?

Tough question, but I hope some of my idea here will resonate with you. There are few elements that need to be present for this to really work. You need relationship. You need grace. You need love.

I think back to the time I back into a friend’s car. My insides were wrenching as I go back inside to tell them. They had all the right in the world to be mad. But it was grace they choose instead and without thought, “No worries bud, it’s an old car. Have good night.”

It’s the time I was pulled over for a rolling stop and the officer said “just stop next time” and then let me go.

It’s the time I left our back door open at home for an entire weekend we were away and Sarah simply asked that I check the house for animals. No anger, just grace.

It’s in those moment people created heaven for me when all I deserved was hell. That’s what it looks like when someone chooses heaven. When someone chooses grace in a relationship not entitlement and rights.

It’s the time I sat in the hospital waiting for my dad to die and a friend stopped by with a bag of energy drinks.

It’s the time when Sarah and I were first married and I got home sick. I’d never lived away from home and I was struggling to adjust. She went out and bought me pizza and rented a TV series I loved because we didn’t have cable and she wanted to make our new home feel a little like home my old home.

It’s the time after my dad died that a good friend printed a ridiculous fake news story from the internet about fantasy baseball (one of my favourite pass times) and wrote “Saw this and thought of you. I’m praying for you.”

It’s in the moments when hell is closing in around you and someone steps in with love. That’s what it looks like when someone chooses heaven. When they come and as opposed to telling you it’s all ok, sit and enter into the moment with you. It’s love in action, not looking to get anything back.

Heaven in the here and now.

imagine there is no heaven

I was thinking about what to write about this week leading up to Easter. Pondering how Easter and compassion connect. What does Jesus’ death have to do with compassion?

To me the two have  to be linked. There must be really important connections.

Imagine there is no heaven

Easter is coming up this weekend and it got me thinking about heaven, salvation and what that all means to us right now.

So often our Christian walk is about the end. Getting to heaven and maybe even more than that, avoiding hell.

But what if it all wasn’t there.

Imagine there is no heaven, at least not like we’ve been taught.

Imagine there were no pearly gates and no streets of gold. Heaven is not a place we can go.

Imagine the only heave we can ever see is right here on earth.

It’s in the lives we live right now.

Would that change the way you live? Would that affect every aspect of your life?

Would you strive after it the way you long and desire for the eternal heaven? What would you do if the only way you could ever experience heave was to do so on earth?

If the only way was for you bring heaven into your life right now by sharing God’s love and grace. Would you not make that a focus?

We so often look to the end and wait for heaven to come. We almost consider this life a trial we have to pass to get to God and in doing so we miss so much of why Jesus came and what His life and His call on us is about.

For me, I think that a life of compassion is the relentless pursuit of heaven in every moment of our lives. It’s not the pursuit of some end goal but the attempt to see heave in everything we do. It’s the attempt to share as much love and grace with the people we come in contact with so that when we’re with them they get to see and experience who God is and what heaven will be like.

This is the life God made us for. This is life to the fullest. This is about dragging heaven into the present and sharing the redemption of Easter with every moment.

The redemption that allows for faults and brokenness. The redemption that uses our darkness to share light. The redemption that says you are loved and wonderful as you are right now.

Do we live compassionate lives for us to avoid hell or because we’ve learned that this is what we were made to do and are so driven to share our revelation of love with others?

Honestly, why do you do it?

Or maybe better put why don’t you? Is it because heaven is out there and all you need to do is wait for this mess to end?

Heaven is here to be shared today, in every moment. It’s there for us to see and be a part of sharing with every relationship we have.

Isn’t that the Easter story? Redemption came to us and is here today, heaven is here today.

You make a choice every day in every relationship. Do you want to bring heaven or do you choose to bring hell?

budgets and priorities

Now comes the possible controversy.

Last week I asked you to look at your bank statement. Did you do it? Seriously go look.

I was talking with my mother the other day about budgets. Both of us work with them. We have budgets to manage and work with. It’s just a part of our jobs.

We talked about how our budgets show our priorities. We talked about how some people may disagree but that it’s simple a fact.

The conversation reminded me a sermon Sarah’s steph-father gave years ago where he claimed that we should look at our budgets as moral documents.

This reminded me of a conversation I was having with Sarah’s step-mom about economics and the idea of revealed preference. If asked people about their preference that are likely to give the answer they think they are supposed to. They’ll lie. Would I rather apples or chips? Apples. But their spending reveals their preference. They buy chips. Don’t ask them what they prefer just look at the money.

So if we bring the ideas together that budgets are actually moral documents that share your priorities and preferences, what did yours say when you looked at it? Are you living a life of compassion?

Mine says I have a lot of work to do.

If you came to me today and said “Phil I have this great work that God is doing and we some consistent support” or “would you consider sponsoring a child?” or “I know this amazing charity doing really impactful community work, would you consider donating?” I’d probably say I can’t afford it.

That’s not really true. I do have the money. I just choose to spend it on my satellite so I can watch NCAA March Madness basketball.

It’s not true because I choose to give myself discretionary spending every month so I can buy coffee or go out for dinner with friends.

It’s not true because I choose to save for my future and not invest in someone else’s.

None of those things are bad. None of them are wrong at all.

But I do have the money. I just prioritize TV, dinner out and my retirement more than good work, sponsoring a child or a new charity.

My purpose is not to make you feel bad here but to make sure your honest with the choices your making. If you’re picking TV over a charity and that makes you feel bad then maybe God is saying your budget needs some more compassion in it. Maybe God is saying you need to look at it again with His eyes.

Next time there’s an opportunity to give be honest. Do you really not have the money or is that just an excuse you use to avoid the priorities your money is truly showing. Is it that you honestly wish you could or you can’t stomach the fact that you just don’t want to more than you want a cell phone with data?

If you want to live a life of compassion then God needs a say in your budget and space for His love to be displayed. Maybe it’s finally worth that look at your bank statement I’ve been asking you to do.

giving the fun way

Ok, day two of our non-controversial week of talking about how we spend our money. No one offend yet right? Perfect!

So you’ve given it a try and found it’s not THAT hard to shift some spending in your budget. You can give up a coffee/burger/name brand x without the world ending. Great, we are off and running.

What’s next? How else can we begin to not just want to be more generous or want for all of what we have to be God’s, but actions we can take to build that belief into our actions?

You always ask such good questions!

Here’s an idea that I really enjoyed. It plays off the notion of getting an ‘easy win’. Living compassionately with our money doesn’t have to suck. At times it might but not every time.

Spend some money on compassion in a space that you really enjoy so it’s a positive experience. Do it in such a way that the small shift or stretch in your budget feels fun and enjoyable as opposed to a duty.

Here’s what I mean.

I’m going to go back to the time that Sarah and I hosted a party for our neighbours.

It went really well and I really enjoyed it. But it also wasn’t free.

We’ve done it twice now and every time there has been a cost. We have way more food than we need, beer, wine, pop, the whole gambit of party stuff.

But I LOVE parties! They are so much fun and I enjoy parties a lot. I love spending time with people, eating good food, sharing a drink with friends, I love it all.

So when Sarah and I decided to host the party the money was the easy part. We knew it would cost us money. We knew we’d have to save for a little while to afford doing it but whatever it’s a party!

It was an easy first step. It took exactly zero convincing to get me on board with the spending. I was ready and willing to be generous with all my neighbours because I knew that I was also going to enjoy the spending.

We’ll get into the hard spending, the shifting of priorities, all of that another time. But for today, there is no reason you can’t make your first step into compassionate spending and sharing what your money in community and relationship in a way that’s fun for you too.

Give doesn’t have to suck every time. It can be a load of fun. Do some fun giving to start. We’ll worry about the less fun stuff on Friday.

money, money, money!

I decided I wanted pick a really easy topic for this week, so we’re going to talk about money all week!

See nice and easy. No one’s every gotten upset about money before right? I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Look, money’s touchy. We talk around it, we talk about it in abstract terms but rarely in a way that creates accountability. We don’t want anyone telling us what we should do with our hard earned money.

We have commitments and responsibilities and you don’t know what I’m dealing with so don’t tell me what to do.

Any of that sound familiar?

We are talking about money and to be honest if you don’t like it, tough. It’s an important topic.

I think one of the things we need to break when it comes to money is that is ours.

I know we’ve all heard it and if asked in church we’d say “everything I own is Gods” or something like.

No it’s not.

It’s supposed to be but it’s not. No worries, it’s a process.

One thing that we lack however is how to we begin or grow in the process of giving everything over to God. We know it’s all supposed to be God’s but I don’t feel like we have real tangible ways to start.

Here’s a start for you to try. It’s more about changing your perspective and getting you thinking than it is about huge monolithic change so don’t get too worried.

Think about your average week (reflection) and look at how you spend your money. Is there one thing you could change about how you spend (action)?

For me it was coffee. Ah, so dark, so delicious, so caffeiney. Caffeiney’s a word right? I’m just going to assume you agreed with me and move on.

At one point in my life I bought coffee almost every day. I was young and had some free dollars to spend. So to get my head in the right space about who’s money it was and get me to be more generous I started giving my coffee money away.

Some days that looked like be buying coffee for someone else. Some days it was me not buying coffee so I’d have some money to be generous in another way.  Some days I forgot and just bought myself coffee.

It didn’t cost me any more than I was already spending. I didn’t give up coffee at all and I’m not asking you to stop what you’re doing, just change it. Yes I had to drink coffee at work which wasn’t as nice but my budget didn’t change one cent

My mind however changed a bunch.

It just gets you thinking about money. It gets you thinking about how much you actually have and how you spend it and ultimately who’s money it really is.

Maybe you cut back eating out by one time a week. Maybe you buy 1 coffee a day instead of 2. Maybe you buy a sweat at the consignment store and give the difference away. Maybe you decide that you won’t by brand name groceries and donate the difference to the food bank.

I’m not asking you to change your budget, yet, just how you spend within it.

I’m asking you to start thinking about what the spending of a person who lives a compassionate life would look like and I think this is a good start.

beauty and brokenness

“But a certain sign of grace is this
From a broken earth flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt”

Wholly Yours by – The David Crowder Band

I’ve been involved in church since forever.

Not like a little involved but deeply entrenched in the church since the day I was born. My father was a fantastic minister (you’ll hear more about him in the weeks to come) in a thriving church. My mother was heavily involved as well.

My older brother was the youth pastor there for many years, with whom I volunteered for 9 years, and is now a senior pastor a thriving and growing community church.

So when I say that I’ve been involved in church, take me at my word I’ve been involved in church.

Over the years my opinions and my revelation of who God is and what He is calling us to be has changed. One of the biggest changes has been in relation to ministry. My whole life I was taught and encouraged that ministry was important and necessary for a mature Christian.

Weird twist I noticed over the years. I would talk with people about ministry, or compassion whatever word you want to use, and there was one theme that came up a lot.

To be clear it never came from my mother, father or brother but was just a part of church.

The theme was one of getting healthy before we serve. The idea that we need to get to a specific level of personal health and intimacy with God before we could really get out into the world and live the great commission.

People would say things like “I just need to get closer to God first” or “I’ve got some things God and I need to sort out before I can get into service.”

Somewhere along the way it became the norm of a large portion of Christians to think they need to whole and complete FIRST. That once they were whole and once they were really connected to God they live the compassionate life.

I think we’re really missing the point here.

I love the lyrics from the song at the start. The idea not just beauty in brokenness but beauty from brokenness. Then to take it a step further and say; beauty can come from brokenness because of grace.

That is marvellous.

That is life changing.

That is never be the same kind of revelation!

Why?

We don’t have to be whole! We don’t have to be fixed or all sorted to serve. We don’t have to be perfect or totally connected to God to start.

We can be broken and still share beauty.

I think we’re often told either directly or indirectly to get ourselves clean up and sorted, then go and serve. Once you’ve gotten good enough you can because to share love and grace and God.

I’m telling you categorically you can do it today. You can do it in brokenness. You can do it in darkness. You can do it right as you are this very moment.

And here is the best part. If you really want to be whole, if you really want to be connected to God, then love others.

Share God’s love and grace and you’ll find some of what you’re looking for.

The excuse that we’re not whole is part of what is holding us back from being whole, from being what we were made to be. To love and live in community and the share the life giving grace and experience of knowing Jesus.

When we wait to be whole we are taking away God’s chance to let Jesus burst forth from the brokenness of our lives.

only if

We make an awful lot of choices in a day. We probably don’t think too much about most of them.

Should I go the same way to work I always do? Yes.

Should I drive on the right side of the road? Yes.

Do I want coffee this morning? Yes.

Do I want 5 coffees this morning? Of course!

Do you wish there was a faster way to make the 5 morning coffees? How could I not?

I may be drifting but I think you get the point.

We make lots of choices that just happen without a lot of thought.

What I want to look at is WHY we make choices. What are our motives and do we gives them any real thought? We make lots of choices without thought but when we do think about it do we graze over some important parts of the process?

I was chatting with someone about an interesting experience they had with motives and compassion.

They we’re going about their work day as usual. During the course of the day a person they came across noted how much they wanted a cup of coffee. He tucking this in the back of his mind he kept on with his day.

When he returned later that day he brought with him a day saving cup of sweet dark nectar (or however you see coffee).

“Thanks.”

That was it.

Just, “thanks”.

It was almost a passing thanks. Almost a no-existent thanks. It was as if he didn’t care at all.

The man I was talking with carried on with some exceptionally clear self reflection. He talked about how his mother would be so over the top any time he did anything. Praise upon praise for doing the right thing.

The conversation continued and he noted how he didn’t WANT to do it for that reason and didn’t even THINK that the praise and validation he didn’t get was at all  part of why he did it.

But he noticed its absence. Almost upset that it wasn’t there.

How often do we do this? How often do we get upset, become jaded, and vow to never do something again because the person we were trying to love didn’t react the way we wanted them to?

Did we do it to just love them or did we do it as a means to the end of a reaction/change/growth that WE chose for THEM.

I think we stop because we don’t get what we want. I think we often don’t even realize that’s why we stop or why we’re upset. I think we don’t act compassionately and actually hold back our love because the other person won’t do what we think they should with it.

Our motive isn’t what we think it is. We make a choice to not love without even thinking about the true reason why.

What are your motives?

Why do you love?

And perhaps more importantly, honestly, why don’t you love?

bounus content: give presentation

A few years ago I was doing some writing encouraging people to be more generous. The idea was that people could be generous once a day. Slowly start a revolution of generosity.

So I made a presentation about why we should be more generous and what that might look like.

In light of yesterdays idea of looking at ourselves this presentation came to mind. There’s a call for reflection, action, and perhaps a push to give in areas you might not have considered before.

We’ll come back to our discussion of what holds us back from giving and living the compassionate live we are called to tomorrow and Friday.

Today, I hope you find the presentation interesting, challenging and again a call to look at how your beliefs about compassion and who you are do or maybe don’t line up with your actions.

 

 

 

this might suck

This week we’re looking at what holds us back. Why we don’t live the life of compassion that Jesus has called used to.

There will be themes that you will hear over and over and over and it may be super repetitive, but it’s important and I’m writing so I get to choose. Most of these probably won’t be new to you if you’ve been following along with past posts.

Over the past number of months I have begun to grasp to the idea that our actions are our beliefs. That what we do says more about what we believe than what we say. That all the right words and thoughts in our mind only matter when we action them out, when we live them out.

That is over used theme number 1, action. Love is not felt but acted, compassion is not thought but done, grace not wished but given.

Think about it like this. If I tell my wife everyday that I love her deeply but my actions continue to show something different which would she believe? At some point she’s going to stop trusting my statements of love and look for me to actually LOVE her. She would look for me to be patient and kind. To not be jealous or boastful or proud or rude. To stop demanding my own way. She would watch for me to not be irritable, and to stop keeping record of being wronged. She would want me to stop giving up on her, to never loses faith in who she is and what she can accomplish. She would want me to be always hopeful, and to not let the circumstance dictate the way I act towards her.

It’s those actions that will bring meaning to my words of love.

So moving forward with the idea that actions are belief, to know what we believe requires over used theme number two, self reflection.

Reflection, action, reflection, action, etc.

So let us reflect.

Who are you? Or better put, what do you think you believe? What did you come up with on Friday when you thought about where you were at and what you believe?

What do you tell yourself you believe?

You’re a good Christian, you love your neighbour, you care about the poor, your family matters most etc.

Ok, now look at your actions.

Seriously, step back and take an inventory. Pull your calendar and actually look, I got nothing but time.

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That was quick.

Now pull up you bank statement.

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It’s a process, just trust me. Go look.

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What do you actually believe?

Where has all your time actually gone? Where has all your money gone?

Do you believe that work matters more than family?

Do you believe that your new TV matters more than the work of the church?

Do you believe that sports/reading/Pintrest/Facebook are more important than your spouse?

I’m not asking do you THINK these things I’m asking do you believe (your actions dictate your beliefs) these things.

Self reflection sucks.

It sucks a LOT!

But we have to be honest. We can’t move forward if we don’t even know where we are or what direction we’re facing.

I’ve done this a lot.

It sucks.

It sucked the time I sat at home and realized that despite all the years I said it, I didn’t care about my community or neighbours.

It was brutal the time I sat at home and learned that I can place TV before my son.

Self reflection requires us to look at our brokenness, our deficiencies, the places we are weak. But it’s our mind set that all that matters are our thoughts that holds us back. Our understanding that belief is in the mind. That thought that we can love our neighbours without getting into their lives, without their messiness becoming our messiness.

But since we are in control of our actions, we can change our beliefs.

I can see that I have placed TV before Nolan and decide that I will never do it again. And then never do it again. Telling myself I’ll never do it again doesn’t matter to Nolan. Me never doing it again matters. Me spending time with him with my undivided attention matters to him.

Do we slip back, sure.

Do we choose not to love, of course. But sometimes, and hopefully a growing number of times, we can choose to share God with someone. We show them love they’ve never known.

We commit to and set out plans, lots to come on ways to do this, to love people. Love our co-workers, neighbours, the waiter are your favourite coffee shop.

Look back and be honest. Be honest about where you’re at.

Then spend some time thinking ‘what do I WANT to believe’ ‘what does GOD want me to believe’?

You want to believe that the poor matter and we should love them?

FANTASTIC!

Now we have a direction and action/belief to work towards. We can start to find, define, purpose ourselves to actions that show the belief that the poor matter and that you do love them.

But let’s not run ahead of ourselves.

For today find where you are and give some thought to where you wish you were, where God wished you were. Like I said at the start, action is a theme that you won’t be able to miss.

This time don’t miss the call to look at ourselves.