Selective Correction

Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.  So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.

But correct the wise, and they will love you.  Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.               Proverbs 9: 7-9

I’ve never been one to shy away from the yearly performance evaluation.  If it’s done with the right intent, then it is actually helpful and allows you to improve your weak areas.  The key is if it’s done with the right intent.

Correction.  I’m not sure what comes to mind when you hear that word.  Perhaps it brings back memories as a child at home or at your school.  Or maybe it’s the supervisor losing it on you.  Depending on what you experienced in life when it came to correction, you have probably formed your own definition.  If you have negative feelings towards correction, then you may have confused it with punishment, or worse…abuse.  Correction is neither punishment nor abuse.

The sole purpose of correction is to bring something into proper alignment.  It’s about fostering health in a person’s character, shaping them to be the person God intended them to be.  Correction never demeans, belittles, denigrates, or maligns.  Correction believes the best about the person and in fact, desires the best for that person.

Solomon calls the wise to be selective in who they correct.  In other words, if a person is known as one who cannot receive correction without being offended, hurt, or angered, then Solomon says to not bother.  It’s better to correct the wise and righteous person.  Why?  They will actually listen, apply what they have learned, and become the better person for it.  They are the ones who will be an influential and positive force to be reckoned with in our world.

If your next performance evaluation comes with a bit of correction, before you take offense and sulk and complain to others about your ‘jerk boss’, pause for a moment and consider the intent behind it.  If the intent was coming from a heart that believes the best about you, then take a few seconds to thank your supervisor for the correction. Seriously…do it!

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Say Hello to Wisdom

GoldVeinBefore we embark on our journey into the depths of life and mine for wisdom, I wanted to give you a bit of an intro, welcome you to the tour…sort of like your ‘tour guide’, and show you the beauty of wisdom.

I find it intriguing how in my early years of following Jesus I naturally assumed a passive posture when it came to living like a Christian. It was like I was waiting for God to change me by zapping me or something. But over time I have come to learn the value of taking responsibility for the person I desire to be, which I think is the person that God desires, too.  I believe that deep within each of us lies the dormant seed of wisdom, and if we’ll water and nurture that seed it will produce for us a rich life.

Those necessary nutrients are found in the book of Proverbs.  This little book smack-dab in the middle of the Bible contains…proverbs!  Short pithy sayings of concentrated wisdom.  It was written by King Solomon, perhaps one of the wisest world leaders humanity has seen.  I’m fascinated that Solomon took the time to not only ponder the vastness of wisdom, but to also write it down.

So plant yourself in the Ground of all Being and let yourself be nurtured by these nutrient-rich nuggets!  Welcome to the tour.

 

Finding ‘Beautiful’ in Prayer

Aprilsnow It’s a beautiful day outside.  Sun is shining on the fresh snowfall we had last evening.  The world looks so pristine…picture perfect…except for the fact that it’s April 3!  Oh well, I’ll breathe it all in.

This morning I am beginning a 3 week teaching series on ministering to the sexual minority.  So how to pray before going into such a topic?  “Oh God, oh God, oh God!”  Which actually works, sometimes.

But a Trappist monk by the name of Thomas Merton wrote a beautiful prayer, especially for such a time as this.  I share it with you…

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I’m following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore, I will trust you always.

Though I may seem to be lost in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Amen

God Needs Friends

I am beginning to think or believe (whatever you want to call it) that God is in need of friends just like any other human being is. God NEEDS friends?? Yep…I think so. Or let me put it another way: As his creation, he loves us, takes pride in us and has amazing dreams for humanity. I think he’s downright grrr-angry that sin polluted everything and basically messed up his plans.

Regardless, friendship, which is a beautiful gift in this rough world of ours, must be birthed or emanate from God…like if I’m created in his image, then friend must have come from him. I think the redemption story is a story of God pursuing us, not so much so that he can get ‘things’ back to the way they were supposed to be, because I don’t think we can ever rewind the tape and go back. Instead, it’s God pursuing us because he loves us – he loves us like a friend who is there through thick and thin.

Jesus tells this very interesting parable where a man prepares a great feast and sends out invites to various people. When the banquet is ready, he sends his servants to tell the invited guests that everything is ready…come now! And no one comes! They give the usual excuses like, “I’m too busy figuring out my investments”, “I just bought a new car”, “I just got married”…etc.

It’s not like they really had some pressing issue that needed attending too right this very minute. It was the fact that they couldn’t be bothered, no time to offer their friendship to one who desires to be their friend. And then it says that the master was mean-angry.

I’ve wondered why Jesus didn’t portray a God that is calm and understanding…an unruffled God. No, instead, he portrays a God who is pissed off! He’s hurt, and I get it. We all get it.

Everyone of us knows what it’s like to go out of your way for someone who is your friend, but for whatever reason your friend is too busy or has other things that need tending to. We know that feeling.

But it goes even deeper than that. It’s when a friend goes out of their way to do something so special, like this man in Jesus’ story who painstakingly poured his heart into creating this sumptuous feast. It was like when he created it he had those specific guests in mind. He made it for them…and they couldn’t be bothered. And I think it broke it his heart!

Or maybe it’s like the little 5 year old girl who does an abstract finger painting at school for her mom. She let’s it dry. Then carefully puts it in a grocery bag and goes directly home because she’s so excited to give it to her.

Mom comes home with so many things on her mind, appointments to attend to that evening, supper to put on. Her mind totally focused on other things…except her little girl. And so with her heart all puffed up from excitement, the little girl gives the bag to her mom. As mom takes the bag, her phone rings, and of course she must answer it because it’s so important. It’s classic multi-tasking taking place: while talking on the phone she pulls the painting from the bag, a quick glance, and brief smile to her daughter…and the painting is laid on the table as the mom goes about her important work.

The little girl’s heart plunges like a rock into deep, dark waters. She had poured herself into this for one reason only: she loves her mom dearly and through this painting is saying to her mom – I LOVE YOU!

As Advent approaches, I like to think that God had us in mind as he poured himself into his gift of Jesus, saying to us – I LOVE YOU!

Same Sex and the Real Issue At Hand

Every month I meet with a couple handfuls of pastors from our fair city, mostly to hang out and eat lunch and chat. Which is great and just the way I like it. I enjoy just ‘being’ and not having an agenda or a ‘to do’ list. Perfect.

Last month when we met we decided to add a ‘spice’ to the mix. It was suggested that we should discuss things that are relevant for us, some ‘meaty’ topics. I threw into the mix the idea not to avoid any challenging topics, such as…same sex issues that is sorta on the front burner for many churches/denominations.

It was only a suggestion.

However, by the end of the day, an email had been sent out with the details of the next lunch and that ‘Scott will lead the discussion on same sex issue.’

Yay.

I’m actually expecting a good discussion with these guys. But to say that I’m a little bit nervous would be an understatement.

If I was a betting man, I would hedge my bets that they are coming knowing very clearly where they stand on the issue. And to be quite honest, I really don’t want to know where they stand. In fact, I don’t even think that is the issue here. I believe the issue is: Can we have a conversation and ask any and all questions, and even think through or allow to be questioned what we believe is the ‘right answer’?

I say all this because I find that if I try to have a conversation with anyone who thinks they ‘know the answer’, defences go up, stances are defended, and cliche answers get tossed around. I realize that much of this reaction comes from fear, insecurity, and ingrained beliefs (whether accurate or not). I also wonder if that fear reaction speaks more to our lack of faith/trust/belief in God, than it does to any ‘strong faith’ we think we have.

This past month I’ve been reading and listening to various opinions on the same sex issue, and not because I don’t know where I stand, either. I just want to be able to sit down with anybody and just listen to them, and ask some non-threatening questions for the sole purpose of being able to better understand them. As well, I am trying not to have a reply waiting in the wings, but to acknowledge that their thoughts and opinions are just as legitimate as my own.

Here’s what I’ve learned this past month…

  • I don’t have it all figured out
  • there is freedom in choosing not to judge
  • it takes effort to listen and not spout off
  • it actually does enhance your understanding of the subject matter
  • I am trusting more
  • people are easier to love
  • Christ’s yoke really is easier, and his burden is definitely lighter!

Oh yeh…my meeting with the pastors is in three hours!

Shut Up and Listen!

[blogging is like exercising…stop long enough and it becomes easier not to]

So the other day I was leaving work and three feet from our main admin door was a young man sitting on our sidewalk, cross-legged with his head down. I stepped outside and bent down beside him and asked if everything was okay. He turned his head slightly and with a bit of a slurring mumble told me to “shut up”. He rocked and said something to the affect of needing drugs. His face looked like it had been roughed up and he clearly needed some help that I wasn’t going to be capable of offering. At that point he rolled onto his side and curled up into the fetal position. I went inside and called the emergency services.

The fire department were the first on scene. After a few questions, the young man stood to his feet – clearly not liking the looks of any authority figures. One of the fire fighters asked him, “Why did you come here?” He looked at him with glazed eyes and said, “Isn’t this a soup kitchen? Can’t I come here if I need help?”

The fire fighter looked at me, and I haltingly said it was. But inside my mind I could hear this very LOUD voice saying, “Did you hear him? Do ya get it? Out of all the places or people he could have thought of, he thought of YOU!”

Not wanting anything to do with anyone even slightly resembling authority, the young man took off with the fire fighters hard on his heels. In the midst of the f-bombs and screaming coming from him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that God had me by the scruff of the neck and was trying desperately to drive his point home – “THIS IS WHY YOU’RE HERE!”

Ya see…our awesome faith community, Cambridge Vineyard, is going through what many churches are facing – expenses exceeding our income. We have some options available to us, including severing some of our property, or relocating altogether.

In the past couple of weeks I have asked God to help me make sense of all this.

When all is said and done, I think it was Jesus sitting outside of our office doors, cross-legged, beat up and broken with only two words for me… “Shut up”. He wasn’t being rude…he just needed me to listen.

Cambridge Vineyard are his Matthew kids…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

I get it! I know where we belong. Please pray that I’ll continue to shut up and listen.

BEWARE OF THE ‘GREAT’ SNARE

We are dominated by ‘great’…nah, actually inundated by ‘great’. We live for ‘great’, strive for it, talk about it, flaunt it, brag about it, and unfortunately compare ourselves to it. Great is all around us, but if we’re honest, it’s also just out of reach for most of us. Here’s what I’m getting at.

For some reason I have unconsciously chosen to follow a number of people on Twitter who I don’t really know, but in the Christian world, they’re considered ‘great’…or getting close to it. Those who are great generally have some worthwhile things to say, but what I find interesting (myself included) there are many who are in the ‘triple As’ doing their best to become ‘great’. And so they try to sound great by tweating cool sayings, little nuggets of wisdom, or referencing someone who is in the major leagues.

None of this is bad, but I wonder if we’ve become ensnared in the pursuit of being great, and if we have, then that could be a problem.

For me, I desperately want to bow out of the race of being great. No more being a great dad, great husband, great friend, great preacher, great pastor, great cop (in my former life), great neighbour, great human being. I want to bow out because when I run this race, I miss out on the life that is right before me.

Life before me are the non-great people who are right before my eyes. If I would just take the time to hang with them, I would be dazzled by the story of their life. I become blind to my neighbourhood I drive in and out of everyday of my life. It’s a non-great neighbourhood, but if I could only tap into the stories of life that are found here…wow! The stories I would hear

Life before me is the fascinating life that I’ve led so far, with a vast array of experiences and encounters with people of all stripes and persuasions.

Life before me is family that I have come from and the family that April and I have created. Who needs fiction when you belong to a family! I’m trying to think of how I could apply the word ‘great’ in describing my family. Ahhh, yes… “I belong to a great dysfunctional family!” For the most part it’s true, but nonetheless, I still love the family we have and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Life before me is the church that I have belonged to for fifteen years and pastored for the last ten. We are no different. We too have fallen for the ‘great’ bait. We want so desperately to ‘do’ great things for God. To be a great church, not only in the neighbourhood, but in our city, our nation and around the world.

Unfortunately we are not immune to the snare. In our willingness to remain discontent with who God has created us to be, we set lofty goals that become impossible to attain, and in the end we experience disappointment after disappointment. We miss what we have right in front of our very eyes.

This summer at the Cambridge Vineyard, I am looking at the book of Judges. When I was a little boy in Sunday School they would tell stories of the ‘heroes of the Bible, and that included the ‘so-called heroes’ found in Judges. Who are we kidding, the folks in Judges were no heroes, unless you’re talking about the GREAT blunders they made. What they did get right is that they made themselves available for God to use. Time after time God delivered the Israelites from a life of self-centredness, debauchery, murder and mayhem. And yes, he would raise up the various judges to rescue his people, and like a bull in a china shop, they would get the job done. But it wasn’t because of they were ‘great heroes of the faith’. It was because they served a Great God.

I really don’t want to be known as great, but my prayer is that I will be known as someone – blunders and all – that was used by a Great God!