Pastoring, Spirituality

No one will have to sit by themselves…

We were 30 minutes into the Grade 6 Bible class at Westpark School a couple weeks ago and I was loving how engaged the students were.

We had decided the Bible was like a 7 act play: Creation, Fall, Exodus, Exile, Incarnation, Spirit, and Renewal.

I asked “What act of the play are WE in?”

Little hands were straining to the ceiling taking wild guesses.

Finally, one young woman got it.

“It’s kind of like we are somewhere between Spirit and Renewal.”

Much earnest discussion about how a renewed world will look. How will people behave? What does a tree look like without sin in the world? What will doctors do when no one is sick? Do moms and dads split up in this renovated creation? Does anyone in Grade 6 not have nice clothes or have to sit by themselves at lunch when heaven comes to earth?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I was loving this. I could see lights going on that there might be something to this Christian story beyond lifeboat evacuation thinking. This might be a story which can capture the imagination forever.

Then the best insight I’ve ever heard an 11 year old have.

“Wait a second?! If we already have the Holy Spirit and we already know what it is going to look like – WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?”

I could hear the angels singing. Come on!

This season, what are you waiting for?

You have the Holy Spirit and you know what it is going to look like so do it now.

Forgiveness. Generosity. Fill the hungry with good things and not your left overs. Pulling corrupt rulers from their thrones. Offer hospitality beyond your kin. Reconciliation  which costs. Deep celebration because the darkness can never win. Justice because the real King puts other needs ahead of His own. Healing. Inclusion. Mercy. Grace. Beauty. Restoration.


Advent reminds us it can feel like we are waiting for everything, and this is true.

A girl in Grade 6 (can we call her Mary?) reminds us we are waiting for nothing, and this is also true.

What are you waiting for?




Say for example you needed $330 000…

What Jesus meant when he said “Kingdom of God” isn’t the easiest thing in the world to understand.

What is clear is that whatever exactly this Kingdom is, he told us to make it our primary concern. Because he knows we can’t entirely abandon our primary concerns without being foolish, he doesn’t tell us to deny ourselves those things or ignore our need for them. Rather, to make it possible for us to focus on God’s Kingdom first, he tells God will provide for us the things we need if we prioritize God’s Kingdom.

Responding to these teachings will change how you might have other wise approached things.

Say for example it was December and the church you were pastor of needed three hundred and thirty thousand dollars to meet budget by years end. This money represented 25% of your annual budget. 1/4 of the money needed to come in during 1/12 of the time. Also say you had scheduled for the first two weeks of December guest speakers who represented situations and needs which were greater than your own. The point of inviting these speakers was to inspire people in your congregation to support the causes they represent.

Without Jesus teaching challenging your reflexes you’d maybe cancel the visitors. Or, you’d delay. Or, you’d make sure your congregation knew that these were fine causes to support generously but they ought to keep in mind our own budget needs as well.

Without taking Jesus teaching seriously you’d make your own sense of scarcity the context for the level of your possible generosity and that would be a clearly anti-Kingdom of God move.

But now also say, by God’s good grace to you over the years you are beginning to take Jesus teachings as descriptions of reality so you don’t do that. Your reflexes aren’t Kingdom of God reflexes just quite yet but at least you pause now before you react without thinking about Jesus promises. In this case, you thought carefully about Jesus promises and decided to bank on them, not making your own sense of scarcity a basis for your decisions.

Now say, because of your Dec 2 guest speaker your church board gave twenty thousand dollars to help a new church in Laval Quebec. And then imagine because of your Dec 9 guest speaker 175 Compassion Children ended up being sponsored. If all this happened you would no doubt be immensely proud of your church and more importantly, you’d also feel like God was pretty proud of your church.

And finally, say if on Dec 16, there was no guest speaker. Just you returning to the pulpit and preaching a normal sermon after you talk about the current financial situation for a bit.

What would you say?




24/7 Review

We are just less than a week past the conclusion of PAC’s 24/7 prayer week. It wrapped up with our best attended Sunday night worship event ever. What a great feeling to have to keep adding rows of chairs.

PAC is hungry for more of God.

Here are a few of my personal highlights:

  • opening the envelope with the note left from the person who prayed before me; in most of my sessions these ended up shaping a good chunk of my prayer time.
  • two pictures left in the prayer rooms by a couple PAC kids now hanging in my office.
  • being encouraged by seeing so many new people signing up. Encouraged because we like to see our brothers and sisters move together with us in unity, but also because I knew what was waiting for them in that hour.
  • the nervous feeling in my gut when the prophetic team at the worship night was asking specific people to stand and gave them encouraging words. I’m learning to embrace that feeling because it is in those moments God is growing me. And true enough, the words given fell in a powerful and graceful way.
  • the testimonies of healing which continue to come in this week for people who were prayed for.
  • thirty people from PAC Neepawa making the journey to come be at the worship night – felt good to have us all together.
  • a late night slot where I walked the halls of Westpark praying and felt in a beautifully crushing way how much God cares about children.
  • continuously blessed by those who have managed to shift from “seeker sensitive” thinking to a more “experiential / supernatural” approach. Only those who have been at PAC for a couple decades would know what I am talking about. It’s a massive shift and I as one of those who has had to make that shift, I am glad to have walked on that journey with you.

I also heard a few conversations where people were saying how intimidating the 24/7 idea is personally.  Those of us who have been at this for awhile can forget that. I’d encourage those of you who have prayed during the week, especially those who signed up for the first time, to tell your stories and help dial down the fear factor for people to scared to sign up. Also, we will be changing things up just slightly to make the learning curve less steep for those who are new to prayer or PAC.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long. The next 24/7 is coming up in March!

See you on the weekend at Compassion Sunday.

Anger, Pastoring, Sermons, Spirituality

Step 6: Allow Anger to go on a Murderous Rampage.

Anger never dies alone.

It always takes something with it when it goes down.

Like your porn addiction.

What was once arousing is now troubling and degrading when anger isn’t shaping what you see. Your inner being is no longer compatible with aggression or objectification. You can’t accept the twisted vocabulary which porn requires you to agree with. There are no more whores or sluts, only sisters and brothers made in the image of God.

Like your selfishness. 

It becomes a whole lot easier to give other the best of yourself when you are not living in a land where you are angry all the time because you don’t have enough. Those closest to you will learn to breath again as you begin to contribute to the atmosphere instead of suck the air out of rooms.

Like your negativity. 

Without anger fueling a sense of entitlement or scarcity you no longer have to force yourself to be a positive person. Again, you aren’t trying to be positive, it is just that without anger in your life the glass actually appears half full and you describe it as you see it.

Like your drinking. 

You abuse alcohol to help you forget the angry person you are, and the things that angry person has done. People who like themselves and their lives don’t have anything to escape from.

Like your fear. 

Your anger wasn’t an emotion. It was a tinted lens which made the world look like a dangerous place. Angry people are always scared. They project themselves on the world around them. They are no more safe with anyone than they are with themselves. The world is as angry as they are – no wonder they are scared.


Anger is going to go on a murderous rampage before it goes.

But there are not going to be any innocent victims.

Anger, Pastoring, Spirituality

Step 5: Stop Asking Jesus to Answer Your Prayers.

Our last step was to neglect yourself and focus on Jesus. We do this because focusing  on Jesus will always have the by-product of personal transformation.

The disciple Peter knew it to be true:

“As we get to know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for a living a godly life. We have received all this by coming to know him.” (2 Peter 1:3)

Peter knew you don’t aim for personal victory. You aim for intimacy and get victory thrown in.

Peter also knew this victory goes well beyond having mere anger removed from your life.

Yes, mere anger. As you get to know Jesus better you will discover He has bigger plans for you than just getting anger out of your life.

However, to get to know Jesus better you’ll need to spend regular time with Him.

In fact, in nearly twenty years of being a pastor, I haven’t met someone who has been freed from anger, or much of anything really, who hasn’t set aside daily time to talk and listen to Jesus.

Let me be clear.

I DO know plenty of people who remain in bondage to anger or whatever who spend plenty of time reading their bibles, praying, or having a devotional life. But, and this is absolutely critical, their primary motivation for this time spent with Jesus is so they can get what they want out of Him and not so they can enjoy Him for who He is.

They aren’t really meeting with a friend. They are meeting with a donor.

They hope if they put enough time in and the conversation goes well enough they will get what they need out of Him.

If your devotional life centers mainly around you angling to get the things you believe you need of out Jesus, you need to simply be honest about what you are doing, confess what is going on, open your Bible and say to Jesus “enough about me, tell me about you.”

You will almost be able to see the smile on His face at that point. You’ll smile soon enough too since relaxing with a friend is easier on your heart than trying to impress a donor.

Stop asking Jesus to answer your prayers.

Victory comes from intimacy with Jesus and not from asking Jesus for victory.

Spend time getting to know Him. Listen, read, and journal. Practice some of the spiritual disciplines.  If you attend PAC you have an opportunity to be guided into learning about all of the above by signing up for a 24/7 prayer slot here.

You will find His presence is His provision.


Step 4: Deliberately Neglect Yourself.

If your primary motivation for defeating anger is self improvement you wont be able to do it.

You can only get over anger if you first get over yourself.

This is different than we imagine.

We anticipate paths to self transformation will involve paying attention to ourselves in new ways. We are taught will need to be more mindful, aware, in touch, and present than ever before.

Those paths don’t work. They might get you ahead of your anger, but it will still be chasing you. And you are defined by what you are running from.

Jesus says this path where we are trying to improve ourselves by focusing on ourselves  leads through the “wide gate”; giving it a name which highlights how well traveled the path is.

Those who are headed through the wide gate see a better version of themselves at the end of the path, fix their eyes on that, and inevitable when they reach the end of the path are disappointed because they have not changed nearly as much as they had hoped. They find themselves waiting at the end of the road.

Reminds me of a scared teen in a horror movie.  The poor kid is sprinting through the yard looking over their shoulder only to find the guy with the meat cleaver is waiting for them in the shed. When you are headed to the ‘wide gate’ what you are running from is actually waiting for you when you stop running.

I couldn’t get over anger when my motivation was simply to make my life better because a preoccupation with myself was fueling my anger. As long as the driving question was, “How can I improve?”, I was shooting steroids into the very animal I was trying to domesticate. I had new reasons for being angry. I was trying really hard now! Shouldn’t everyone notice and appreciate all the improvements I have made!?

If your focus remains on yourself you will always feel entitled to your anger. This means what you are really aiming for is to be saved from the consequences of your anger and not the actual elimination of anger from your life. An elevated and prominent self always has reasons, and the right, to be angry.

To truly defeat anger you have to get over yourself and so your motivation can’t be to make your life better.

You will need to think about yourself less, not more.

Which means you will need someone else to think about.

I suggest Jesus.

Jesus offers a different path. One harder to find, but it is worth walking because it actually changes you. You walk it by fixing your eyes, not on a better version of yourself, but on Jesus. When you reach the narrow gate at end of this path you are delighted because it is hard to tell who is who anymore.

I mean by this, you have become like Jesus.

The Jesus way out of anger involves deliberately choosing to think of yourself less, and Him more.


Anger, Pastoring

Step 3: Lower The Bar.

So how did it go?

Last week you were to intentionally do what you hate by submit to something you thought was ridiculous, annoying, or a waste of time. And, you weren’t supposed to let anyone know.

My bet is it didn’t go so good.

I bet you couldn’t keep it secret.

I bet what started as submission ended up as suppression and the cork on the bottle eventually blew off and nailed someone in the eye.

You had a hard time submitting to your co-worker, spouse, traffic laws, boss, or physiotherapist. You took 13 items into the ’12 items or less line’. You were passive aggressive. You hinted at martyrdom. You huffed and puffed. You poked back in some way. You weren’t as good at submission as you thought you might be.

So we need to make it easier for you this week as we try again. Let’s lower the bar. This week let’s practice submitting to someone who, at least in theory, ought to be easier to submit to.

Let’s practice submitting to Jesus.

This will be easier on you for three reasons.

First, Jesus is smarter than you.

As you take the surprisingly difficult step of submitting to someone a million times more brilliant than you are it will help you grow to a place where it is easier to submit to someone less intelligent than Jesus. You train with lighter kettle bells so you can eventually slay THE BEAST.

Second, immediate beneficial byproducts.

It will become very obvious you are better off following the path set out by the master teacher of the human race than the path you are cobbling together from Netflix documentaries and podcasts. His commandments are not arbitrary. They reveal reality and align you with it. You will enjoy standing on solid ground.

Third, He is the only one who is able to give you the power to do what pleases Him. Submitting to Jesus is like riding an e-bike up a hill. You are still steering and pedaling but there is a power available which isn’t your own. This is a pleasant surprise.

Submitting to someone who you know is brilliant and on your side is an easy way to train and grow your fundamental submission skills. The breakthrough moment happens when you realize anger has become a choice and not a reflex.

And now that you are not automatically angry you realize anger is actually only one of many options available when you don’t get our way.

You realize you can survive without getting your way all the time.

You begin to have options you didn’t have before.

You get there by submitting to Jesus.

This week, choose one of his teachings and follow it.

As before, keep it a secret from everyone but Him.

And remember to ask Him for help.

It will go better for you this week.

Keep in mind, we are still only talking about managing anger – we haven’t killed it yet.

But, we are well on our way, because once you submit to Jesus there are a whole bunch of trans-formative options which rise up on the horizon.