Oil & Water

There is a complex and somewhat exhaustive explanation of why oil and water do not mix together. If you were to check in with your local science expert they would use terms like immiscible, density and mass to explain the chemical properties of each liquid. On a very basic level most everyone knows that oil and water do not mix, they both have inherent qualities that make them incompatible.  
Paul writes to an audience of believers in Rome that have come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour through the ministry of men like himself and others. Written into Paul’s letter to the Roman believers is a myriad of incredible truths that give instruction and motivation to live vibrant and faithful lives as Christians. Paul’s written message was a reminder to the people about the power of sin and deception that is persistently trying to lead them away from a proper relationship with God. Sin, and our sinful nature have the ability to create conflict between living by the ideals of the world compared to that of God’s call on our lives to live a life holy and pleasing to him. This conflict is much like that between oil and water; Life in Christ (the water), dose not mix with life in the world (the oil). Although the two can coexist together, the both have their inherent qualities that make them incompatible.  

The power to overcome sin comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through Him we have access to His Father in heaven. Paul writes these words in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our hope comes from the Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit when we allow him into our lives. Hope is an anticipation, a confident expectation (faith and trust) in the promise that God will fulfill his promise of eternal life with him. “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (8:24-25). For all the many earthly things that we have in this world they cannot and will not fulfill the promise of something better, they are only temporary. A question I often ask of myself is this, is my hope overflowing in a way that it spills out so others can see? God provided a way for joy and peace in life and that comes through his Son, a joy and peace that fuels our hope. The power of hope in Christ over shadows the power of sin, it separates us from the world.  

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A Needle in a Hay Stack

WaldoOften, when something is near impossible to find we use the term “like finding a needle in a hay stack.” This aptly describes the extreme difficulty of locating something that is well disguised by its surroundings. I can’t help but think of Waldo, the little guy in the red and white striped shirt and matching hat who is hidden among other similar colored items and people dressed the same. These well designed puzzles can drive a person crazy trying to find Waldo, the thing to remember is that he is always standing somewhere.

Filled with words of lament from Jeremiah (also known as the weeping prophet) the book of Lamentations portrays the broken heart of the prophet over the destruction of Jerusalem and the brokenness of the people who have turned away from God. Jeremiah’s passionate expressions of grief and sorrow instill feelings of desperation, fear, loneliness and hopelessness. Brought to his knees, Jeremiah, amid all that is happening around him shows us a small but powerful spark of hope that keeps him from spiraling further into the full presence of darkness. “The Lord is good to those who’s hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.” (La 3:25). God’s promise of rescue and comfort to Jeremiah,(Jer 1:8) the promise of love, is what Jerimiah put his hope in. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (La 3:22)

Jeremiah found hope in the Lord because of His great love. The Apostle Paul expands on this great love in 1 Corinthians 13 saying, “love never fails… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Under the protection of God’s love Jeremiah put his hope and trust in Him for a better future, a hope in moving forward to better place in life. God, who was and is in full control over all his creation longs for each and every one of us to find hope and comfort in his love. This reminder of God’s sovereign power through the judgement over Jerusalem stands as a critical reminder that, in the busyness and of life we must continue to live a life according to His will. Jeremiah’s life and experiences model for us the incredible power of confession (crying out to God), forgiveness, hope and love.  Therefore, have hope in life. Live in obedience to God’s will because of His great love for you.

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Talking to a Brick Wall.

michal-grosicki-221225You have probably heard the statement “in one ear and out the other”, this implies the person or people you are talking to are in the room and for whatever reason your words or message didn’t sink in. This might seem like an odd question but have you ever tried talking to a brick wall? Brick walls don’t listen. In fact, your voice, the words you speak will bounce back from the hard surface and come back at you like a “slap in the face”. Brick walls are not only hard to break down, it is even difficult to put a hole in one so you can reach the other side.

At times, I think Jeremiah felt like he was talking to a brick wall. The people God had called him to speak to had built up walls with their own “brick and mortar”, materials that were not up to God’s standards. The people chose to ignore the words that God spoke through Jeremiah, “they did not listen or pay attention” (17:23) “These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words” (13:10). Jeremiah knew for the most part what he was up against from the time God called him into this role, 7:27 says, “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” When we continue to read through Jeremiah we see the other half of the picture. Jeremiah was beaten (20:2), left for dead (38:6), called a liar (43:2) and again, threatened with death by the priests and prophets (26:11). Not only was the “brick wall” Jeremiah facing not listening it was “fighting” back, growing in strength and height as he pursued his calling to prophesy God’s impending judgment on the people if they did not repent and begin to follow Him.

Jeremiah had every reason to run the other way, to throw in the towel and let the people deal with God’s wrath on their own, but he had one very good reason to stay, and that was God. When we see God as our all-powerful (sovereign) Lord and King through Jeremiah’s story we get a glimpse of how God provided for all of Jeremiah’s needs. Knowing exactly what he needed and when he needed it and ultimately how much his mortal mind and body could handle, God walked alongside Jeremiah through all the trials that he faced. Jeremiah put his hope and trust in God to carry him through as he promised (1:8) Just as God worked through the life of Jeremiah to reach a lost and wandering nation of people He calls us to do the same. God created this world and all that is in it. As his people we are commanded to “go out into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. (Mk 16:15) Breaking down brick walls and reaching into the  lives of the lost so that they may come to know God in all his power and glory should be our goal. It is our responsiblitiy to live in obedience to his will, it is what He desires.

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The Letters of Life

There are letters of recommendation, letters of acceptance, letters of commendation, letters of refusal, hate, inquiry, love, complaint or concern. Although very different in the nature of their content each of these letters has a common purpose, they are written to communicate a message or to its intended audience. When we receive one of the above letters we know there is a certain “tone” associated with them. For example, a love letter will have a much different tone than a letter of refusal and a letter of hate will communicate a message clearly different than that of concern.  
2 Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth. His letter varies in tone and subject matter as he try’s to communicate a number of things to the people. This is a letter written to commend the Corinthian church for responding to his earlier plea to love one another in Christ’s name and to remember how much He loved them. Paul wrote in order to help prepare the people’s hearts to live and give generously and with joy so that the work of spreading the good news of the Gospel would continue. He conveys a specific message surrounded by urgency and warning about understanding and recognizing the teachings and tactics of false teachers and prophets that have made their way into this family of believers. Paul writes with incredible passion, deeply rooted feelings and divine inspiration. He is writing from the deepest depths of his heart, a heart that has been radically transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.  

Preserved in the Bible for thousands of years, the words of Paul have been interpreted, read, taught, lived out and spoken to generation after generation of people. The message communicated to the people in Corinth is a message that continues to cross cultures even today. It’s timeless reminders and commands hold true to who we are called to be as followers of Christ. This letter and many like it in scripture have the power to transform lives. As followers of Christ who have experienced this transformation we must continue to “eat, sleep and breathe” these inspired words from God. What does that mean for you? For me, right now, it means that through the work of the Holy Spirit my life I must follow as close to that of Christ’s life as I possibly can.  

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The Three C’s of Gospel Communication.

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There are so many ways that we can educate ourselves about the art of communication. A quick Google search will list a variety of websites that gives us information like this: “The Three V’s of Communication” (visual, vocal and verbal), “The Three Dimensions of Communication” (miscommunication, attitude and mindfulness) and “Three Dominant Styles of Communication” (passive, aggressive, and assertive). All these tools can be helpful in understanding how to communicate effectively but when it comes to the gospel message the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy gives us some great keys to communicating this life changing message. I will call the them the Three C’s of Gospel Communication.

Christ – “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead… This is my gospel, for which I am suffering.” (2 Tim 2:8,9)

Confidence – “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so through me the message might be fully proclaimed.” (2 Tim 4:17)

 Courage – “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7)

Without Christ, the gospel message would not exist. Knowing, trusting and participating in the absolute truth of the reality of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection is essential to communicating its significance and its transformational power. When we put our full confidence in Christ (knowing he is standing beside us) our lives become rooted in His word. With confidence, we can stand firmly on the promise that he will never leave us or forsake us. He works in us so that the message of his word will be proclaimed. We are given the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ and the confidence we put in Him. Sharing the good news of the gospel takes courage, a power that we alone cannot produce. God, through his son Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit gives us the courage (power) to stand against the forces of evil that work so powerfully to try and put a stop to the proclamation of the message of the gospel.  Through Christ, confidence and courage the message of the gospel will continue to be spread.

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Project Management

ProjectFor any large building project, there has to be someone who is in charge, a person who takes the responsibility to see the project through till the end. There is either a project manager or a site supervisor that oversees all aspects of the building process. Two of the biggest responsibilities of this important role is to communicate the building plan and set a timeline for the many different trades to follow. We all know that we don’t live in a perfect world and things go wrong, problems arise, people and circumstances fail. One of the most powerful tools in the toolbox for the project managers is clear communication.

Even before Nehemiah made his way to Jerusalem to take on the role of project manager for the rebuilding of the wall he had to communicate his plan to the King. Nehemiah made his request (he came with a well-defined plan, how long it would take and a list of resources and materials that would be needed) and the king granted his appeal. After an inspection of the wall and a good knowledge of what needed to be done, Nehemiah setup his work teams and started working on the project. Nehemiah, as project manager had some tough choices to make, he had to deal with persistent opposition, there were physical threats, false accusations and more as he tried to keep the project moving forward. With a solid understanding of what was required Nehemiah was able to keep his focus not only on the project but on the people.

Nehemiah communicated on two different levels with the people, one, through his words and another through his actions. Nehemiah stood strong in the Lord’s call on his life to be on mission to rebuild the wall. He prayed often for determination and strength to carry on, both for himself and for the people. Nehemiah prayed, “Now strengthen my hands”, this was a cry out to God for the power to carry on in the face of all that was happening. When I reflect the story of Nehemiah, it communicates to me a message of hope, a message that when God calls us to be on mission for him, he stays with us. God has the “blueprints” already drawn up for each and everyone of us. His word communicates the building plan that helps us live according to his design. It is our job as project managers to stick to the plan.

 

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Communication

Communication


How do you communicate with others? I am thinking about how communication (written, verbal, nonverbal and visual) happens in our culture today. Of course, technology plays a big part in how we network with each other today. There are a multitude of companies and applications  like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype and Facetime help us communicate in our digital age. Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t know how I would survive without my phone, it connects me to everyone and everything.”

Reading through the book of Ezra I was reminded of the “roots” of communication. We still write letters (5:8-17), we issue decrees (7:21), send memorandums (6:2) enforce stop work orders (4:23) and issue proclamations (1:2). Each of these communication methods serve a purpose today just like they did centuries ago, only today we have a different system to employ them. Consider for a moment how you use technology today to communicate and then continue reading.

God’s Word, the Bible, is one of the ways that He communicates with us. As the grand author, He inspired each and every word that is written for us to read today. The book of Ezra begins with a proclamation given by King Cyrus, a declaration that came from the Lord as He worked in Cyrus’ heart that allowed His people to return to Jerusalem. “The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing” (1:1) God inspires (moves our hearts) His people today in much the same way. Through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, God leads and guides hundreds of thousands of leaders across the world to bring the truth of His word alive so that people will know Him. We are called to be communicators of His word, called to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15). Technology has changed the way we communicate; the message of the Gospel has not changed, the call to go into all the world has not changed. The work of the Holy Spirit continues to inspire and help us work out how we can best steward what God has given us (technology) to spread the message of the good news.

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Take 42

In filmmaking, there are many different ‘takes” that typically make up a scene. Actors do their best to avoid making mistakes until the scene is complete and to the satisfaction of the director. One of the things I really enjoy about some filmmakers is how they include some of the out-takes at the end of the movie. Often, these raw clips make me laugh more than the movie itself did. The out-takes are what make the actors seem real, they reveal their authentic character which shows us that we all make mistakes.  

1 and 2 Kings remind me of this concept of “takes”. Throughout these two books we have 42 different takes on the role the kings plays in the life of Israel. Each of these Kings set out with a vision as they took on the responsibility of leading the people. The events in the two books of kings happen over approximately 384 years. During this time we read about two characteristics that in part help define the landscape of the vision held by these leaders. Scripture tells us these two things, “He did Evil in the eyes of the Lord” and “He did right in the eyes of the Lord.” Two very closely related statements with incredibly different outcomes which also highlight one of the character traits each of these leaders posses. Out of forty-two “takes” only six of the kings listed started and carried out their role as king with God in the picture. 1 and 2 kings only give us a glimpse into the lives of these men, one has to wonder about the differences in the culture and quality of life between the good kings and the evil kings.  

One of the incredible characteristics of our God is that He is the same today as He was in the time of all these kings. Today, as leaders we serve the same God who looks at all we do, the vision we cast, the lives that we live and holds us to the same standard as these kings. Are we doing right in His eyes or are we doing evil in His eyes. What is at the heart of our vision? Are we keeping God at the centre of all we do? Are we giving God the glory for the work he is doing through the plans (vision) he has inspired in us. I hope and pray that what I am doing as a leader having been called by Him into His service is being seen as right in His eyes. I want this “take” on life and leadership to have an impact in His great Story.  

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If You Had One Wish…

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If you had only one wish, what would you wish for? I remember pondering with great consideration this question as a kid, here are some of the answers I can recall from years ago (and maybe even extend to today). Do I wish for a thousand more wishes? A million dollars? An unlimited supply of Twizzlers red licorice? A brand-new Corvette? Truth be told, the list was seemingly endless. Since my adolescent childhood days my perspective on what is important in life has changed, but the problem in many respects stays the same, I’m not one hundred percent sure what I would wish for.

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (3:5) Here we have the creator of all life and the entire universe giving Solomon the one wish opportunity. The following text outlines Solomon’s request “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Now, if you have never read the outcome of Solomon’s request you might be wondering what is up with this guy? Why is he asking for discernment when he could be asking for anything else like power, wealth or fame?  Solomon realized what was ahead of him and felt led to honour God’s plan for His chosen people. Because of God’s faithfulness to his father David, Solomon was committed to seeing God’s plan continue through him, he “caught” the vision to lead the people. Solomon was young and inexperienced and admitted that the role he was chosen to be in exceeded his abilities. His request for a discerning heart was granted and God made his name great among the people.

1 Kings goes on to describe the unmeasurable limit to Solomon’s wisdom, the building and dedication of the Temple and all that came through the blessing of God over his life. Solomon reigned over all Israel for forty years before he died, his life and legacy were never forgotten. Solomon’s vision was all about the people, when we take a closer look at his request for discerning heart it was all about justice and peace. Solomon wanted life to be good for the people, he wanted them to live in unity and to love one another. What is our vision today as leaders in the church? Do we have a vision of unity among one another as believers? Are we working diligently and fighting for justice in the communities that surround us? Do we believe that God can lead and direct our lives giving us the ability to discern between right and wrong? If you had that one wish opportunity, what would you wish for?

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Putting the Cart Before the Horse

Have you ever put the “cart in front of the horse?” This phrase is commonly used when someone breaks the conventional rules of order and does something opposite to what we would consider a proper order. A classic example might look like this: We just past tax time and some of us are waiting for that big refund cheque to come in. Some will likely spend the money before it comes in only to find out that there was some “minor” adjustments made to the numbers and we fall a little short of affording our new found treasure. Well, we have put the “cart before the horse”.

Adonijah was is one of those people who put the cart before the horse in life. Here is what scriptures says: “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be King”. So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men ahead of him.” (1 Kings 1:5) Adonijah had a personal vision, one that he convinced a few others to follow and sets himself up as King. Adonijah was confident in his plan, he even went as far as throwing himself a party to celebrate the occasion. As David’s oldest surviving son, Adonijah may have had the right to become King one day, he may have even been looking to the best interests of his father and his people. As the narrative continues in 1 Kings we get a hint of the guilt and fear that surrounded Adonijah and his followers. Upon hearing the news of Solomon’s appointment as King “all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar.” (1:50) It is my opinion that Adonijah knew what he did was wrong and was seeking sanctuary or safety from the hand of Solomon.

There is no doubt in my mind that Adonijah put the cart before the horse in this account.He did what any visionary leader would do, he gathered people around him that would support his vision, only his vision was self-serving and had a very narrow focus. Leading and casting vision in the church today cannot be self-serving or narrowly focused. Our vision has to be Gospel-Centered, focused on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Our job as visionary leaders is to live out the command of the great commission found in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s not put our own plans before that of God’s plan, there is great wisdom in seeking God’s leading and guiding as we plan and cast a vision that ultimately leads people to Him.  

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