Ready or Not

About a week ago I read this article about the possibility of another larger volcano eruption in Iceland and there is one phrase that just kind of stuck in my head.  It’s stuck in the midst of these final words of the article,

There are no clear answers, however, and even fewer predictions about what the future may hold. Volcano eruptions, like earthquakes, are difficult to predict.

“Katla can start tomorrow or in 100 years, you don’t know,” said Palsson. “All we can do is be ready.”

“all we can do is be ready”

I don’t know what prompted this, but when I read that phrase I immediately remembered something Jesus said,

You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:50 NIV)

One of the things I found funny before I was a Christian, and even today,  is how in some church circles there is so much emphasis placed on WHEN Jesus is going to return.  Some thought Y2K was the big signal (you remember that?), some thought the Gulf War was going to be the trigger.  Now, we have some even saying that Jesus return may be in 2012 because of all the talk of that being the year the Mayan calendar ends.  And don’t get me started on the pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib discussion.

Listen to me.  Jesus NEVER once urged his followers to try to figure out when he would be returning.  He just spent time telling them He WOULD be COMING.

He said, I WILL come again.

He said, it WILL happen when you LEAST EXPECT it.

He told them numerous times, and wanted his followers to get it, BE READY!

Now, honestly, I AM  fascinated by the fulfillment of biblical prophecy that has happened in the world over the years.  I even have a few “end times” books on my bookshelves and yes I even have a particular belief on when Jesus will return in relation to the tribulation.  But for me the MOST IMPORTANT thing is that Christ IS returning and we are to live our lives in a READINESS for his return.  What does that mean?  That means,

  • I should always be looking for the opportunities to tell people about Jesus and the gospel.
  • I should be keeping short accounts.
  • I should be focusing on the things that really matter in life (and finding out from God what those things are).
  • I should enjoy today that He has blessed me with and not worry about tomorrow.
  • For that matter, realize that there is always going to be a tomorrow – and tomorrow could be the day He returns.
  • I should be ANTICIPATING Christ’s return.  Honestly, I know that His return will be INCREDIBLE and I’m not frightened by it one bit.  I will confess, there are days I wish He would move a little quicker….kind of like when my kids ask from the back seat, “Dad are we there yet?”
  • I should be sobered by the realization that there are many loved ones in my life WHO AREN’T READY for his return – what am I going to do about that?
  • I should be thinking about how I invest my resources, wisely of course, BUT are my investments helping to advance the Kingdom of God?

I’m sure there’s other things some of you could come up with.  How about you? Are you ready?

[image from flickr]

do we really get REVIVAL?

A few weeks ago I read a really thought provoking post by my friend Geoff Heeg called -> Revival Please* So thought provoking that while I read it I could feel a blog post coming on.  And here it is.

Revival. That word is kind of loaded. In it’s neutral form it simply means someone who has been revived. Were dead. Now alive.

In it’s controversial form it’s the pursuit of the religious fanatic – “give me some of that ol’ time revival” which is too often – sadly – really saying, “I want to be scintillated emotionally and spiritually by displays of wonder and power that will shock others into the particular brand of faith that I follow.”

In other words…

…Something started by someone really cool!

Something started by a person who’s particularly good at getting me hyped up about what God wants to do for me. If this person is really good with the spiritual vocabulary and does some cool things then I can feel a revival coming on.

…Something that makes me feel good.

Revival will give me the spiritual willy-nillies or it’s not really revival. The more hyped up, emotionally charged and awesome cool things that I experience – the better a revival it is. Oh, and when I go to a revival I better leave feeling better or it ain’t a revival. Which brings me to the next point.

… Something I go to.

Everyone knows that revival happens at certain places where God “breaks out” and “shows up” right? I mean everytime we describe a revival we’re talking about the place where it happened or is happening.  We even give it labels that begin with a place name when describing it.

Do the above points sound kind of off? They should. they are pretty representative of some of the comments I have heard when people have described revival.  Here’s a novel thought:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! — Paul (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins….But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. –Paul (Ephesians 2:1,4-7 NLT)

These scriptures tell me that revival is very simply nothing less than transformation! It exists when people are changed because they’ve met Jesus! It is when those who were dead are given life!  THAT is revival.

Revival is NOT driven by human personality! It brings people to the person of Jesus Christ. When people meet Jesus they are forever changed.  Things start happening when people are changed.

It’s not marked by feeling good. Sometimes revival will bring pain! You can’t have change without some pain involved.  When sin is confronted, when sin is exposed, when the Holy Spirit convicts, when the truth of God is preached and even more lived there ARE going to be some uncomfortable moments.  Somehow there is a segment of “christianity” in the world today that equates revival with painlessness, and euphoria.  Certainly,  true revival will bring joy and excitement – after all the change that Jesus brings is life-bringing.  But I wonder if we see so little of true revival today because there are churches that don’t want to get uncomfortable, who don’t want the messiness of those who are far from Jesus coming to him, who don’t want the pain and effort it takes to move as agents of life among the dead.  I wonder if its because the people in our churches don’t want the way we “do” church to be affected because that means our discomfort.  It’s okay if God shows up as long as its in a way that we can predict and plan for.

Read this carefully,  Revival is NOT marked by feeling good!  We don’t pursue revival for the feelings it brings – we pursue revival because of the change it produces.   And THAT only happens when we pursue, preach and live Christ who is the one who brings change.

Finally, revival isn’t dependent on your where you are or where you go to! It’s not about your physical location, it’s about your spiritual position.  True revival happens when people meet Jesus and are transformed from death to life.  True revival happens when you are lifted up from being a mere “son of Adam” to adoption as a child of the King.  When people embrace Christ and His life is at work through them THEN you see revival.  And this is NOT location based.  True revival will not be confined to the four walls of a building.  It impacts the community the church of Christ is in.  It impacts families, it impacts workplaces, it impacts the rhythm of life that the world is used to.  When there is real revival, newspapers won’t be reporting on the strange going ons at such and such church.  The reports will be about the unexplainable drop in crime rates, the strange miracles happening in the hospitals, the unbelievable drop in divorce rates, and the remarkable generosity happening.

I cringe when I see churches advertising a ‘revival event’ or ‘revival camp meeting’.  Please, please you can’t label a place or an event as a revival! Especially if you know this event or camp meeting is targeting those who are supposed to already be revived!!!

Revival is when the dead become alive. Nothing more, nothing less.

What really matters and how blood and gore makes me queasy…

My wife and I were flipping through channels on the TV one night last week.

Well, actually, my wife had control of the remote and I was trying to keep her from seeing that I was slightly interested in her shows by “working” on my laptop (which doubles as a heating pad in this frigid Canadian winter!).  We were happily sharing some “quality” relationship time in watching TV together but I finally drew the line when she tuned in to one of those trauma-ER-hospital-story-docudrama things.  I get nauseous at the sight of blood and really can’t get why my wife is fascinated by the inner workings of the human body displayed in all of it’s wonderfully made gooey glory on the operating table via a TV in our HOME!  I keep telling her she should be a nurse.  But she says she can’t handle snotty noses or dirty diapers (the early years with our children were….interesting….).  Being the hero husband that I am I suggested to her that I really wanted our quality time together in front of the TV to continue so could we please watch something else (and threatened to leave the room – with my laptop of course)!

That’s how we ended up flipping through channels and then we noticed that the movie Gladiator was starting.  We’d already seen it before but it’s just SUCH a good movie that we decided to watch it again.  Yes, I know some of you are shaking your head right now at me because of the abundance of blood and guts in this flick but hang on, there’s a difference!  With a movie I know it’s not real – it’s just amazingly good makeup and tomato juice and stuff.  Those trauma documentary’s show the real thing!  Now that we got that out of the way…

One of the reasons why Gladiator is such a great movie is because of the powerful story of what one good man will do for the dream of a better empire.  Of course he is also a man driven by the desire for revenge over the senseless deaths of his wife and son – but then when presented with the opportunity to let out his vengeance on the one who ordered their deaths the gladiator holds things in check because he knows it would plunge Rome into chaos (it wasn’t the right time)…  so he really does have the interest of the empire in mind.

But then, we all know how the mighty empire of Rome turned out don’t we?  There have been nations come and go in history, Kings and Queens have come and gone, empires have sprung up and disintegrated and big important guys on the world scene centuries ago are barely remembered today.  But that’s a big timescale isn’t it?  What about in our lifetime?  Trends and fads come and go,  brands get unbranded and movements stop moving. One year shoelace beads are all the rage and the next year they better be on your bike not your shoes.  A video on youtube goes viral and gets millions of views and it’s old news next week.  Thinking about all of this –  it really is amazing how much and in what people will invest of their lives.  Especially when it’s all temporary.

Of course, C.S. Lewis would write something like this:

“To the Materialist, things like nations, classes, civilizations must be more important than individuals, because the individuals live only seventy-odd years each and the group may last for centuries. But to the Christian, individuals are more important, for they live eternally; and races, civilizations and the like, are in comparison the creatures of a day.” — C.S. Lewis, “Man or Rabbit”

Sometimes we get wrapped up in the silliest things but I think it’s a good idea to think about what you really invest the prime, the best, of your life in.

  • relationships with the ones closest to you OR the followers you’ll never meet.
  • making memories OR watching memories
  • your passions, the things you love doing (and are made to do) OR your “have-to’s” (everything else)
  • loving people OR loving things.
  • participation OR observation.
  • planting OR consuming.
  • getting to the top of the ladder OR building your character.
  • striving for arriving OR giving while living.

For nearly everything it’s not a matter of either/or but instead, more/less because eternal things are what really matters.  How much do you invest in what matters?  If you had to add things to this comparison list what would you add?

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. … — John 6:27 (NIV)

“Strange Fire”

[photo from Flickr]

This past summer at my church Marshall Eizenga and I preached through a series called The Bible’s Biggest Losers and a couple of the people I preached about were Nadab and Abihu (kind of sounds like names Disney writers would come up with doesn’t it?).   Now these names might be a bit unfamiliar to you.  Probably because there isn’t a whole lot said about them in the Bible.  Nadab and Abihu were sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses, and the first man to be called High Priest of Israel.  What’s interesting about their story is that they were literally burned alive by fire coming out from the presence of the Lord. Well, interesting in a kind of macabre kind of way.  What did these two brothers do to deserve this?

1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. (Leviticus 10:1 NIV)

Where the NIV translators used the word “unauthorized”  to describe the fire, the KJV Bible calls it “strange” fire (hence the title of the  message).  What was so strange about their fire?  In  the message I gave three reasons:

  1. Wrong Timing
  2. Wrong Authority
  3. Wrong Motive

Feel free to go and read/listen to the message I delivered – I’m not going to go into detail here.  But what I wanted to draw attention to is some quick points I concluded with that kind of bring this whole episode home.   What do you think of these observations?  Is there anything else you would add to the list?

  • Salvation without the cross of Christ is strange fire.
  • Attendance without worship is strange fire
  • Service without the Spirit is strange fire
  • Testimony without personal experience is strange fire
  • Teaching without study is strange fire
  • Prayer without practice is strange fire

Oh, and by the way, you no what the saddest thing is about Nadab and Abihu?  They were among the few who actually saw God and ate and drank in His very presence (if you haven’t already, read Exodus 24:9-11).  At the time they were among the privileged few to come before the King of Kings, the creator of the Universe and soak in the majesty of His presence.  An incredible honor!  But then it seems they took God’s sovereignty for granted and forgot who they were and who He is.  Sometimes, I’m afraid, we do the same.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Years and all the fine stuff…

[image from krisdecurtis]

In what is a most time-honored tradition around these sorts, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  This past year has been a very interesting year in my life and I’m looking forward to an even more interesting year.  I wish, like others I could have a nice cute picture of my family up here but in my household we define “Christmas busy” and usually don’t get around to getting our pictures done until late Christmas day.  Maybe I’ll get something up then (probably not).

Enjoy your holidays, don’t freeze, eat carefully, laugh with family, and check out what Christmas is really all about.  Thanks for sticking around unfoldingneurons.com!

Can you contain all this?

Take a look at this amazing fact sheet about the data/information flowing through the internet in one day:

A Day in the Internet

[Online Education via Gizmodo]

Pretty huge eh?  Our minds just can’t grasp that amount of data that is flowing through the internets every day!  But God can.  In fact not only can God process all that information – he can understand all that information.  Sometimes I think my brain is going to blow up when I take a look at the feeds in my Google reader.

Here’s the amazing thing.  God not only knows all that information but he also knows each one of us individually.  We’re not data.  We’re not another byte.  We’re His. He knows your voice, He knows my voice.  That is amazing!

O Lord , you have examined my heart
and know everything about me…    (Psalm 139:1)

A Powerful Leader’s Four…

Four Fingers

[credit: Looking Glass]

A great leader does four things and does four things well (by the way, I’m not saying this is all that a great leader does!).

Inspire

For some this comes naturally – the ability to inspire others by what is said but even more by what that leader does.  For other leaders it comes with HARD work (and I think I would fall in that category!!).  A great leader inspires people to do great things.  Of course, I happen to believe that for Christian leaders, what makes us inspiring is the work of  the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is Jesus, who inspires us and through us inspires others.  When as a leader you are passionately following Jesus and His word then in turn there will be others inspired to do the same.

This reminds me of something else, as a leader, it matters who you follow.  Number two,

Invite

Great leaders don’t just share a vision, or promote a cause, or work in a vacuum.  They invite people to the journey.  They invite people to be a part of the movement.  They invite people to the cause.  They invite people to follow where the leader is heading.  They invite people to use their gifts, to use their abilities, to give of themselves.  Great leaders recognize that great things are never going to be accomplished by them alone.

  • Jesus was a great leader because He inspired and then He invited.  He said, “Come, follow me”. (Of course, Jesus didn’t need anybody to accomplish His mission.  God doesn’t require others in order to accomplish His work.  BUT He chooses to involve people in His plan and invites participation!  Incredible!
  • The apostle Paul gave an invitation to the Corinthian church when He wrote, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV)
  • John F. Kennedy gave a powerful invitation to the American people in his famous speech, “…ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” and then to the citizens of the rest of the world, “…ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
  • What other invitations from great leaders can you think of?

Now its important to realize that not everyone will accept the invitation! But the great leader doesn’t let that stop them from extending it any and every opportunity they get.

Equip

Some leaders invite but then stop there.  They wonder why people get tired, burn out and run out of gas.  Some leaders have trouble understanding why people they’ve invited aren’t sticking it out.  Great leaders know that they it’s not just about inviting, but also equipping people for what they’ve been invited to.  Great leaders say, “come join me on this journey,  here’s what we’re going to do to GROW”  Great leaders identify resources and experiences that will equip the people they’ve invited.

Finally, the one thing that ultimately adds the greatness to powerful leaders is that they always…

Release

Great leaders recognize that they must release people to do what they’ve been inspired from, invited to, and equipped for.  Without this, leaders don’t reproduce, and when there is no reproduction there is no increase, no growth.  Organizations grow when there is a multiplication of leaders.  Organizations die when there is only one “leader”.  Great leaders, powerful leaders know that visions become reality when people are released to accomplish things that the leader could do but won’t do because there’s an opportunity for another leader to be launched.

Four things: Inspire, Invite, Equip, and Release.   In the great leaders that have had influence in my life I have seen these four things at work and am striving to include them in my own leading.  What do you think of this list?  Is there anything you’d modify or add?

ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

New Website Release: VOHMalawi.org

Village of Hope Malawi Website ScreenshotA couple of days ago I released a new website that I designed for some friends of mine who are the new directors of the Village of Hope in Malawi, Africa.  David and Connie Buzikievich are an awesome couple who are following through with their offer to God to take them wherever He wants and use them however He wants.  Their example of selfless service is inspiring!

Ever since my short term missions trip to the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe my heart has been captured by the work the Village’s of Hope are doing in Africa to make a difference in children’s lives (and indeed in the communities where the Villages of Hope are planted!).  One of the exciting ways I’ve been able to contribute to the work they are doing is by hosting and designing websites for both the Village of Hope, Zimbabwe, and now the Village of Hope, Malawi.  Getting the word out and keeping supporters informed is always one of the bigger challenges facing those working at the Villages and doing this helps free time and resources for focusing on what they need to do.

You can read all about the awesome things happening at the Villages of Hope in Zimbabwe and Malawi by going to vohmalawi.org and vohzimbabwe.com.

Village of Hope Zimbabwe Website ScreenshotOh, and by the way,  one of the reasons I’ve posted this is to see if there are any other web developers, designers, or hosting gurus who want to help out too!  If so, get in touch with me and I’ll see what I can do to hook you up.  Better yet, get in touch with a missionary or missions organization you know of and volunteer your services to them.  Using your gifts in this way is an awesome way to give towards the cause and help make a difference!

A Day for Joy

In playing with a new service called Animoto I decided to create a short video highlighting one incident from my short-term missions trip to Zimbabwe in June 2007.  As part of that visit to the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe, I went to the “plots” which are a slum-like area with terrible living conditions that the workers from VOH go to every day to help feed the kids and give them some teaching. One day we passed out some toys we had brought with us. Their gratitude was priceless! I was ruined on this trip.

By the way, Animoto is a really cool app – you should check it out.  It only took me 15 minutes to make this vid.

Is Anguish missing in the church?

Here’s a video I had passed along to me recently.  It is David Wilkerson giving a “Call to Anguish”.  Most of me resonates with his words but parts of me don’t.  I really agree with the truth that God works through the broken (the anguished).  But is the church as broken as David makes it out to be?  Yes, oh yes, I agree there is a slide to conformity among many churches and a lot of pansy, “cultural” Christians BUT I also see a rising number of churches and Christians turning to the gospel and starting to live out the call of Christ and His work through them in their city and around the world.  Watch the video, tell me what you think – does the call resonate with you?