We will be People of Peace: Standing in solidarity with those hated and displaced

“We will be people of peace, welcoming, offering hope and a place you can stand.”

These words echoed through my heart as I hunched over the Delta flight tray, scribbling away on the back of a thin napkin. Knowing we were going to be gathering, as a community, to host a solidarity vigil on behalf of those affected by the Quebec mosque shooting, as well as the many refugees currently displaced in the world, I felt a song rising up in me. A song for us. A song for our Valley.

PC: Ethan Greentree (Follow him on Instagram @_sirethan_)

And this week, we hosted that candlelight vigil of solidarity, standing as a community to declare who we are and who we will be. As the Erickson Covenant Church, we did not host this vigil as a Christian prayer service. Rather, we hosted our community, gathering as a mix of faiths or no faith at all, holding a variety of political perspectives, with an array of ideas and passions, and yet all unified in this one thing: as the Creston Valley, we will be a welcoming community of peace, open-hearted and hospitable, shunning violence and seeking understanding.

As Christians, we seek peace as an expression of Who we follow, the Prince of Peace, the One who laid his life down for all. As Jesus-followers, we are called to care for those who are displaced, to love those who are often seen as “enemies”, to welcome the stranger and mourn with those who mourn–to make room in our lives for others. And as the church of Jesus, we have been commissioned to be peace-makers, holding our own arms open, inviting people to consider the way of peace as the way of life.

PC: Ethan Greentree (Follow him on Instragram @_sirethan_)

On this chilly, snowy Tuesday, following the most epic snow day the Kootenays has experienced in many years, over 50 Creston Valley residents gathered to reflect, to pray, to listen and to sing. Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band told us an ancient, local story celebrating diversity as a strength; he also sang for us a victory song of his people. Linda Price, on behalf of the Creston Refugee Committee, shared about the good work of hospitality going on right here in our Valley, to make a home for refugees among us (we have welcomed multiple families over the years). And I closed our vigil, sharing words from a Muslim friend of mine in the wake of the Quebec shooting and hosting two times of silent prayer and reflection (one for the Muslim community; another for the refugees of the world). After offering a prayer to the Father of us all and in the name of Jesus, I sang the song posted below, written for our community. I leave you with that today. (The full lyrics are posted below).

People of Peace

Word and Lyrics: Tom Greentree, February 2017
For the Creston Valley: May we be people of peace.

 

People of Peace (Tom Greentree)
Verse 1
In a climate of fear and mistrust
Who will we be?
In a world that is so far from just
who will we be?
When the nations are boiling, no boundaries contain
and the ones who are hated, neglected and shamed

Who will we, who will we be?

Chorus:
We will be people of peace, people of peace
Welcoming, offering hope and a place you can stand
We will be people of peace, people of peace,
Holding our hearts open, doing whatever we can
 
Verse 2
In a Valley that’s known for abundance
Who will we be?
At a time when we’re tempted to silence
Who will we be?
When it’s easy to turn off the cries that we hear,
distracted by comfort and blinded by fear
Who will we, who will we be?

What are we doing up there on Sunday? A conversation with young worship leaders

Can I let you in on a fun leadership conversation I had yesterday?

I enjoyed an hour with some young leaders, preparing to lead singing on Sunday during our worship gathering with the Erickson Covenant Church. It was so much fun, as anyone who’s worked with grade 5 girls knows! And yes, there was a lot of giggling! 🙂

When we were done practicing the songs, I asked them what we were doing up there on Sunday.

Their answer: “Worshiping Jesus.” Good answer.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because we love him. Because he loves us. Because he’s worth singing for.” Amazing answers.

preparing-to-lead-worship“What’s the other reason we are up there singing on Sunday?” I asked. They weren’t too sure. And I didn’t expect them to have an answer, because the question is a little trickier.

“We are up there helping other people worship Jesus, too.” Ahh, yes–you could see they got it. And then we went on to talk about what that means and how we don’t just get up and sing for ourselves–we sing and worship Jesus in a way that helps others do the same. As worship leaders, we have a responsibility to practice and prepare, and then lead and sing so that others will be drawn to give praise to the Father, also.

Which means we practice. Which means we make sure that everything we do points to Jesus and doesn’t draw attention to ourselves. Which means that we are conscious of our role as leaders even while we are singing.

The girls loved it. And so we teased out some more implications of what that might mean.

At the end, I asked: “But even with all of that in mind, what’s the most important thing we do to help others worship Jesus on Sunday?”

They knew the answer. “We worship Jesus. We sing our hearts out. We sing for him.”

Yep. Because at the end of the day, the climax of the song, or the close of the gathering, he’s the one we’ve been singing for all along. And he’s the one we’ll keep singing for through the week.

It’s a privilege to lead others in worship, and it’s an honor to lead with these young leaders.  And above all, to gather and worship the One who loves us.

I’m looking forward to Sunday.

 

10 Actions I Took When Mentoring One Young Leader

Mentoring young leaders is top priority. If the crush of life squeezes that out, then we’d better reevaluate what’s truly important. Dare I say it? Jesus placed mentoring young leaders as his top ministry priority. So should we.

I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside many young people as they follow Jesus. It’s one of the most influential things I’ve done.

Most recently, I’ve walked alongside one young follower of Jesus, from her pre-teen years through to college. Her name is Maddie.

How did the mentoring start? Not as mentoring, I assure you; it emerged from normal life. Our families are friends, and I connected with this little girl, just like I’d do with anyone. In 2011, I had the privilege of baptizing her into Christ. As she became an early teen, we chatted about books we loved and shared favourites.

As a violinist, Maddie has faithfully served our church, first as a budding, and now accomplished, musician. Our friendship grew, and in conversations with her, I saw a growing interest in science and faith, as she considered science for future study. Knowing how critical the integration of science and faith is for students, I asked if she wanted to meet for a coffee once a month to discuss some reading. Yes, she did. And so, mentoring began more formally.

After some time in the early chapters of Genesis, we dove into Ephesians. Why Ephesians, you ask? My vision for her was larger than just science and faith. To grow,  she needed to know how to read and receive God’s living word into her life. She was eager for that, too.

We then read and discussed a couple books on the topic of science and faith. Our conversations ranged from science and faith and into life, relationships, future plans, work struggles, God’s work in her life, her ministry in the church, and her family.

Maddie Preaching
Maddie preaching in our summer 2015 Proverbs series on “Making Good Plans”.

Seeing her deep engagement in Scripture and her passion for Jesus, I asked Maddie to preach during our summer 2015 Proverbs series. Initially taken aback (she was 16 at the time), I saw the passion flicker in her eyes. She leaped at the opportunity. Along with my close coaching, she chose her Proverbs theme, researched, prayed, studied, wrote, and then practiced her message delivery, many times. And then she preached it! It was a powerful experience of growth and development for her, for me, and for congregation. (You can listen to her message here.)

That preaching experience confirmed something that God had been growing in her–a desire to give herself fully to God’s kingdom work, using her spiritual gifts to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. Where will that lead her? God only knows, but his path is beginning to unfold as Maddie leaves college science to pursue theological studies this fall. Wherever Jesus leads her, being invited into a mentoring relationship, being coached, encouraged, trusted, and affirmed by her community–all of that has shaped Maddie’s understanding of God, of herself, and of God’s passionate call on her life. I’m thrilled with her and thankful for God’s work in her.

Can you see why it’s such a privilege to walk with young leaders? 

As I reflected on our mentoring experience, some principles emerged. While happening naturally and intuitively, there are 10 actions I took when mentoring Maddie. I hope these encourage you as you walk alongside young leaders, too.

10 Actions You Can Take To Mentor Young Leaders

  1. You look for promise. Ask the Spirit to give you eyes to see the potential that lies in the person.
  2. You commit to guide, gently. I wouldn’t rush this. Don’t be overbearing. Let it develop slowly. Be present. Be Jesus placed mentoring young leaders as his top ministry priority.encouraging. Build trust.
  3. You look for response. At certain points, response is needed. They must take initiative.  This is important. Maddie said yes to reading and meeting for coffee.
  4. You provide opportunities for leadership, service and growth. If there’s no interest in serving or growing, they aren’t ready. That’s okay. Stay present. And keep watching.
  5. You speak life into them.  Tell them what you see. Encourage them, notice what is happening, fan the flames of their gifts. Cheer them on.
  6. You step out and call them deeply, onto risky paths. And then, because of trust, moments will arise when you can challenge them. I invited Maddie to preach; later, I raised the question of God’s call on her life. For each young leader this will be unique. But the challenge should be something that, though stretching for them, is within the realm of their developing gifts.
  7. You pray for them. Yep, lots. And their family, too.
  8. You help them grapple with possible paths. The future can look daunting, but having a guide to define and describe what a few possibilities might look like helps. A few months ago Maddie asked me to help her envision a couple future possibilities. It was exciting and I think she found that guidance helpful.
  9. You let the Holy Spirit lead. This is so crucial. We are not the ones leading a young leader’s life–the Spirit is. Our role is encouragement, support, cheer and challenge, helping them learn to follow the Spirit’s lead.
  10. You stay connected. Young leaders usually move on. But we still play an important role in their lives. Over the last year, Maddie and I haven’t met regularly as she’s been away at community college. But we stay connected through social media, as well as on weekends at church, and I keep encouraging her (and she keeps encouraging me!) as we follow Jesus.

Mentoring young leaders is top priority. So many things demand our time and our energy but none so important as this. Young leaders are worth making sacrifices for, so they become all that God has created and called them to be. Are you in?

How can we make sure young leaders are being mentored as they grow up?

What would you add to this list of 10 actions?

 

Are you planning to squander Easter this year? 3 Reasons Why Inviting Your Friends to Church at Easter Is Even Better than Christmas

Every Easter we celebrate the greatest event in history, when life broke through and death was defeated.

Can you think of a more perfect time for friends to join you at church?

I can’t. 

Now, I’ve long felt that churches under-utilize the outreach opportunities of their Christmas eve services; they are incredibly prime for reaching people unfamiliar with church and unsure about Jesus. Lights, candles, music, babies, kids in sheep costumes . . . it’s plain awesome. But Easter is even better.

Here are 3 reasons why Easter outranks Christmas when it comes to inviting a friend to church.

1. Easter is the point of it all.

Like Christmas, Easter is high on our cultural radar. Everyone hears about it, knows about it, and no amount of chocolate or fluffy, egg-laying rabbityness can obscure its ultimate reference point: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

At Christmas, you have to connect the baby Jesus in the stable with the God-man on the cross. That’s fine, but Easter is that connection. You don’t have to work yourself toward the main story–the trial, suffering, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the story. That makes Easter the prime event of history, the main celebration for Christians, and the ultimate time for invitation.

2. Easter promises the new beginning we all want. empty-tomb

At Easter, we’re coming off the long, dark winter and are looking eagerly forward to spring. Easter, with its story of Jesus’ resurrection, makes new beginning its central message.

Unlike Christmas, which is forced to look forward to Easter for its hope, Easter is hope delivered. Easter declares that old will not determine new, that past cannot dictate future, that life has come and conquered death, period.

This promise of new beginnings resonates deeply within our own broken lives and the lives of our friends. And an invitation to celebrate the new beginning delivered at Easter can make more new beginnings possible.

3. Easter places our death in light of Jesus’ resurrection. 

I often consider our deaths. Does that sound morbid? As a pastor, I preside over funerals of the young and the old. I’m faced, with startling regularity, by the fact that we all die. And I’m also vividly reminded of how many people–many of your friends and mine–fear their impending deaths.

Get this: Easter kills death. Jesus, who took our death, defeated it through his own death and resurrection. This is the answer to both the fear of our death and the fact of our death. Easter makes life matter because now we can truly live. Easter invites us to take our death, be it imminent or a long ways off, and place it in the light of Jesus’ resurrection.

At Christmas, we bravely project forward to what Jesus will do. At Easter, we boldly declare what Jesus has done. And I can’t think of a more relevant message in our culture of fear. Death: Easter just kills it! 

So, who will you invite to church this Easter?

At the Erickson Covenant Church, we produced invitations for our folks to use, both in print and through social media. We challenged our peeps to pray for who they will invite to come with them and I’ve already heard great stories of invitation. I’ve promised to share a message designed for visitors: simple, clear, relevant and inviting. 12800365_975115065903879_1988922514545889446_n

But maybe you are a bit skeptical about inviting your friends to church? Read my thoughts on why your friends might be more ready to come to church than you think they are.

My challenge to you is this: Make the most of Easter’s place in our cultural calendar. Don’t squander the opportunity you’ve been given. Invite your friends, in the middle of a great celebration weekend, to consider the reason we celebrate at all.

 

 

Getting the Mix Right: 3 Things You MUST Know about the Book of Revelation

How you hear the Book of Revelation determines how you interpret it. If you think it’s primarily futuristic, you’ll see it as a blueprint of what’s coming. If it’s ancient sci-fi, you’ll read it like Dune. If it’s rendering history through symbols, you’ll navigate accordingly. And if it’s a discipleship manifesto, you’ll respond with action.

The key is how you hear it. If you want to do that right, then you’ve got to hear it the way it was meant to be heard. This is true for anything you read. Gary Larson’s Far Side doesn’t help me fix my furnace; I don’t read up on ice cream to understand how to drive a car.  To hear the Revelation right, we need to know what kind of literature it is so we can engage it as designed. So many headaches and misunderstandings would be solved if we did just this one thing.

DJ-spinning
The Revelation is a literary mash-up, masterfully combining three classic genres into one, great party mix.

So what kind of literature is the Revelation? This simple question has three answers (I know, welcome to the Revelation), laid out in the first eight verses. I love musical mash-ups, where two songs are artfully combined to create something unique and beautiful–the Revelation is a literary mash-up, masterfully combining three classic genres into one, great party mix.

#1. The Revelation is an Apocalypse.

The first thing we hear in the Revelation is the starting note: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants . . . The English word “revelation” is the Greek word “apocalypse,” the word that has come to our common speech to represent a horrible, devastating end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it kind of event. But that’s not it’s original meaning. Apocalypse meant, well, just as it’s been translated: revelation. Something’s being revealed, like a curtain being pulled back or a door being opened. Something, or more accurately, someone is present whom we had not seen.

Jesus Revealed
We called our Revelation message series “Jesus, Revealed” to keep its apocalyptic purpose central.

The Apocalypse pulls back the curtain and shows us true reality, what is really going on, who is really in charge, where history’s actually going. Apocalypse is an art form, a known style of writing, and the Revelation mixes in that genre throughout. But at its heart, the Apocalypse is the Revealing of Jesus Christ. Every page, every symbol, every note that’s struck or table that’s spun, everything serves this purpose: to reveal Jesus to his people. So when you read the Revelation, ask this Key Apocalyptic Question: How is Jesus revealing himself to us? Ask it every turn of the page.

#2. The Revelation is a Prophecy.

The second genre joins the Rev mix by verse 3: Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. The fact that the Revelation is a prophecy will come as a shock to exactly no one. Of course it’s a prophecy. But all prophecy (anywhere in the Bible) must be heard in stereo, played both as a something that is about the future and something that is about the present. In fact, I would argue that all the future orientation of prophecy (new Listening in Stereoheavens/new earth, death being destroyed, beasts slain, people redeemed)  is given to inspire present faithfulness. The Revelation offers a resounding blessing on all who read this prophecy aloud and all those who receive it obediently. That’s powerful. So what’s our Key Prophecy Question? It is this: How is this prophecy inspiring me to faithfulness today? Again, ask consistently throughout.  

#3. The Revelation is a Letter.

Apocalypse and prophecy have barely hit their opening chords when genre #3 spins in. In classic letter form, we read: John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you . . . it’s how letters started back then. The Revelation of Jesus Christ is a letter written from a pastor to seven particular churches in the Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). No one disputes that for the opening chapters, as Jesus himself addresses each church with a specific memo. But when the letter continues in chapter 4 with a vision shift, readers easily forget that we are still reading someone else’s mail! icon_youvegotmail-150x150From 1:1 to 22:21, the Revelation is a circular letter, written and delivered to real Christian churches. Keeping this in mind is crucial, especially when beasts start showing up; it’ll keep Revelation’s purpose central: to encourage and challenge Christians to remain loyal to Jesus during difficult times.

The genre of letter applies the other two genres of apocalypse and prophecy to their context, making it practical to everyday life. Our Key Letter Question is this: How is this letter helping these ancient Christians understand what was going on (apocalypse) and how to respond faithfully (prophecy), and, by extension, how does it help us now? Okay, that’s two questions, but the dual lens of “then” and “now” is critical. Ask these questions every step of the way through the Revelation.

There’s the Revelation mash-up, and each type of lit is essential to the mix Jesus wants us to hear. Here’s the point: in the Revelation, Jesus wants to reveal himself to us so we can faithfully follow him in our present reality and into his good future.

Want to hear more? I’ve been walking my friends through the Revelation in a series of messages at the Erickson Covenant Church; you can find them here. You can also subscribe and download through iTunes under “Erickson Covenant Church”.

Which genre of the Revelation surprised you?

How could this triple mash-up help your community hear the Revelation?

 

Note: I owe my understanding of the Revelation to so many authors, including Bauckham, Fee, Wilcock, Beale and Wright. But premier among them is Darrell Johnson and his work on the Revelation. I highly recommend Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey through the Book of Revelation if you want to find out more.

Want to make people feel included? Drop insider talk

Make people feel included by dropping insider language.

One of the most important ways we include people is by dropping insider language.

Within any particular subculture, such as the medical profession or among sports fanatics, insider talk makes sense. Jargon is a kind of short-hand that makes conversation more fluid. I get it. Everyone is on the same page, speaking from the same dictionary, and that works.

But what about when your group exists to include people who are not part of your group? That is the case with the church of Jesus: we have been given the job of including “outsiders”–people who have not previously identified as following Jesus–in the life of our community. If we actually want to include outsiders, then we must include them from the very start by dropping insider talk, or (second-best) at least taking the time to explain the meaning of the short-hand words we are using.jargon

I’ve learned this through failure. I remember sitting with a friend years ago, trying to mentor him and encourage him, when he finally said, “Tom, please be patient with me. I don’t get half of what you’re saying. You use words I’ve never heard and don’t understand.” Folks, that was my fault, not his. All my theological and Christian jargon, comfortable to me, was not helping me do what Jesus had told me to do. So I started breaking down the big words and simply stating what they mean in ways that outsiders, or new insiders, could understand. I don’t do it perfectly, but I do try to make my language more understandable to the people I’m passionate to reach. And it’s not about dumbing down the message; it’s about actually conveying one.

My everyday conversations have become more accessible, but it’s my preaching that I’ve worked the hardest to change. Believing that our worship gatherings are a crucial time when outsiders (non-church people) begin to be included, I use everyday, common words in my preaching. I avoid Christian cliches (sometimes called “Christianese”, which is itself a “Christianese”!), long theological terms, terms that have a long Christian history but are no longer known culturally, as well as words known only to the literate few.  Sometimes I can’t avoid it. For example, I’m currently preaching through the book of Revelation, and while I’ve managed to avoid the word “eschatological” (meaning the study of last things), I’ve had to lean into the meaning of the word “apocalypse” (meaning “revelation”, not some catastrophic event) because of its centrality to the book and because of its helpfulness in explaining the Revelation . . . er . . . the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. When I have to use a word that is longer or lesser known, I take time to explain it.  I don’t always succeed; I know that. For example, I’m fairly confident I used the word “Messianic” last Sunday without explanation, and I know there’s people who didn’t know what that meant!

A few days ago, in a group conversation reflecting on people’s experience in our church, I heard something encouraging. An elderly man, who is himself a new insider who came to trust Jesus within the last year, said, “I like how this church uses everyday language so I understand what’s going on.”  That’s a win, folks.

While I know that there are people who will defend the importance of theological terms and their use in our common gatherings, I think others who agree with the need to drop these terms in certain contexts face one particular challenge: we’ve used these words so often and for so long that we are no longer aware of them and how foreign they are to most people. Growing in our awareness of our insider talk takes work and self-reflection, as well as candid conversations with others in our church about how we can become more welcoming to new people among us. Remember, it’s all about including people and helping them find and follow Jesus.

So let me ask you:

What “insider” words do you tend to use without thinking?

What ways have you made your language more accessible without sacrificing depth of conversation? 

 

 

Why I haven’t quit the church (and why you shouldn’t either)

The church of Jesus is a marvelous mess, filled right up to overflowing with sinners and saints.  As a pastor, I hear my share of criticism about this mad collection of the Jesus-bought. Maybe you’ve heard it, too.

The church is . . . too inward-focused,  too liberal, too conservative, too spiritual, not spiritual enough, too performance-oriented, too shoddy and backward. Hypocritical, fake, needy, imperfect. Sinful. Broken.

Sigh. 

It’s all true. And believe me when I say that I ache over the mess.  The mess that eats away at people’s lives, the mess that happens when sinners forget their dearly won sainthood, and the saints forget their status as grace-covered sinners. But it’s in the midst of the mess of the church that I also worship Jesus. It’s in this messy, beautiful mix that I pray and give and serve and love and learn. It’s among these people I experience forgiveness, joining in wonder and worship, bearing for each other the burdens of life.

 

Why don’t I give up on the church? Why don’t I just quit?

Because Jesus refuses to give up on the church. Jesus loves his church — broken, sinful, beautiful and alive. Blood-won, Spirit-filled, lurching in grace toward God’s good future.

At the beginning of the book of Revelation, we receive a compelling vision of Jesus.  With vivid imagery, Jesus our High Priest stands with the white hair of wisdom and the bronze feet of strength, face shining like the sun and a voice like a waterfall. The focus is all on him, standing in splendor and wisdom and strength and love.

But, if you can stand back for just a moment, ask yourself: where is Jesus, when he first reveals himself to John in this vision? Where is he located, exactly?

I’m very struck by this fact: Jesus, in all of his brilliance and grace, is standing right in the middle of his church.  He’s not standing off to the side, he’s not somewhere in the distance, not on the outside looking in. Jesus is standing right in the middle of the church, depicted here as lampstands. And he’s not standing in the middle of some generic “church universal” either. Jesus is standing in the midst of the local church–seven local churches to be precise–churches with an identifiable address, meeting in a house just across the way, embedded within a city with a history, a mix of cultures, steeped in idolatry, with a story of where they’ve been and where they are going. A church made up of an odd menagerie of real and imperfect people, sinners and saints, people like you and I.

Lister Fun
Photo credit: Meme Prier

As the Revelation unfolds, Jesus has some challenging and comforting words for these particular churches, each message crafted for each unique congregation. Some of these churches are severely compromised; others are barely holding on. Some are affluent; some, poor. Some are well-known; some, backward and unfamiliar. And as Jesus speaks to his church words that are sometimes difficult to hear, let us not forget where he’s located when he speaks: right in the middle of the mess.  He speaks from the centre, not the periphery, of his people.

Jesus knows his church, situated in each community, each city, each block in the world. He knows my church; he knows yours. And he loves his church, and when he speaks to his church, he speaks right from the middle.

Jesus hasn’t quit his church.

I’m not either.

Top 10 Reasons We Resist Getting Good Advice

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve screwed things up by failing to get good advice. Take my bees for example: I took a course on beekeeping, then moved to our farm and set up a hive. Things went pretty well, for a while. I didn’t know what I was doing, but the bees did, so hey, we were into the honey. But, somehow, as the summer buzzed on, I found myself in way deep with little to no help. And when I should have asked for someone’s help, I just felt so stupid that I avoided asking, avoiding admitting my lack of knowledge, avoided getting the help I needed. Until it was too late. And my bees didn’t survive my foolish resistance to asking for good advice.

Why do we resist getting good advice? 

Last month, while preaching through our summer series in the Proverbs, I put out this question on Facebook. Lots of friends responded (thank you!), and I amassed a Top Ten list of reasons we resist getting the very advice we so often need.

Here it is: Top Ten Reasons We Resist Getting Good Advice

1. We don’t want to admit we need help. Let’s call that what it is: pride, pure and simple.
2. We feel foolish having to ask for advice. When I examine my own feelings of resistance regarding my bees, it’s shame that I felt most strongly.
3. We’re afraid people will tell us to do something we don’t want to do. Here’s the truth: Sometimes we like to complain but we don’t actually want to change. Take finances for example: we can talk about being broke but never ask for advice because we don’t want to change our spending habits.
4. We’ve waited too long to ask for advice, and now things are really a mess. My mind drifts to marriage, and how often I talk to folks whose relationship is so fractured that it seems beyond hope. Marriage problems are like cancer: the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chance of recovery.
5. We’re convinced that things will eventually work out on their own. (You remember the definition of insanity, don’t you? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.)
Take good counsel and accept correction—that’s the way to live wisely and well. Proverbs‬ ‭19:20‬, The Message‬‬
6. We don’t want to bother busy people. Nonsense. People love giving advice, especially when you are in a bind and need help.
7. We want to make decisions quickly, and getting good advice takes time. Slowing your decision making process down is often the wisest thing you can do. When you feel pressure to rush, there’s a chance you’re missing something.
8. We don’t trust the advice we are getting. Maybe we’ve asked people before and their advice didn’t work, or we are overwhelmed with competing ideas.
9. We really do think we are smarter than everyone else. (See number 1.)
10. We don’t think there is a problem. Even if everyone around us knows we need help, until we are able to admit there’s a problem, we’ll resist getting good advice.
What would you add to this list? 
PS. Next year, I’ve resolved to try bees again, this time with help!
060

5 Things I Love About Alpha

This week, the Alpha course starts again at our church.  We ran two in the fall (Youth and Adult), and now are offering another one.  I’m excited, as many of you know, because I love the way God uses Alpha to help people find Jesus.

Maybe you’ve never done the Alpha Course, or perhaps your church has talked about it but never pursued it.  Let me tell you why I love it, and hopefully you’ll check it out. Alpha

Here are 5 reasons I love Alpha.

First, the incredible conversations.  One thing that shines at Alpha is the quality of the conversation. Because people get to know one another over a series of weeks, eating a meal together (always eat at Alpha!) and hearing about one another’s lives, the level of engagement is fantastic. The content of the teaching inspires healthy, focused conversation on topics of real relevance. When we nurture a space for people who are new or exploring to safely ask their questions, the conversations are real and people feel heard.

The second thing I love about Alpha is the helpful teaching. Whether the talks are given live or on screen, the content of the Alpha talks are super relevant and well thought-out.  Covering the basics such as “Who is Jesus?” and “How Do I Pray?”, the talks move people closer to an understanding of the Christian faith.  The teaching on the Holy Spirit is often new for many Christians as well, inspiring greater levels of commitment to Jesus for everyone.

Third, the relationships formed. Probably one of the most significant results of Alpha are the new friendships. Men and women who might never have met grow to know and love each other, often staying together in some kind of small group following Alpha. And as Nicky Gumble relays in some of the Alpha training, these relationships are absolutely key to a person continuing to follow Jesus into the future.

The fourth reason I love Alpha is seeing life change. Trusting the Holy Spirit is at work, we simply walk with people through Alpha, listening, sharing, praying and learning together. And to see how God changes lives in that context blows me away. This is what Alpha is all about, and it’s so amazing to see change happen as people experience God’s grace and love in their lives.

And fifth thing I love about Alpha is the courage people show. Whether it’s the bravery of inviting a friend to Alpha or the willingness to come to a strange place (a church building!) and engage a group of unknown people, I am so impressed with the courage people show at Alpha. And on through the sessions, as men open up, as women share their stories, courageously asking deep questions, courageously admitting areas of hurt, courageously stepping out to follow Jesus–courage shines at Alpha.

We are looking forward to another great Alpha course, excited about the folks who are coming, expectant for God to work.

Find an Alpha course near you. Start one in your church. See what God can do.