Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The WOW Factor

My family and I attended the Leadership Summit last week in Saskatoon (this same conference is bring held October 19-20 in Caronport and I would really encourage you to go, the content is fantastic and our church has deeply discounted tickets available since we are a partner church in this conference!). As we were driving up to the host church in Saskatoon this week my wife said, "I love coming to this church, they always do a fantastic job of hosting us with excellence." And they did, from the over the top friendly greeters and door holders, to the well thought through registration process and into every part of the conference, the volunteers at this church offered us a world-class experience. At the break there was snacks which is normal at a conference but what was really great was that they had a machine for crushed ice drinks (strawberry or vanilla bean...yum!) - this was totally unexpected and it was fun to hear the conference attendees rant about how great it was to get an unexpected blessing like that. I thought about how exceeding people's expectations, even in small ways, creates a "wow factor" that makes service "over the top."

From the conference we went to our hotel (The Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton Airport). We had never stayed at this hotel and so we weren't sure what to expect. Several times throughout our stay (which was only one night) they offered us not only what we would expect (clean, comfortable accommodations at a good price) but also "wow'ed" us with unexpected blessings. They wrote fun, motivational sayings on the banana's at breakfast...who does that?...and who takes the time to do that just to brighten our day? They offered us convenient takeaway bags when we left for the day with water fruit and snacks - a totally unexpected but useful blessing (see attached pictures).

In 2 Chronicles 9, when the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom and wonder of Solomon's kingdom the Bible says that it was so wonderful that "it took her breathe away." (vs. 4) She not only was awed by Solomon's wisdom and palace etc., she also gave glory to Solomon's God! In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul describes how willing he is to do what it takes to connect with, serve and then win people to Jesus. He says, "Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings." (vs. 22-23)

As I reflected on the power of "wow" (exceeding expectations), I couldn't help but think of all the small and big things people do at my home church (Victory Church in Moose Jaw) to make it a "wow" experience for our guests every Sunday. We intentionally set the table for guests at our church and it takes a ton of extra effort and I can't tell you how thankful I am for each member of our team and how proud I am of them. From the excellence of our coffee bar team, to the classy clean bathrooms, to the smiling parking attendants, to the amazing care given in our nursery and kids ministry, to the parents living room area and nursing moms room on the lower level, to the smiles and chats in the greeting time and in the lobby before and after services, I want to say "THANK YOU" for exceeding expectations, for going over and above to serve, bless and help our guests have an over the top fantastic experience when they come. This happens through all of our ministries but it also happens but every person (whether we are serving or not on any given Sunday) simply looking for ways to bless and serve others and make sure they are having a great experience while we are there. Our mission of leading people to know, love and serve Jesus is so worth our best efforts! Let's continue to increase the "wow factor" our churches for the glory of God and the benefit of those who we get to serve.


Pastor Dan

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Living Out Your Calling

This last Sunday I preached on living out our calling (on youtube here) . We looked at what I think is one of the most important and powerful passages in the New Testament (Eph. 4:1-16). It gives the pattern and call for growing as Christians and a growing as a church. Sometimes we need to be called afresh to “grow up”! One of the keys I shared to growing up and living out our calling is for each of us to serve with our gifts. I don’t know any better way for Christians to live a fulfilling and joy-filled life than living out our calling to serve with our gifts.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to join a group of pastors and spend a morning with one of the most well-known pastors in the world who leads a church of over 30,000 people. We spent four hours drilling this veteran pastor with questions. As I listened and took notes, the most powerful moment for me came when he was asked about his friendship with Bono, the lead singer of the band U2. I could tell he was somewhat embarrassed by the question; he clearly didn’t want to spend his time with us gloating about his famous friendships. He paused for a long time and then said, “Every morning when I wake up, I get on my knees. I pray and ask God to guide my day and use me to serve and bless others. Then, as I go through my day, I don’t just do the jobs on my list of things to do. I keep an ear open to the Holy Spirit and an eye open to what moments God is answering that prayer and giving me a special opportunity by His Spirit to serve or bless someone.” Then he told us a quick story about how that had happened that very morning and then, as tears started streaming down his face, he said, “I love being a Christian. I love the adventure of waking up every day and asking God to use me and seeing what He does.” I sat there thinking: When I get as old as he is and have served God for a few more decades, I hope I will still be living in the daily adventure of serving others in simple, serendipitous ways and seeing God use me to be a blessing. I want to live Christianity as a daily adventure of serving in the strength of the Spirit – whether it’s serving with a smile, a genuine caring touch, a visit with a homeless person or whether it’s some bigshot type thing like preaching to thousands - I want to live the adventure of serving Jesus every day! I hope you do to.

Of course, a big part of living that adventure is knowing what your gifts are so you can use them to serve. Do you know what your gifts are? In my message on Sunday I offered five questions that can help you know what your gifts are in the body of Christ. I intentionally made them simple and straightforward. I want to encourage you this week to read these questions and think through how God might want to use you every day - both in our church and​ with every person you come in contact with in our community​. ​

Here are the five questions:

1.       What’s in my hand? (Time, treasure, talents - all that I have is a gift from God - pretty simple definition of my gifts!)

2.       What is the race right in front of me? (What is the sphere of influence I am in?)

3.       What needs do I see?  (And where do I see things that need improving? What am I tempted to complain about?)

4.       What ability has God given me that builds others up? (Read Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Cor. 12:4-11)

5.       In light of all this, what can I do to help my church?  (This is living out Ephesians 4:12 “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”)

Work through ​these questions and then offer yourself to God to serve and see what an adventure your life can become! It won’t always be easy or fun, but it will be meaningful and powerful. Thank you for being the church (not just attending) – when you step up and do your part we all win! We are not spiritual consumers; we are spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church and we exist for the world. 

I hope you are having a fantastic summer and look forward to seeing you all Sunday! It’s been so awesome to see people committed to coming to church and inviting others right through the summer. I love being on a team of people like Victory who are working together to reach our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family for Christ. Let’s keep on doing church as a team!

 -          Pastor Dan


August 27 – Baptism and Kickoff Sunday – this is a Sunday you don’t want to miss! If you are interested in being baptized reply to this e-mail and I will give you instructions from there.

New Ministry Starting: Saturday Morning Cleaning Team – we are forming a team of people who will clean the church building weekly, bi-weekly or monthly (depending on your availability). If you are interested in serving in this ministry please reply to this e-mail and I will get you in touch with the leader.

September 11 – Alpha class launches – a 10 week series of interactive sessions that engages people in conversations about faith, life and Jesus. This course is perfect for inviting a friend to and for getting a better understanding of the Christian faith. Our goal is that every person at Victory has taken it.

September 17 – 101 Discovery Lunch – This one hour class includes a complimentary lunch and takes place immediately following the 11am service. It shares the heart, vision, beliefs and values of our church. If you are new to our church, this course is an essential for you.

Men’s Conference – October 27-28 – Men’s conference is a powerful time for every man to be encouraged in their faith and challenged to become the men God has called us to be. Dr. George Hill, founder and president of Victory Churches International is speaking this year. This is an awesome opportunity to hear from one of the most influential Christian leaders in Canada. Register at www.victorymensconference.com

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Equipping You To Share The Truth In Love

When God's church engages our culture with His loving message we are often perceived as judgmental, hypocritical and unloving. Since God has laid upon us the mission of communicating His truth, the onus lies upon us to do our very best to make sure that what we are communicating is clear, true and helpful to those we are communicating to.

Fifty years ago in Canadian culture the church was generally viewed as a helpful and trusted source for information. Today, culture has shifted and the church is no longer viewed in a generally favorable light. In fact, our world views us  with suspicion and even contempt. Communicating the truth of the gospel to our neighbors, friends, co-workers and family must be done with an awareness of how we are perceived and an attempt to overcome the barriers that present themselves. How can we do this?

Sincere love. As we relate people in the world we live in we can start by being sincere in our love for them. Rather than seeing them as impersonal souls to be "harvested" or potential "notches" on our soul-winning belt. We must engage them as people and love their whole person; spirit, soul and body. We must ask God to help us sincerely love them without "strings attached". One of the best ways we can do this is by simply engaging with people fully in each moment, caring about their needs and desires and listening carefully to them. It's amazing how these behaviors that communicate sincere love happen more naturally when we genuinely care. May God help us genuinely care for those we come in contact with on a daily basis.

Sensitive love. Sometimes we can think that for truth to really get through to people, it must be presented with a harsh and even angry attitude. Although there is a time and place for blunt and forceful communication, I believe Christians would be wise in our current cultural malaise to use a far different approach when presenting truth. The goal is not to change or even soften the truth, it is simply to present it with a gentle, sensitive and tenderhearted approach.

Compassionate love. When our neighbor is hurting it is easy to become cold and mechanical about their pain. Sometimes we do this as a coping mechanism because there is too much pain for us to process. Sometimes we do it because we feel that the best way to diagnose and help them with their pain is to remain aloof so that we can properly help them with it. But Jesus sets us the example of one of ached with pity and compassion when people were hurting (Matthew 9:35-38) and who reached out to touch the leper while bringing him healing. This is a love that is willing to get personally involved and empathizes with pain rather than remaining indifferent. Every human being has sorrow and suffering as part of their journey, if we can learn to enter into their suffering, even as Christ does for us, we can offer a kind of love that our world longs for and that earns us permission to share the truth they so desperately need.

How often I have tried to be loving without compromising on the truth. I think I may have communicated more accurately with our culture had I made more effort to communicate truth without compromising on love! Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that they would be "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17). I find it interesting that he didn't ask that they would be rooted and grounded in truth (That would fit more with my preconceptions of what it means to be rooted or grounded).  Of course, it doesn't need to be one or the other - but maybe in emphasizing truth and neglecting authentic love we have miscommunicated with a culture that is hearing from us things we are not meaning to say.

Good communication has not taken place until the hearer receives what the communicator intended. I am increasingly convinced that for the truth of God to be accurately communicated in our culture is must be wisely and carefully wrapped in a sincere, sensitive and compassionate love. May God fan the flames of authentic love in us so that more and more people can hear and receive God's truth through us, a people who are rooted and grounded in the love that is so high and wide and deep that it is beyond comprehension.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

God's Word - My Friend: How I Build A Relationship With God's Word

God's Word is living and active. It is powerful. It offers wisdom, joy, life and peace. It is the primary doorway to the knowledge of God. I want to be like the man in Psalm 1 who meditates on it day and night and who delights in the Word of God. I want to be like the Psalmist of Psalm119 who longs for the Word of God passionately. I want to be a person of the Word.

But how do I practically do that?

For ever 20 years I have been focused on this aim and in those 20 years I have developed several daily practices to help me build a great relationship with the Word of God. Maybe some of these will help you develop your own practices that will build and further your relationship with the Bible.

1. Saturation: I choose a book of the Bible to saturate myself in. I do this about once a year. I usually pick a shorter New Testament book (though I have done some Old Testament etc.). Each day for 3-6 months I read two things on top of my regular Bible and book reading.
   a. I read this particular book of the Bible every day. Sometimes I read the whole book in one sitting. Sometimes a chapter or two. But I read it every day, at least one chapter. I do this so long (over the course of a few months) that often I have read the book over 100 times in a row.
  b. I find as many commentaries as I can (written about that particular book of the Bible) as I can and put them in a pile by my morning reading place. (A commentary is a book about a book of the Bible). I read one chapter of one commentary per day. Most commentaries are about 10-15 chapters long so this means I will read it for about 2 weeks before starting the next commentary. My goal is to read a minimum of 6 commentaries and I have done up to 12. The amount of commentaries I can find on a given book of the Bible determines how many I end up reading. I enjoy Warren Wierbe's commentaries as well as the Life Application commentaries and many more. I buy all my commentaries used from used bookstores and thrift shops for $1 or $2 since they tend to be very expensive new. By the time I have finished my last commentary, I have saturated myself in a book of the Bible for 3-6 months.

2. Overview: I use a Bible reading program that gets me through the Bible in a year. I tend to do this part of my Bible reading fairly quickly and somewhat superficially. My goal is to read through the entire Bible every year at least once and sometimes twice. My goal is not depth but gaining a broad perspective on what the entire Bible says and is. I have been doing this every single day for over 10 years and I am still amazed at finding stories and passages that I didn't know were there.

3. Devotional: I pick the areas of the Bible that have been most meaningful to me (Psalms and Epistles). I read a chapter of two and invite God to speak to me. When I neglect this part of my Bible reading I find that my relationship with the Word and with God becomes more dry and mechanical.

4. Study: This part of my Bible study is less systematic. I listen to sermons, prepare sermons, read books, attend church and small groups, attend conferences and much more. Each of these offers me helpful insights into scripture from multiple angles. It keeps me fresh and challenged to get a wide variety.

5. Memorization: I memorize various verses. Sometimes the verses I memorize are ones that my kids are memorizing for school or groups they are a part of. Sometimes they are verses that are meaningful to me or that are related to something I feel I need to work on in my life. Occasionally I pick a passage that I am working on and memorize parts are all of it. My work in this area has been somewhat sporadic (rather than daily) but I have managed to memorize hundreds of verses this way.

These are my five main practices for building a relationship with God's Word and becoming a person of the Word. There are two other things I try to keep as attitudes in order to stay effective at this.
1. DAILY: I do most of these things every single day. No matter if it is a holiday, a busy day or a normal day.
2. TO KNOW JESUS BETTER. I remind myself that knowing the Bible is not an end in itself. It is means to the goal of knowing Jesus. God's primary means of self-revelation is His Word.
3. CHANGE IT UP. I do occasionally try new things (listening to the Bible aloud on cd, reading it aloud when I am reading it each day, writing out my favorite verse from each day, journaling about my Bible reading, lectio divina, etc. etc.) in order to keep things fresh and also to experiment with new practices that might be better than my current ones.

I hope this blog does not discourage you but rather inspires you to find and build practices in your life that help you build your own relationship with the Bible.

Monday, September 7, 2015

My Current Favourite Author

Why Tim Keller is my current favourite author.

Yup, I have read most of his books and I keep buying more - though he writes them too fast for me to keep up. He is a Presbyterian pastor in New York, apologist and evangelist, especially to the modern unchurched and atheist. Here is why I love his writing.

1. It is Christ-centered. Reading a paragraph from Keller on the glory and wonder if who Jesus is and what He has done for us fires me up! Keller never drifts far from Jesus no matter what He is writing about, He brings it back to the Center.
2. It is gospel saturated. Grace changes everything. Keller's writing drips with grace. He is crystal clear that anything God requires of us He has accomplished for us. I love the gospel, it is my lifeline. I love Keller's writing because I need to be brought back again and again to the gospel of God's grace as revealed in Christ and His cross.
3. It is brilliant and intellectually challenging. I am suspicious of writing that takes intellectual shortcuts. Although I find Keller over my head on occasion, I appreciate being stretched. Reading radically Christian authors who are intellectually honest strengthens my faith.
4. It is unapologetically experiential and passionate. Keller never apologizes for reminding us that true Christianity is a love relationship that must be personally experienced and engaged in order to be authentic. Christ is a real Person and can be really known in the deepest and most personal ways a human can experience "knowing".

Thank you Tim Keller or being faithful to testify of Christ to your culture and generation.

If you want to read one of his books as a starter I would recommend "Counterfeit Gods."