Yoked to Jesus


“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”” – Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus tells us the secret to a light burden is to be yoked to him. A yoke? That sounds like a heavy, restrictive, constant burden! In making our own assessment of this transaction, we might conclude the heavier burden is the one Jesus offers. So, do we take our own assessment, or do we take Jesus at his word?

Jesus promises to exchange our heavy burden for a light one as we remain yoked to him. Is Jesus lying or is our own assessment faulty? I can’t tell you how many times I hear people in vocational ministry talk about the heavy burden laid upon them. Where did they get this burden from? Did Jesus lie to us when he offered us to come lay our burdens down at his feet and receive rest?

Obviously the answer cannot be that Jesus lied. It is not in his nature to do so. So what other conclusion can we come to? The only conclusion I can come to is the heavy burden is a result of being unyoked to Jesus.

A yoke is a device placed over two oxen, forcing them to walk in step and share the load drawn behind them. Jesus, in placing his yoke upon us, is asking us to walk in step with him. To explore this process we must ask a question: How do we walk in step with Jesus?

The answer to this is easy. SURRENDER!

I picked up a great acronym years ago for the process: SAY

Surrender your own desires, fears, plans and thoughts

Ask God for his desires, plans, thoughts, and ask your specific questions

Yield to the Holy Spirit. Let him refine and speak. Do what he says in response.

This process of submitting to the Lord is the process of taking on his yoke and unburdening ourselves from the things God hasn’t given us. A great gauge for our being yoked is whether or not we feel the burden we carry is too heavy.

What do I do if I feel like my burden is too heavy?

Find help in troubleshooting with the Lord. I believe God has called us into community. Find someone to lead you through questions to discover where the uncoupling occurred. Acknowledge the promise of rest and an easy burden. Exchange your heavy one and ask the Lord to reveal what has been left unsurrendered. Ask questions of the Lord to help lead you back in step: Where have you strayed or taken on something Jesus hasn’t provided? Have you ignored something he has provided? I have found seeking answers is much easier with a partner than it is on my own. Let yourself be led through asking God questions. Allow their faith to join with yours in the expectation that the promise of rest is true.

The act of submission to the Holy Spirit speaking in community makes surrender to the Lord much easier. It develops humility which is a requirement for submission to God. Also, others can remind you and give you courage to embrace the yoke of Jesus. Listening together can also encourage the person who joined you.

Surrender is something requiring an initial moment of commitment, but also a frequent refresh. Some call it daily surrender. The life of a mature disciple resembles frequent checking in with the Lord throughout the day, asking questions of where Jesus is and what he is doing. This is how we remain in step (yoked). If we are doing something he is not in, we have become unyoked and have taken on a burden he isn’t carrying.

Faith is a requirement in this process, something not always easy to attain. Do we trust in the promise Jesus gives? More than that, are we willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads, no matter the cost?

Was Stephen’s  burden light when he was martyred? The cost was high, but was the burden heavy for him? I have to believe it wasn’t if Jesus was there with him. The account in Acts 7 tells us: “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55)

When we are yoked with Jesus, we will still get tired, sore, feel pain and any number of emotions. But our soul will be at rest. We will not be anxious or fatigued as we stay in step with Jesus.

The fruit of the spirit is evidence of a life yoked. If your life is without one of the fruits of the spirit,  there is something wrong. Fruit becomes more plentiful as we remain yoked to Jesus. But we do not grow or produce it. The Holy Spirit does. If fruit is absent, something within us is blocking the fruit of the Holy Spirit if he dwells within us.

What might be the blockage? It could be our lack of obedience, or a begrudging yes like Jonah finally gives in going to Nineveh. Begrudging obedience is not an obedience connected to God. If there is a lack of joy, there is a lack of fruit. Something is still wrong. There is a disconnect somehow with the Holy Spirit. God is not desiring us to simply follow a set of rules. If he was, begrudging obedience would be fine. God desires us to be renewed and our desires transformed through the renewing of our mind and time spent with him. This doesn’t mean surrender won’t be difficult. There will be a cost in our yes, but once we say yes we can rejoice because we know the value of our yes.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:16-24

The fruit of the Spirit is a great gauge for being yoked with Jesus. The burden he gives is accompanied by empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the one he sent to us. It is what we gain as we are yoked to Jesus. It is why our soul can be at rest in the midst of labor. In the midst of opposition the Holy Spirit provides rest.

Are you yoked? Don’t settle for an unyoked attempt at pleasing the Lord. It won’t please him and will leave you empty. Take Jesus up on his invitation.

“Come to me ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

The Words I Sing


Does God really care what words I sing in praise to him? Where does the line between artistic license and heresy fall? Isn’t it enough that my desire is to worship him?

Let me take a moment to clarify that this is not a discussion about salvation. I am not saying that singing theologically poor lyrics disqualifies you from the kingdom of God. Jesus will judge if he knows you or not. This blog is an attempt to warn and teach for our edification, not point fingers.

“God is spirit, and those that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:24

We are in a time when the number of “worship songs” are numerous and shared across culture and denomination. We even sing songs written about a man or a woman but direct them towards Jesus in public worship gatherings. Is there anything wrong with this?

Worship is not synonymous with singing. Worship is something that happens in the heart and comes out directed towards something or someone. Worship is constant,  but the direction may change. Communal sung worship is a focused direction that aligns our hearts together in worship of the same something or someone, much like the call to prayer does for Islam or a chant of MVP at a sporting event. I use quotation marks around “worship songs” because we are always worshiping. Our worship is not confined within a song.

What is the key factor then for communal sung worship to be something God delights in? Is it that it unifies us?  You may notice that the other examples I used, very deliberately, very much create unity. The Islamic call to prayer is communicating the same theology everywhere. It both forms what they worship, and calls them to worship.

On the way to the airport in BC recently for an early morning flight, my Uber driver was tuned in to the Call to Prayer. It struck me that the experience was much like the casual way I might put on a playlist while I drive somewhere.

For many, sports are a religion. Some are more faithful to their team than anything else. The chant of MVP is the elevation of a player within the sport they worship, almost like Zeus being praised on the throne of Mount Olympus. I say this only to illustrate that zeal and unity are not enough for worship to please the heart of God. Our words matter.

“Worship songs” play a huge part in the formation of our theology. Studies show that melodies added to words make retaining and recalling information easier. It is why we sing the ABC’s with children. Even I can’t remember the colors in the rainbow without singing them. Have you noticed that  most children’s battery-run toys contain insanely catchy melodies as a learning tool? I still have songs running through my head from my young nieces’ toys from my recent visit. 

“Worship songs” do this for Christians. With biblical illiteracy rates increasing, worship songs more than anything else have become the grounding source of theology for the average believer. As much as we love a good teaching, a song will be remembered more frequently than the content of the sermon. We are in a similar situation to the time before the Gutenberg Bible, where the main role of singing in church was to teach theology.

False theology creates false gods. When we call on these gods, it falls on deaf ears, much like it did when the Israelites called on the golden calf while waiting for Moses to return from communing with the living God. Singing words that depict a false god is worship, but not to the living God. A false idol replaces the true God.

In some worship expressions, leaders go off script and begin singing spontaneous verses. This can be a wonderful experience, but requires a level of maturity and theological discipline. The singer is singing from a heart of desire which has the potential to conflict with scripture, potentially moving from worshiping God to what the singer wants in their God, and bringing everyone else into that desire.

God repeatedly reminds the nation of Israel of His holiness in His walk with them. “There can be no other gods,” he tells them. His rebuke and discipline is often for adding other gods alongside Him. Similarly, Jesus scolds the Pharisees for elevating their own requirements to the same importance as those the Lord gave them and ultimately disregarding some from the Lord, even missing Jesus himself.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other,

    besides me there is no God;

    I equip you, though you do not know me,

 that people may know, from the rising of the sun

    and from the west, that there is none besides me;

    I am the Lord, and there is no other.

 I form light and create darkness;

    I make well-being and create calamity;

    I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

–        Isaiah 45:5-7

Is it hard to comprehend why God who is both gracious and compassionate would care so much about the words we sing to him? Why would it matter to God if we get a partially wrong idea about him if he is so gracious?

To gain some understanding into this, let us look at the early church’s struggle to accept that God would include the Gentiles in his redemption plan (Acts 15). Many believed God required conversion to Judaism to be received into his kingdom. We know this to be false. What if their songs praised a God who came to save the descendants of Jacob alone and held to the law of Moses? Trust me, some wanted these songs. Would they be worshiping the one true God? Where would this worship lead the church?

Did a church exist that worshiped a god who wanted death to the infidels, leading to crusades and all manners of horrors? Would  this be God or a false god they worshiped? Would God truly be worshiped and glorified? Would those words matter?

Let us look now at songs we sing that don’t explicitly teach false theology, but are received as such. How must such a scenario be stewarded?

“You are never going to let me down” are lyrics widely sung. Does it create a belief that God will uphold me no matter how sinful I am? How are we stewarding those lyrics to be sung in spirit and truth? Or the line referring to Jesus, “you are a man of your word”. Does it suggest that Jesus was both of flesh and nature (man’s nature being fallible) man in his time here? These are both examples of poetic license which I believe come out of a theologically correct heart but can potentially mislead those who do not have a biblical foundation.

Then there are the songs that depict potentially false circumstances. “It may feel like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by you.” What if we have sin that has caused separation from God? Will praising God while ignoring our own posture, and his words do anything? Is it an enemy you are surrounded by or just the result of a sinful life? Does this song lead us to repentance or potentially just falsely passing blame to the enemy?

Some songs are written to a false God but the words are used to worship the true God. What do we do with that? Does singing those songs encourage those under our care to go home and listen to the rest of the album, or maybe even a sermon from the church that spawned it?

This may sound like a lot of work. You may be thinking that songs may become stale if we are required to so diligently screen everything we sing. I believe this diligence is an act of love and service to both God and those under our care. Some of your worries may be well founded, but how does that compare with the task the Lord has given the leaders of his church to fend off wolves and false teaching?

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,  and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

The zealous protection of God’s name for his glory is a reflection of his jealously wanting the best for us. Not every false teaching is sourced by a wolf seeking to devour the sheep but is often a confused or misled individual. At times, however, God will inform us of wolves that need to be removed for their hearts are like their god, the devil, who seeks to kill and destroy. Coming to the defense of who God is must be done with His same compassion and mercy. We do this because we love and because God has asked it of us.

Examining the corporate words we sing is an act of love for those under our care as it protects them from turning their eyes away from Jesus and looking to a false idol. It can impact their eternal salvation and their immediate need. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Stewardship is a word I use often. It describes the role every man and woman has to understand what is tasked of them by the Lord in a given season, like Adam and Eve were tasked with ruling over creation. Stewardship questions a worship leader might ask include: When worshiping through song are you, and those you are leading, elevating the one true God? Are the words sung in Spirit and in Truth?Do any of the lyrics create confusion or false theology? 

I believe poetry and creativity has a place within the realm of worshiping God. God is the Creator and made us in his own image. We must discern, however, what pushes the boundaries of what is beneficial in a corporate setting, what is outright false, and what should only be used as a part of our worship in private, or in mature company.

Why not gather with some mature believers and work through the songs you sing and listen to? Assess together the conclusions formed through the lyrics. Ask: Is God being worshiped, or a false idol? Use scripture as your grid. Look at the entirety of scripture rather than conclusions formed from a single passage. Take time. Don’t rush it. Use the results to steward the flock well. Confess to others if you have contributed to forming false idols and lead them into truth. Remove the songs that are misaligned with who God is. Shelve those that are misleading a few due to ambiguity, even if you love them the most. 

Do what is needed to worship God in your community in Spirit and in Truth. If you are not a church elder, do this for yourself. If you have a family, do it for them. Suggest it to your elders as something for them to use as a discipleship tool with the church musicians. Be good stewards.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

The King’s Steward


As a warning, this blog will be far more rewarding with a passable knowledge of the works of J.R.R Tolkien but it should be life-giving regardless. As a follower of Jesus, Tolkien’s work often reflects the teaching of Jesus in dynamic ways, bringing truth to light in remarkable ways. To be honest, I think life itself is more rewarding with a familiarity with the works of Tolkien.

The concept of stewardship has too long been relegated to the area of finances,  falling short of the full calling of being a steward. The idea of stewardship started long before there was currency in the world…  even before sin came into the world.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” – Genesis 1:26

At the moment of our creation, mankind was chosen as steward over all God created on the Earth. It was part of our fabric when he made us. This didn’t mean God was absent or distant in the garden or anytime thereafter. We were simply given the responsibility to rule with his authority.

The fall brought about a separation between man and God but the purpose and call as stewards remained. Everything that was given by God; the creation around us, the gifts we have, our position in life, our privilege, wealth, authority, even the breath in our lungs was given to be stewarded. Humans were created as the King’s stewards on earth.

The earth and everything in it is not ours to possess but to tend to. This is a difficult concept for us to grasp in a world telling us to accumulate wealth, possessions and experience for our own gain. It is very difficult to grasp this concept when we grow up with privilege. There is an entitlement bred into us through circumstances. Unlearning selfishness and pride is a difficult feat. A parent’s role is to model and train their children in the way of a steward, whether they have much or little. Those we consider privileged, however, inherit a more weighty responsibility.

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Luke 12:48

Jesus made this statement during his explanation of a parable (it is worth reading the whole thing) instructing his followers to always live in readiness. In other words, there is never time off from being the Lord’s stewards.

I was rereading The Lord of the Rings a few years ago and was struck by the character Denethor. He is the Steward of Gondor for most of the series. We are introduced to him first through the internal conflict of his sons who resemble aspects of their father’s character and beliefs, but fall short of the presence he carries. It has been many generations since the last king of Gondor left a Steward in charge before dying in battle, leaving a succession of Stewards in his wake.

Denethor is a strong leader, who most consider a good man. The zeal with which he defends against the armies of evil is applaudable, and his tactics have protected all of Middle Earth. But he has lost sight of the position he holds as Steward. He is not the King, but managing with the authority of the King.

“I am Steward of the House of Anárion. I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.”

        The Return of the King, LoTR Book 5, Ch 7, The Pyre of Denethor

I read this, and my heart ached. It didn’t ache just over the story I was reading but in light of the parable of the tenants, seeing how easy it is to claim what is given as our own.

9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant[b] to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected

    has become the cornerstone’?[c]

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

        Luke 20:9-18

This is such a sad commentary depicting the story of Israel rejecting God’s servants sent to call Israel back to their role of stewards and ultimately rejecting him. It is also a glimpse into what happens when anyone called by his name loses sight of what they are called to. It is the same thing that occurred in the depiction of Denethor. Like the religious leaders in Israel, no one could question Denothor’s zeal. But they all forgot whose throne (or land) it was when the messenger came.

We may not be sitting in a seat of power like the examples above but we all have something entrusted to us, even if it is just the breath in our lungs, revelation, or our own hands. We must ask ourselves the question: How am I stewarding what has been entrusted to me? Since it was entrusted to me by God, am I making the decisions he would? Am I treating what was entrusted as though it is for my own fulfillment or my stewardship? Am I equipping those in my charge to live as faithful stewards rather than entitled children?

If you think about it, we all, like Denethor, come from a long line of stewards for we were all created with that intention by the Lord. Over time, Denethor came to the point of forgetting this and claiming ownership over what was entrusted and rejecting the rightful king. Israel did the same thing in rejecting the messengers of God and even God himself.

How will you respond to Jesus’ return to take control? Will you cling to what you currently hold? Or will you give it over?

I was in Winnipeg recently visiting family. My papa has for a long time been the standard for me of what it looks like to be a good steward. I asked him the question of what has marked this season of his life and he said stewardship. It looks different in this season for him, but it is always the lens with which he views his life.

For a long time in his retirement he spent hours a day investing a set amount of his wealth on his own. He was part of a club where they would do it together. He would get great joy in doing this. I understood the reward and rush of the challenge and competition, but it always struck me as strange until I learned on this trip everything he made from it, he gave away. The more money that came in, the more he was able to give away. The source of his joy was in his faithful stewardship of what was entrusted to him. I am so thankful for this rich example. I continue to learn from and be blessed as his Grandchild. From season to season of his life, he has understood and walked out the rich example of being a good and faithful steward.

I wish to take inventory of what has been entrusted to me, including the gifts, possessions, people under my care, and each breath in my day. I want to see myself as a steward of everything found on this list rather than an entitled owner. I want to remember I was created to Steward what God has made and given to me for however long the season may last.

Surrender is paramount in this process. It is what the wicked tenants in the parable failed to do. They knew who the land belonged to and refused to surrender it back. Taking inventory and offering our thoughts and possessions back to the Lord is a practice reminding us we are stewards and not god’s unto ourselves. Not only does this process relinquish control but involves letting go of what was not given to us, but we took for ourselves,  so God can place it in the hands of another.

God knows what is good for us to steward and what should be for another. He knows our capacity far better than we do. To quote yet another Lord of the Rings character in Gollum, we don’t want to find ourselves saying “It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious”. In a western world filled with entitlement and chasing after what we want, we stray further from the peace that comes in stewardship and the joy that follows. It is time to flip the script.

Confidence in a Clear Call


Have you ever wondered where you fit in the family of God? Have you ever questioned if believing in Jesus is all there is to life with God? Have you found more purpose pursuing success in this life than in the purposes and plans of God? Be honest with yourself. For many in the church the answer to all of these questions is yes.

This tragic yes likely comes from feeling like a bystander in the kingdom of God. It comes from being left watching a few who seem to know what they are doing while the masses just observe, occasionally being asked to participate in a small, fleeting way while being told it is super important. This only further convinces the bystander no purpose can be found in the plans of God.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

These experiences of observing rather than participating often leave us wondering if there are only a certain few who can gain a clarity of call and function in the kingdom of God. We wonder, if only on a subconscious level, if observing the purposes of God is all there is for us. God’s response to this is unequivocally NO!!!

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. – Colossians 1:16

Paul makes it painfully clear we were all created by and for Jesus in his letter to the Colossians. Every man and woman was created with intention by God with a purpose and a function in the workings of his eternal plan along with every other created being. Look no further than the care with which he made all creation work together to reproduce and maintain life and the even greater care with which he purposed us who possess an eternal soul.

The reason we stall is because we are unaware of our function in the eternal purposes of God. The few in scripture we see who gain great clarity of their function, we excuse as the exception. Paul wrote from a place of clarity. His function in the Kingdom of God was revealed to him and he operated with great conviction as a result. He didn’t receive this pronouncement in a moment of isolation. God gave Ananias the message of who Saul was to be.

Saul (soon to be Paul) didn’t instantly step into the fullness of his function. He was discipled and matured until the point of his commissioning by the laying on of hands in Antioch. This practice was fundamental in the early church. There were many reasons for the laying on of hands:

  1. Healing the sick
  2. Filling of the Holy Spirit (usually immediately following baptism)
  3. Release into the ministry of the Church

Although one’s kingdom function was determined before birth, the laying on of hands (#3) to release into the ministry of the Church gave freedom to operate, albeit still under authority. From this moment, they didn’t need to wait for any external prompting. The Holy Spirit gave desire to engage and the disciple acted.

Paul, knowing his call to go before kings, petitioned Rome when given the chance, aware this might hinder his chance of release. He knew he was to bring the gospel to the gentiles and kings. He saw the opportunity and fulfilled his call.

I am so thankful for my own call to teach and disciple others. I am able to walk into a situation without second guessing an opportunity. If I see the opportunity to call someone to repentance or encourage them in an area of growth, I quickly jump in when I know there is grace for it. I don’t need to wait, for I know my role in warning and teaching in the Kingdom of God.

I love the story of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the greatest man born to a woman (Luke 7:28). I have rarely heard this quote of Jesus spoken of. What makes John so special?  Many of John’s attributes drew chastising by the religious groups, but Jesus saw something special. 

Why did Jesus speak such praise of John the Baptist? Was it because they were cousins? Surely not, since Jesus disregarded his own mother and brothers when he made them wait. (Matthew 12:46-50) Here Jesus defines family, however, as those who do His Father’s will. John definitely fits that bill! 

John carried an incredible clarity and confidence in his calling, only questioned in a moment of imprisonment. Where did this clarity and confidence come from you may ask. 

The story of John’s conception and birth was known and spoken of all over the region.A barren woman conceiving a child and a priest (the father) stricken mute by the Lord during the pregnancy was the kind of gossip that got around. In all likelihood, everyone John met would have immediately known who he was and how he received his name. 

“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”” – Luke 1:14-17

Imagine from birth having these words repeated to you over and over again. “John, this is who you are…” This was not a private revelation. It was made very public by the Lord. Everyone clarified the call and spoke it to him. There may have been moments when he felt he couldn’t measure up, but never could he escape the awareness and affirmation. 

One of these moments of insecurity came when John sat in prison. He asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Despite all that surrounded the revelation of his identity and function, John had a moment of doubt. “Was I wrong? Was I supposed to prepare the way for you?” he asks of the one who both created his identity and function. John needs a refresher, an encouragement to regain his clarity and confidence. We will all need this at times from the Lord and the body of Christ to regain our confidence.

A clarity of our God-given identity and role in the kingdom is not like our identity in the world. I have often experienced feeling trapped as a result of taking on an identity or function in opposition to what God has intended for me. You could call it double-mindedness. At times it even happened as a result of the body of Christ calling me to something for which the Lord had not intended.

We were made by God and for him. To inherit an identity from elsewhere is false. It is like fitting a square peg in a round hole.The identity from Jesus is one made for the vessel. It fits perfectly. It provides peace to the one who receives it no matter what earthly end they meet. It was why Stephen finds peace in the moment he is stoned. He has walked out obedience and rests even in that moment in the joy of the Lord.

 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1 Timothy 4:12-16

This clarity John had was the same found in Paul. It is the same clarity Paul intends for Timothy as we see by the encouragement in his letters. Elders or leaders in the church have an important role to provide the same clarity and encouragement. This requires listening to God for those in their care to identify and call out the purpose God has placed and reveals. Scripture is clear. We were all intentionally formed by and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16 amongst others).

No one is called to be an observer or a bystander to the purposes and plans of God. We have all been called, only to different functions so the church can move in the fullness of the plans of Jesus. We must all mature into the purposes Jesus intended for us and understand the tragedy it is for the church if any one believer fails to attain this release. John was constantly reminded of who God intended him to be. Likewise, let us encourage and help one another, both before and after our commissioning, to mature through continued sanctification into the fullness of our calling. 

Jesus is Lord


We often think about the Lordship of Christ through a macro lens: the King of the universe, seated on the throne in heaven with earth as his footstool. While this depiction is true, it doesn’t lend itself to an everyday impact. The imagery can cause us to imagine a God who is distant and not Lord over everyday life.

“Jesus is Lord” is a statement of truth in the macro sense, but also one of surrender. It is an oath of allegiance to the rule and reign of Christ. Although his kingdom is not of this world, his rule over us encompasses every realm.

We need to think about Jesus’ lordship not just as reigning above every authority, but in every sphere. His Lordship applies to our homes, families, relationships, occupations etc. Realizing this takes us in a different trajectory than the world. It is easy to slip into the same progressions in life as the world, but the way of Jesus is different. There should be an obvious difference.

The renewing of the mind transforms us from the rule of sin to the rule of Jesus. The world’s motivations pervade all aspects of life. A search for worldly success can be driven by any mix of motivations laid out in Colossians 3. Following any motivation on this list is a clear sign Jesus does not reign over a part of our mind.

“5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,  free; but Christ is all, and in all.” – Colossians 3:5-11

It is easy to get caught up in pursuing success the same way those around us do. For most of us it is the only way we have known. How could we expect to know differently?

When I was in my last year of my BComm majoring in finance, I was given a clear warning from the Holy Spirit. The path I laid out was to pursue corporate law. My immature drive at the time to compete and win would have fed a lust for power and greed. I was granted foresight into how my life would unintentionally turn from the Lord in a pursuit of worldly success if I made that decision.

Instead, I finished my degree and ran off to California to intern at a wonderful church in Fresno, fleeing from the temptation the other road presented for me. This was a moment of submission to the rule of Christ. A fear of the Lord gripped me in the moment of revelation and there was no way I wanted to choose a path that would lead me away from him.

If Jesus is Lord, the rules and patterns of this world are no longer what we follow. That moment in University showed me the patterns of this world were embedded in me despite my desire to follow Jesus. My decision making process and pursuits could not simply be trusted. My motivations needed to be submitted to another kingdom and put through the grid of the second list in Colossians 3:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:12-17

The maturing of a believer is an awakening of the mind to the many discrepancies between our confession of “Jesus is Lord” and our mental pathways. In time, the Holy Spirit reveals to the willing the discrepancies so our minds may align with our confession.

Our “Jesus is Lord” confession upon conversion is not negated by this discrepancy. Our heart’s desire in that moment is to serve the Lord, and we succeed on a macro level. But sin leaves wreckage in its wake. The continued exposure to a world that celebrates sin reinforces the old paths, making it difficult to live entirely under the reign of Christ.

This begs the question, “Do my actions, decisions, and desires reflect Jesus as Lord?” If a job promotion is offered, or an opportunity arises, this is the question we must ask. If you come into a large sum of money, your decision needs to be put through this grid. If you want to marry or date someone, ask this question. How you discipline an employee or respond to a superior must be put through this grid. Relations with friends, families, strangers, and persecutors must all be subject to the rule of Jesus. This question reveals whether your confession is a binding oath or whimsical.

Over time, this question becomes internalized. Your grid becomes scripture as you consume it. As your mind is further renewed, you find more often your internal motivations reflect the Lordship of Christ. But even the most mature must not move away from testing which king they serve with their decisions, not out of fear of failure but a fear of God, a strong desire to reject the way that leads to destruction.

Does this sound daunting? That is why we rely on the Holy Spirit and ask him to lead us, not just once, but in every task and situation. We trust him to outline our misalignment and to renew our minds.  We are still being redeemed and are not equipped without the Holy Spirit, without the full armour of God, to make true our confession that Jesus is Lord.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is not an added bonus. The Holy Spirit is our passport, marking us as citizens of heaven. He is our guide to life in the kingdom of God, and the power by which we can live under the rule and reign of Christ.



Today as I was sitting in a coffee shop I was reminded of a series of blogs I had started on the mutually exclusive paths we choose to walk. The way of Jesus cannot be combined with any other. For some this may cause a feeling of restrictiveness due to conflicting desires within.

The issue for many is equating the feeling of freedom with the ability to do what we want. In saying so, the way of Jesus is only freedom for a fully sanctified person. Only once our wants and desires fully reflect him would freedom be experienced by this definition.

But doing what we want is not the real freedom. Freedomwas won on the cross when Jesus paid for our sin. Freedom from sin gives us the option of life by rejecting the offer of the serpent to become “like God”. We have two choices: to live as we were designed to live by God or live in sin. They are mutually exclusive. The idea we can jump back and forth is a lie intended to pull us back into slavery.

As we continually choose the way of Jesus, we experience what life is like with Him and our desires become anything that keeps us close with God. The restrictive feeling disappears as we maintain a single-minded focus to remain in Christ.

But this is not instantaneous. The renewing of our minds is a lifelong journey. Thus we need to take the task of discernment seriously.  We need to make choices based on sound analysis through the grid of scripture in community instead of our desires. This is the way of the free, though it sounds restrictive to many.

Therefore, we cannot frivolously support or back an individual or movement. We cannot take the shortcut to success if it isn’t Christlike. We cannot become ambassadors of something that tarnishes our ambassadorship of Christ.

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” – 2 Corinthians 6:14

Nationalism and the way of Jesus are mutually exclusive. Christ doesn’t disengage with the world, but he cannot partner with sin and chaos. Hitching our wagon to anything that isn’t aligned with Christ will always pull us off the way of Jesus. We choose to be aliens in this world in order to enact change and reveal the person of Jesus, not to be pulled into the destructive patterns we find here.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

We need to adopt a single-minded focus, letting anything that doesn’t align become white noise in the background. We do not need to engage in everything but respond as we are moved with compassion.

I am fascinated in my reading of the gospels how rarely Jesus engages with the brokenness around him. I understand most stories are about healing or speaking to it, but Jesus is surrounded by darkness and still sneaks away on his own, or with his disciples. He spends time teaching, feasting and praying while there is still so much he could address.

He doesn’t address everything going on in the world but knows his task, his timing, and is only distracted by compassion and not ideology. We can take a page from his book. Jesus is not apathetic towards those he doesn’t engage with. He still has compassion, but discerns with wisdom and foresight what intervention will accomplish.

We do not need to engage with everything that comes up on our news feed!

I rarely share in my blog my own personal sentiments towards current movements. But to be clear, my reflections presented above are exactly why I cannot back something like the Freedom Convoy. I have sentiments regarding government overreach, but I also understand the manner it is addressed and the viewpoints of those in charge do not fully reflect the way of Jesus. It is why I can vote but not swear full allegiance to a person or nation. My allegiance is already given to Jesus and his church.

One cannot swear allegiance to conflicting forces. Righteousness cannot side with lawlessness, light cannot side with darkness and believers cannot be equally yoked with unbelievers. If a believer is involved in something they cannot fully reconcile with Christ, they are met with a crisis.

Eric Liddell, as made famous by the movie Chariots of Fire, made a similar decision to not run on a Sunday in the Olympics despite being favored to win. His allegiance was to Christ and not to the sport, his nation, or himself. Just as a note, this is not an opening or transition to a discussion on revering the sabbath. It is an example of a man facing conflicting convictions and choosing the way of Jesus above all others. If you haven’t seen this movie it is a wonderful depiction of the inner conflict of a believer facing a broken world, scored with an epic soundtrack.

Has your company just spit in the face of Jesus? Has the political party or movement you swore allegiance to just walked into darkness? How do you respond as an ambassador of Christ? Do you pretend it didn’t happen? Do you speak to those above you? Do you leave?

There is no cut and paste response to all these questions and situations. We are in fact called into the world to be light, contrasting the darkness around us. I am thankful Jesus didn’t call each one of us alone to answer the questions. He called us to seek him, and he brought us into community with others to discern together.

In the midst of all of the confusion and chaos around us, one thing is for sure. Our witness and allegiance to Christ is never to be tainted. Our single-minded pursuit is to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) in our end goal and each step we take.

Advent Primer


When reflecting on the Christmas story I usually jump straight to Luke’s telling of the nativity. He does a wonderful job at painting the picture of the journey and celebration culminating in the virgin birth. Although joyous, I find that it causes me to focus on the singular event rather than the whole scope of what is occurring.

John’s gospel starts off with the telling of the birth of Jesus by going all the way back before the dawn of creation. “In the beginning” causes us to pull back from the nativity to a view of the entire timeline. Instead of seeing only months, we see thousands of years. We find ourselves looking at Jesus at the dawn of time, the Word that speaks and there is light.

Moving forward we see “the Word took on flesh”. John continues the creation story in his take on nativity. Jesus places himself in his own creation. The Message translation says “and moved into the neighbourhood”. This brings to mind imagery of God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve.

“And we have seen his glory” – John 1:14

Adam and Eve witnessed the glory of God. They walked with him, and knowing no sin they were not struck down by the sight. When Jesus took on flesh he allowed us to see the glory in a fallen world. This is not just the birth of God, but the first time since the gate to Eden was shut that the glory of God could be witnessed with an unveiled face, no sacrifice needed.

This is so much bigger than a single moment! For all of history, creation was lying in wait, anxious and crying out because of the separation. The Word takes on flesh, as if it were the final day of creation, a moment of completion we were all waiting for. This celebration is so much bigger than any of us realised. The anticipation dates back further than we can fathom. This moment echoes further than any of the witnesses understood.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” – John 1:1-2

I can only imagine how long the wait felt to the angels before showing up to the shepherds. This was no sudden move, but planned since the beginning. It is why John starts with “in the beginning”. Right from the beginning this plan began to rectify the fall of man by God taking on flesh and giving up the skin of God while still radiating the glory.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13

The birth of Christ in John’s gospel doesn’t just look back to the dawn of time but stretches to eternity. The birth of the King welcomes us into an inheritance of eternal life. This moment is not the start of a new story, but is the pivotal mark in the ongoing story. The celebration is not complete for John in the celebration only of a new born king or even in the living God dwelling with us.

The story of the birth of Jesus is incomplete without the acknowledgement of the larger role it plays in history. The Word taking on flesh is the moment of victory, for this world had fallen and now the glory of God has moved back into the neighbourhood. Victory is ensured and the promised inheritance has been sealed.

Yes, the moments of the cross, descent, resurrection and ascension are also required in securing the victory over death and sin. But the moment Emmanuel was born is what all creation was waiting for since sin entered this world. God with us was always the intention and sin created distance from the glory of God. But God, not wanting this separation, took on flesh for a time as a foretaste of what was and is to come. Once again men and women could join the ranks of Adam and Eve walking with God in the cool of the day.

John 1 gives us the whole storyboard instead of a single chapter. At the center is Jesus. He is at the center of it all. We are celebrating Jesus, yes the birth of Jesus, but also everything his birth stands for. He is what creation was crying out for and who we still await with joyful expectation.

In Advent we find ourselves in a season of anticipation. We place ourselves on both sides of the virgin birth. We join with all those from Adam until the birth who waited with bated breath for the glory of God to be made manifest. We also acknowledge the anticipation of our current state. We wait for the return of Jesus and the end of this age. We hope for and rejoice in the victory that is set but not yet our reality.

John shows us God has already written the story. Before the dawn of time this story has been written like a play waiting for actors to take their places on the stage. We celebrate moments along the way but Advent calls us to embrace in faith the story that is unfolding before us.

Citizens of Two Worlds


Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Romans 13:1-7

It is quite puzzling at first glance to see the New Testament writings on submission to authority are written by men who have been imprisoned by the same authorities they command we obey. Peter experienced multiple recorded instances of being broken free from prison and Paul has a long endured stint in prison from which he writes some of his letters.

This should not cast suspicion on the topic but grant context for our understanding. Much of the teaching we are given on how to conduct ourselves in scripture offers an asterisk, the asterisk of *unless God’s momentary design deviates from his natural order. God created everything with a natural order which can be seen in all of creation, but there are times he deviates.

This does not make God a liar or deceptive. Some instruction given by God, such as his instruction to flee from sin, is absolute. Other teaching offers us the natural way of things as a gift with an assumption we remain led by the Holy Spirit in all of our endeavors.

It is important we do not throw out our understanding of the way of Jesus because of a few moments when God’s plan required deviation from the norm. It is also important not to be so rigid we toss out a word from the Lord.

There are things such as what the Lord has labeled as sin God will never call us to do. But the orderly worship we are directed to in scripture might look different depending on the season, and there are times women will be called to eldership as Deborah was called to be judge. There is an order the Lord has created and we must know unless it goes against his nature or promise he can deviate from his created order.

If this were not possible there would be no miracles. How could God turn water into wine if he was contained to the order he created? This does not become our template for making wine but it was how it was for a moment when God chose to work in a different way.

So when Peter is thrown in jail for preaching the gospel, his preaching is not out of rebellion, but a moment in time when he is aware of the grace of God to preach the gospel publicly despite the rules set in place by local authorities. It doesn’t make him a hypocrite. He just understands the default is in all things to submit to authority in the land unless the Lord says otherwise.

Deviation from the instruction of God is not something to take lightly. In fact there should be great conviction and discernment of a word from the Lord before exploring acting in opposition to an authority over you. Paul and Peter both found such an exception in preaching the Gospel. Sharing the news of Jesus was not something the church could give up despite what any human authority might say.

You will note even Jesus acknowledges the authority of Pilate in John 19 but points out Pilate only has authority because of his Father in heaven. God is always the highest authority we submit to. Failure to submit to an earthly authority is only permitted as far as God steps in to overrule.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

You will note Jesus claims highest authority in this scripture passage. Making disciples, baptism, and teaching the way of Jesus are instructions superseding any other. No earthly authority can claim higher than Jesus. You will note the New Testament church is persecuted for these acts. It was never rebellion against the government or speaking out against policy which turns believers into prisoners and martyrs.

This is why slaves and free men worshipped side by side. The slaves remained slaves under the authority of their masters while being free in Christ. Jesus didn’t spark the rebellion of slaves, although the Roman Empire did have a long slave rebellion. In fact there is a whole letter included in scripture which accompanied a former slave named Onesimus. Paul, after some discipling, sends Onesimus back to be a slave. In this letter Philemon, the slave owner who is also a follower of Jesus, is encouraged to free him as he is a brother.

The slave conversation is a conversation for another time, but the early church understood they were not a rebel group. They were not a political organization, but the people of God, a people who remain here not to tear down empires but out of the same compassion of Jesus to make disciples of those hostile to them. They were to focus on freedom in Christ and care for each other’s physical needs under the law of the land.

Democracy makes honoring authorities tricky. We are encouraged to speak up in a democracy. The questions we need to ask are: when should we speak, if at all? Does this scripture still hold up in a democracy? Is the government ever the chosen system to see people saved?

My conviction is scripture absolutely still holds up! I believe we should rarely speak up against the government except to warn of the consequences of actions. Like sending Jonah to Nineveh, God has compassion for the lost today and at times they need to be warned on a mass scale. It is not up to us to change the behaviour but to pray for repentance of the people. Forcing changes in policy does nothing to the hearts of the people. That would be the same approach the conquistadors took as they tore through the New World with violence and forced conversion to catholicism. You cannot force conversion of the heart.

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17

An urge arises in me at times when I consume media content and news to gossip and critique those in government. Democracy has placed accountability in the hands of the voting public, but we must be sure not to dishonour those in power. Disrespect is the way of the world, and we must avoid being led into sin by the masses. We should think long on whether it is good (of God) to speak or dwell on any issues. I have had to repent numerous times of things I have said about certain people in power. Just because something is true, doesn’t mean I need to speak of it.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4

As an election draws near in Canada it is important to know how to act and vote. First off, pray for those who are currently in power and those who will step in. Pray for wisdom and for the Lord to use those who oppose him for his purposes as he did with Pharaoh in Egypt. Pray out of compassion for policies regarding the vulnerable and oppressed. Pray politicians would turn to the Lord. Ask the Lord if there is any warning needed to be given out of compassion rather than self-interest. Vote your conscience as you spend time with the Lord and in community. Know the Lord your God is the highest authority. Whom shall we fear when we remain in him?

Light and Heavy


Sometimes we struggle with understanding the words of Jesus because we look at them through a narrow lens of a single passage. For three years Jesus sat with his disciples, teaching them. His teaching was not fully understood in a moment, and his disciples showed their lack of understanding time and time again.

Each new concept learned can be like a system update calibrating our entire understanding of the Kingdom of God and the life Jesus offers. The disciples, however, had difficulty understanding Jesus’ teachings at every turn. They couldn’t update their understanding with the new information. Even when Jesus didn’t use parables they struggled comprehending. Part of this is Jesus has not yet endured the cross, descended into hell, been raised from the grave, ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit leads us into truth, but like the disciples we often get caught up in drawing conclusions from a single teaching instead of viewing it as a part of the whole teaching of scripture. Jesus gives many statements about following him which when considered in isolation can cause us to form false and conflicting views. One of those concepts visited frequently in Matthew’s Gospel is the difficulty of the way of Jesus. Jesus calls the path narrow and hard, but states his burden is easy.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
– Matthew 7:13-14

There is but one way to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is through Jesus. Many try to fit part of their journey through the wide gate and still follow Jesus but get stuck on the narrow gate because one cannot go through both gates. They do not go to the same place.

Getting rid of everything other than Jesus is how we unburden ourselves before fitting through the narrow gate. Jesus takes our burdens so we can fit through the gate. Without this it is impossible to enter his kingdom.

Many will choose the path where they need not forfeit their life. They define their own path and cling to things the Lord hates. For these, although they wish to follow Jesus, the call is too high, the path too narrow. All they can see is what must be let go of. They do not view it as an exchange but a sacrifice that is altogether burdensome.

When we first confess Jesus is Lord we place our wills in a posture of total release. This is followed up with a constant exchange as the Holy Spirit reveals specific areas of repentance required in a season.

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
– Matthew 11:25-30

Jesus follows up his statement of the way to life being hard by saying his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. That is enough to confound the wise. How can a way be both easy and hard? If you take a look at the two passages, one describes coming to Jesus, and the other is a commentary of the two gates. Jesus invites us to exchange what is hard for what is easy. But ease is only found through a constant exchange. Any attempt to go the way of Jesus without him is without the rest he provides.

When we remain in Jesus’ rest, our burdens are let down. It is not a place to occasionally visit but a place to remain. We should not depart from the Lord only to return later. We are to remain in the rest he provides in all we do. We remain in his rest as we walk in obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The grace of God allows us to remain in his presence even as we are still being sanctified. Remaining in his presence happens by his grace in our obedience and not by our perfection. We live with an easy yoke and a light burden not because the exchange has been finalized but because it is complete according to what is currently required by the Lord. He will initiate new exchanges in every season as we find ourselves continually sanctified.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
– Matthew 16:21-23

Peter has formed conclusions about Jesus, about God, that are based on a partial understanding and emotions. He doesn’t want the death of Jesus to be the end result as he still has a view of the Messiah as a conquering King.

This whole interaction is incomprehensible to me. How does Peter show an understanding of Jesus as Messiah in one setting and then challenge his choices in the next? The way Jesus rebukes Peter’s rebuke is fascinating. Peter’s audacity to take Jesus aside shows how thick headed he is. He thinks he understands but still cannot comprehend the way of Jesus.

Peter can’t comprehend how the path of Jesus could be both as conquering king and slaughtered lamb. The heavy cost of the victorious path is not understood. How can this be your end Jesus?

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
– Matthew 16:24-28

The way of Jesus is both light and heavy. The law points out just how heavy the path to life is. It is impossible for man. To go our own way even in the slightest is a burden that overwhelms and takes us off the path to life. You could call it impossibly burdensome to hang on to even a sliver of your own life. But the burden of Jesus is light, his yoke easy.

Jesus never says laying down our lives is easy. It is his cross on the other side that is light. It is where we are at peace and find rest. Peter’s rebuke of Jesus shows he has not yet come out the other side.

In each season of our lives, the Lord continues to sanctify us. The further we move in step with the Lord, the more we realize the freedom which awaits us on the other side of the cross and the more we know his rest is where we need to be. We also know God is not finished working within us. As a result, the mature will quickly turn to the cross, the place of exchange, a familiar place.

“Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” – Psalm 51:11

David cries out, cast me not from your presence. Our home will also become the presence of God. In maturity our desire is to embrace the difficulty of approaching the cross, the place of exchange, bringing our sin and carnal nature and exchanging it for his burden and remaining in the presence of God.

Lord let us not avoid the heaviness of bringing our burdens to the cross. Let us not be cast from your presence, but acknowledge the grace of the season to run to the place of rest and freedom you provide.

What’s in Season?


For everything there is a season. Some practices transcend seasons, such as prayer, reading Scripture and communion, but may become the primary focus in a specific season. Other practices such as mourning or feasting belong in a season. It is important to rightly assess what is required in a given season. If we miss the grace of God in a season we operate in opposition to what God is doing and are hindered in moving forward.

A season always gives way to another one. Just like the seasons in nature, each is required in their given ecosystem. Just as plants and animals respond to the changing of the seasons in the physical world, it is important we do the same spiritually.

One of the most important things that church elders (or leadership) can do is be aware of how to lead their congregation in the proper season. The Lord is gracious in making known the season and preparing us for it. God does this so we can walk in step with the good plans he has.

As churches come out of a time of adhering to governmental restrictions we should be asking, “Have we lost the practice of obeying the requirements of the Lord instead of the demands of man?” We have a tendency to first look to the world to understand how to be like Jesus in a season. We try to understand how to react to the world instead of being led by God. This assumes a defensive posture.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:6-9

Please don’t hear me say that following the Covid restrictions was an act of rebellion against God. What I am trying to clarify is that the Lord frequently calls us to calibrate our actions to the changing season as a community and individuals. Rather than just a new sermon series, there will be times when the whole life of the church is to focus on evangelism, prayer, generosity, repentance, thanksgiving or self control (to name a few) because of the season we are in, such as in Lent or Advent in Orthodox Church traditions.

It is not just the official church functions but the everyday life of believers which should be oriented on the God-given focus of a season. Our failure to be aware of the season frequently causes us to miss out on what God is doing. We can end up working at cross purposes despite our motive to serve the Lord.

It is often necessary to stop programs in order to focus on what is important. Jesus did this when he stopped what he was doing and focused on the need set before him. We too should be aware of how God is at work and be led by compassion as the church.

Just as God leads a local congregation through seasons, he will do the same with families and individuals.

I have found in my personal life God prepares me in one season for what is required in the next. Sometimes the season of preparation makes little sense until I experience something for which I was ill prepared before the growth God led me through.

God prepares the church in the same way as individuals. Elders should be bold in responding to the leading of the Lord, not act because of societal pressures but out of a fear of the Lord. How can we withstand the pressures awaiting us unless we are prepared for them?

Although Jesus did not need preparation, he modeled this through entering the wilderness to be tested following his baptism.

We need to develop the habit of asking the Lord what he is doing in the current or upcoming season and how by his grace we are to live in season. Like pulling out our winter coats for winter and shorts for the summer, we need to know how to address the coming season. This is best asked prior to planning lest we be caught making plans in vain. It is not wrong to make plans but we must loosely hold them as we seek to better understand what the will of God is. We should make plans with the added “God willing”.

Following someone else’s blueprint can be a great thing if it is what the Lord is currently requiring. There have been movements when there was training en masse for a season when God led entire denominations or regions through the same plan. An example of this is the Experiencing God study led by Henry Blackaby which was used powerfully amongst the Southern Baptists and others in the 1990s. It is good when the Lord does this, but there are times when we attempt to recreate success rather than obey God. This does not go well and we lose out not only on what God intended for that season but also the practice of being led by God through the season he has us in.

Just because someone else is experiencing a season we would prefer, it doesn’t mean we are able to create their season in our own life. It might not even be good for us to live that experience. If it is not of God for you it cannot be good. For as Jesus said, “Only God is good”. We should rejoice when we see people respond to a move of God and not covet it for ourselves. We should rejoice in what God has for others, and rejoice in the season he has us in because he knows what is good for all.

Solomon understood “there is a season for everything”. Beneficial actions require an understanding of what the season requires. If it is a time for mourning, we should mourn. If it is a time to fast, we are to fast. If it is a time of thanksgiving, we ought to give thanks. If it is a time of purification, we must purge. It is not complicated but it requires diligence and obedience.

We must not react to the push and pull of the outside world for, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Our seasons are set by the Lord and not by man. How we respond to what is happening in the world around us ought not to be because of the demands of man, but because of the commands of God.

Jesus says in John 5:19 he can only do what he sees the Father doing. Our goal in desiring to be like Jesus is thus not imitating the actions of man but looking to God for our marching orders. Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus and then the church making waves through their actions. The way of the Lord will at times be met with great hostility. The response of the world does not dictate what is good for only God is good.

In Mark 5 Jesus is chased out of town for sending a demon out of a man and into some pigs. In Luke 7 Jesus is silently ridiculed for allowing a sinner to anoint his head. In Acts 19 Paul sparked a riot in Ephesus as the people clung to Artemis as their God. These are just a few examples of when obedience to God met great opposition. Can you imagine if instead Jesus and Paul had acted to appease the culture or reflect the world around them?

In many instances a new physical reality demands a response by the body of Christ. In poverty the people of God should care for the needy. Where there is sickness we should partner with God in seeing people made well. Just as Jesus acted through compassion, so should we. There will always be desperation and need in this world until Christ returns. It is the result of sin. It is not that we cannot determine acts that reflect the heart of God, it is that we have a tendency to act without him. We then remove God entirely from the process resulting in acts of charity that reflect his ways but have no eternal impact. It is vital we act out of conviction in obedience.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
Psalm 127:1-2

At times we act as though God has left us on our own to figure things out. We wrestle with decisions absent of searching the scriptures or hearing the Lord in prayer. Even the wayward kings of Israel sought out the Prophets for how to act in a given season but failed to follow the actions laid out.

Through the Holy Spirit and the word of God we have access to the Father’s will and the means to understand it. Building in vain is not something we should find ourselves doing. Bowing to other kings is not an option. We see in the accounts of Israel the results of such actions, and we know from church history it has gone the same way since the ascension of Christ. When we choose to look to other sources to set our path in a season we stray from the grace of God and find ourselves lost.

Remember the Lord our God is good and perfect in all he does. His ways and thoughts are higher than our own. What God has laid out before us in a season will always be good even when we do not feel it or understand it. His nature will never change. In every season his ways will forever be good and best.