Monthly Archives: July 2012

Setting My Goal

I am not, by nature, a goal oriented type of guy.  I’m much more naturally a laid back, take-it-as-it-comes sort.  But over the years I’ve leaned to value and appreciate the power of goals and dreams in a person’s life, but I’ve also learned that it’s critical to keep those goals and dreams in proper perspective.  We need to learn to live with an eternal perspective.  Let me explain.

For years I had a dream to begin a retreat center specifically for pastors and other full-time ministry people who were struggling, wounded, burnt-out, or just needed some rest and refocus time.  My dream was that this retreat center would be structured around a small working ranch.  This was a dream and a passion that motivated and moved me.  Every experience and opportunity was evaluated against how it might prepare, equip, and move me towards fulfilling that dream.  In fact I began pastoring in large part because I could see how that would be another step leading me to that ministry center.

This wasn’t even just my own dream.  I am still certain that it was God who planted that dream, and it was with a sincere desire to serve God that I pursued it.  But through that process I have come to understand that there is a greater goal: Jesus himself.  And the ultimate fulfillment of that goal will be when Jesus returns.  This is partly what Paul was speaking of in 1 Corinthians 15 where he speaks of the resurrection.  One person has paraphrased what he said in verse 31 this way.  “It’s resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live.”  An eternal perspective.

I’m no longer pursuing the dream of a ranch retreat center.  God used that to turn me to other dreams and goals.  Corrie ten Boom once said, “I’ve learned that we must hold everything loosely, because when I grip it tightly, it hurts when the Father pries my fingers loose and takes it from me!”  All my goals, even a basic as what I hope to accomplish today, I hold loosely before God knowing that as I do he will accomplish much greater things than I could even dream of that will be of eternal value.

Pursue your dreams passionately, but hold them loosely before God.


Doing “God’s Work”

I was at my cousin’s wedding recently. All my Mom’s remaining siblings and many of their kids and grandkids gathered at my Uncle’s farm where we camped out and celebrated both the occasion and the blessing of family.  That farm is a very nostalgic place for me.  Some of my favorite childhood memories happened on that farm, both from when Grandpa and Grandma lived there and later when they moved to town and my uncle began farming it.

Still, not every memory from there is a sweet one, though most of the less pleasant events were of my own doing.  Like the time I was given one of my first real on-my-own farm responsibilities.  I was probably 12 and Uncle Dean had recently taken over the farm.  He had been cleaning up some of the junk that accumulates over the years and had given my younger siblings and me the job of loading it all onto the old grain truck.  The good part was that then I would get to drive the truck “up 10” to the old homestead site, just under 2 miles North, to dump the junk into the pit that was used for that purpose.

We were to load the junk and then wait for Uncle Dean to come give me some instructions on driving the truck before we set off.  We finished loading and waited for I’m sure it was at least 10 minutes before my patience ran out and my eagerness to drive the truck took over.  I told the other kids to pile in certain that I knew how to drive the old standard and as long as I got the job done it would be fine.  It was easy to rationalize that there was work that needed to be done, and besides it wasn’t like I didn’t have permission to drive the truck.

Everything was going well.  I got there having stalled the truck only a couple of times, managed to back up to the pit and unload without incident, and was just beginning the journey back when we ran out of gas.  Not to worry, the truck had a slip tank. I could just filled the gas tank certain that no one would be the wiser.  I even filled the tank right to the top to make sure we had enough to get back.  What a conscientious kid!

But I couldn’t understand why it then didn’t start.  I tried and tried, first pumping the gas pedal then flooring it, then letting off altogether, all the while the engine turning over slower and slower,  but to no avail.  But I never gave up hope till I saw Uncle Dean’s pick-up coming across the field and then I knew I was in trouble.  Just from reading this, many of you likely figured out what I didn’t at the time: there was diesel in the slip tank.  Fortunately I had put diesel into a gas tank not the other way around.  But Uncle Dean still had to drain a full tank of fuel, haul some gas out and boost the truck to get it back home (I had killed the battery trying to start it), all because I tried to do the job trusting in my own widom and ablility.

While this illustration is certainly limited, too often we do God’s work like that.  Even the phrase “doing God’s work” is rather presumptuous because it is God who works in us giving us both the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13). But we can get so eager to do God’s work, and so preoccupied with what we assume his work to be that we don’t give him time or space to do the work that really matters to him.  All God wants for us to do is summed up in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Jesus never took a step or even spoke a word unless he had heard it from the Father first.  That’s the sort of connectedness and relationship God intends for us too.

Becoming Greek To The Greeks

Recently the mother of a young girl pointed me out to her daughter because they saw my picture in the local paper every week.  But when the little girl saw me she said,”But mommy, where’s his cowboy hat?”  I got a chuckle out of that, especially because a few years ago I never went anywhere without it.  In fact when I worked at Rafter Six Guest Ranch, just before I began pastoring, I wore the whole shebang every day.  I once walked into the Cochrane IGA with my spurs a–jingling not even realizing it till I noticed people looking at me a little funny.

That style suited my first church in South West Saskatchewan very well with all the ranch country down there.  It worked because I identified with the people in the church and community.  Most of my visitation involved some sort of ranch or farm activity.  I was at one of our folk’s ranch the one day and he introduced me to his neighbor who happened to be over.  “This is David. He’s the pastor from Golden Prairie.”  His neighbor responded, “Oh, what pasture do you manage?”  I laughed as I corrected him, especially because you could read the near panic in his eyes trying to remember if he’d said anything he now regretted.  Sunday mornings I wore my old fashioned riding britches, complete with leather suspenders, with the pantlegs tucked into my buckaroo styled cowboy boots (much to Wendy’s chagrin).

When we moved to Falkland in the interior of BC I wrongly assumed it would be the same.  The culture was different there and even though I came to realize that, I never made the effort to identify with that culture.  Not that I didn’t get involved in the community, and I untucked my pantlegs from my boots, but I still just kept trying to insert my own culture into theirs.  I never really identified myself with the local culture.

Paul said that when he was with the Greeks, he became Greek; when he was with the Jews he became Jewish.  He made the effort to identify with the local culture he was seeking to serve and express Jesus to.  In doing so he was saying, “You are worthwhile.  You are treasured.  You are worth knowing and understanding, and Jesus values you and wants a relationship with you too.”  Jesus doesn’t want to get rid of our cultural identity, he wants to transform it.

So now here in Benalto I wear a ball cap more often than a cowboy hat, and sometimes I even wear shorts (actually I always wear shorts when I’m coaching football).  But wherever I’m at and whoever I’m with I try to make the effort to identify with that person because they are valuable.  As a Jesus follower how do you relate to your neighbors?

Chemical Residue

Dandelions are an amazing plant.   They have spread to virtually everywhere in the world because of their hardiness and adaptability.  But I still don’t want them in my lawn! I have been using one of those weed removers that takes a plug out with the weed, but there were so many and my lawn was beginning to look like a miniature war zone full of little craters.  So with dandelion destruction in mind I acquired some good herbicide and engaged in some chemical warfare to combat the invader.

I sprayed and sat back, eager to see the first evidence of the carnage.

Well carnage came alright, but it wasn’t limited to the dandelions.  My grass in the front lawn began to crisp.  At first I wasn’t too concerned thinking that a little setback for the grass would be well worth the major hit the dandelions would take.  But the grass just kept on browning, and worse, in strips.  You can see exactly where I overlapped in spraying because it is much worse.

The back yard isn’t nearly so bad which had me confused for a while till I figured out what must have gone wrong.  The sprayer I used had previously had Round-up in it, which most of you know does a great job killing grass.  I had double rinsed it but there must have been some residue left.  I didn’t put enough chemical in for the whole yard initially and had to refill to finish the back yard, which explains why most of it is fine.

There is a spiritual lesson in all this.  Tolerating even a little sin your life will bring damage.  I’m not even thinking so much of “little white lies” or such.  Far more subtle and devious is self-will because we can fool ourselves by packaging it in things that, in and of themselves, are not sinful.  But when I set my will ahead of God’s will, no matter how innocuous it may seem, it is sin and will inhibit my relationship to God.

A healthy relationship with God requires that every part of my heart and will are submitted to him.  It’s not that he gets mad brings destruction if I’m not fully submitted.  But like that little bit of round-up, when I hold some self-determination my choices adversely affect my spiritual health.  If I had completely removed the round-up, the lawn would be healthy.