WWJD Isn’t Rocket Science

July 13, 2016 2 comments

WWJDI find myself shaking my head a lot recently. I don’t think it’s a tic. It tends to happen almost exclusively when I read certain news articles these days.

For example, I found myself shaking my head when I read in an article lately that WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) – while admittedly a useful question to ask in some circumstances – can’t help the Church with how to respond to LGBTTQ* issues, since Jesus didn’t talk about that kind of behaviour in the four gospels. The writer reasoned further that since Jesus was silent on the subject He must have thought it wasn’t a big deal.

Aside from the abysmal logic built on an argument from silence, I disagree with the idea that we can’t ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?” to help us form a right response to the particular issues about sexual behaviour that we are facing in our society today.

To bring younger readers up to speed, “What Would Jesus Do?” was a popular youth movement in the evangelical Church in North America in the ‘90’s. It began as a reminder to believers to consider Jesus as they made decisions – big or small – in their lives. Soon teen Christians all over the world were sporting “WWJD” wristbands and other merchandise. It became so popular that the world even noticed it long enough to make fun of it. Nonetheless, increasing numbers of Christian youth began referring to this helpful question as they faced complex challenges and choices in their own lives. For many, WWJD was a life-changing movement.

So why wouldn’t the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” be valid in determining how the Church should respond to the shifting social sands these days, especially when it comes to LGBTTQ* issues? Does the fact that the Lord didn’t discuss these things specifically in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John make it impossible to gain helpful insight into how Jesus would weigh in on the debate? I don’t think so.

WWJD isn’t rocket science. You just have to look for a similar circumstance in the Bible to the one you’re facing, observe how Jesus responded, and seek to do the same. With a bit of skill in sincerely searching the Word of God and applying some reasonable principles, we can gain a lot of insight into God’s heart for today’s world.

For example, a Biblical description of Jesus facing something similar to what the Church is challenged with today regarding sexuality and gender issues can be found in the book of John, chapter 8. Here’s how the story goes…

The scribes and Pharisees were upset enough with Jesus to resort to ways to fatally trap Him in His own words, which would discredit Him and leave Him open to prosecution. Knowing that He taught uncompromisingly about both the righteousness of God and the mercy of God, they felt they could easily ensnare Him by getting Him to comment on a sexual sin issue. In those days, they had very stiff penalties for all forms of forbidden sex, including adultery, fornication, incest, bestiality, and same-sex sex. Considering that even in Bible times, they were not unfamiliar with sexual issues (people are people), it was relatively easy to catch someone in the act. The person they found happened to be caught in the act of adultery, but any one of these sexual sins would have served their purposes.

So the trap was set. They would drag this person in front of Jesus, and get the Lord to comment on the case before they stoned her to death. If He said, “Let her go”, they would jump on Him for not upholding God’s law, and if He said, “Go ahead, stone her”, they would shame Him by saying, “What happened to the love you teach about? Maybe she was abused by her husband and ran to understanding arms, or maybe she was just drawn into a forbidden sexual relationship by falling in love with someone else. Was that really her fault?”

It was perfect. Or so they thought. So they dragged her to Jesus and demanded His opinion about what should be done with her.

And What Did Jesus Do? John picks up the story:

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.””

That answer wasn’t what they expected. Somehow, Jesus upheld God’s law – He didn’t say not to execute justice – but He turned the spotlight back on their own hearts. And John records that one by one, they dropped their stones and shuffled off. The story continues:

“Jesus stood up and said to her, ” Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, ” Neither do I condemn you…”

Jesus, being sinless, was actually the only one who could cast the first stone. And He chose not to.

So, What Did Jesus Do in this situation, and how we can imitate Him today? Well, it’s clear that He didn’t give us permission to condemn those in sexual sin. And the reason we can’t just write people off is that we’re all in need of God’s forgiveness for our own sins. With this in mind, it’s obvious that we won’t be on the right side of God by becoming anti-homosexual activists, complete with labels to apply and vitriol to spew. So let’s not go there. It’s not what Jesus would do.

Perhaps you noticed that the story isn’t finished yet. There’s more. After saying, “Neither do I condemn you”, Jesus said to the woman, “Go, and from now on sin no more.”

So What Did Jesus Do there? He upheld the profound compassion and mercy of God without feeling the need to deny the woman’s sin. In fact, having exercised the immense love of God by withholding judgement, He cautioned the woman to treat her sin as sin going forward, and to battle the temptation to justify it or indulge it. And I personally believe that the woman’s powerful encounter with Jesus Christ was transformative  – that by the grace of God she was able to go on without giving in to the impulses of sexual sin. Encountering Jesus can have that effect on people.

So, WWJD about LGBTTQ*? I believe we would be faithfully imitating our Master by extending God’s compassion and mercy to those in sexual sin, without having to call wrong right.

Whereas determining What Jesus Would Do in this situation isn’t too hard, actually managing to do it does feel closer to rocket science. We need to Fully Rely On God as we ask Him for the wisdom and courage to respond these challenges as Jesus would. Whatever it is, I have a feeling it won’t be popular with the world.

But then again, neither was Jesus.

May the Lord bless you,



On the Right Side of God

July 6, 2016 4 comments

BandwagonThese days are challenging ones for Bible-believing Christians in North America. Even needing to use the term “Bible-believing Christian” is evidence of this. It used to be that saying “Christian” assumed the “Bible-believing” part, but that’s not necessarily true these days, when even the Church is laying aside God’s Word to avoid the sting of being labelled – among other things – IRRELEVANT by a world that fancies itself to be heading in the right direction.

And the world – at first smilingly, then imperatively – is beckoning the Church to follow, inviting us onto the New World Bandwagon. In one of the many articles I’ve read on the subject lately, this invitation was accompanied by a dire warning: “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, do you?”

It seems that our society, convinced that its ideological and theoretical revelations have given it the higher moral ground, has peered into the future and has seen that it will be right, and that those of us who do not conform will ultimately discover that we were wrong. We will disappear and be forgotten because we didn’t march forward arm in arm with the world into the dawn of a new age of enlightened thinking. If we did, we would share in our society’s glory, receiving glowing mention in children’s history books in the future. In other words, we would avoid being “on the wrong side of history”.

This would be a compelling argument if I cared about being on the wrong side of history. Actually, I am far more concerned about being on the wrong side of God.

I believe that God lovingly created humankind for relationship – with each other, yes, but primarily with Him. I believe that our earliest ancestors traded that relationship for independence from God, with serious consequences. As we cut ourselves off from our primary relationship, we became damaged, and consequently pride and arrogance made their home in the human heart. With no moral compass, we became a broken race, more naturally inclined to sin than to live righteously, and moreover, prone to justify our sin (see Romans 1:18-32). It’s a sad story. We all ended up on the wrong side of God, cutting ourselves off from His love. We all deserved to be cast from His presence forever.

But God is not like us. We are faithless; He is faithful. Even though our independence, arrogance and pride made us a wounded race with a penchant for sin, God so loved us that gave His Son, Jesus, to die for the forgiveness of our sins and reconcile us with our Heavenly Father. I believe in Jesus. I believe He paid for my sin. I believe He brought me back into right relationship with God. I believe that by the power of the Holy Spirit – God’s gift to His people – we can be transformed – less inclined to sin, and more inclined to humbly ask God for forgiveness when sin happens. There is nothing like experiencing salvation in Jesus Christ – being on the right side of God – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Which brings me back to the New World Bandwagon, with our society alternately beckoning me, shaming me and commanding me to join them on it. The truth is, I can’t.

The difficulty is that, although not all of the “new” morality is bad,  some of it contradicts God’s commands in the Bible, including some specific ones about how – and how not – to relate to each other sexually (see Leviticus 18:1-30). I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and an honest reading of these scriptures – and a number of others in the Old and New Testament – prevents me from shrugging my shoulders and jumping on the bandwagon, simply “because it’s 2016.”

So what is to be done with me? I suppose I can be labelled, judged and written off, which seems to be the common practice these days. Despite its stated values of tolerance and inclusiveness, our society is ironically adept with labels and boxes. It would be easier to judge us and dismiss us if I and other followers of Jesus were two-dimensional haters or “phobes” worthy of such labels. But we aren’t. We aren’t haters for the same reason that we aren’t jumping on the New World Bandwagon: to do so would put us on the wrong side of God. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

So we who are followers of Jesus are called to be compassionate and caring to all without having to call wrong right. This is a tall order, especially in a society that doesn’t understand the concept of compassion without agreement, which is true tolerance. But because of what Jesus has done for us, it is nonetheless our call – unwavering truth lived out with unwavering love.

So as the New World Bandwagon hurtles forward into a future that is less certain than we all think, and demands that I join them or end up on the wrong side of history, I will politely but not silently decline. I will offer a compassionate reminder that it is a far worse thing to end up on the wrong side of God than the wrong side of history, and I will happily extend that which God has given to all Christians to share – the good news that because of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ and the transforming work of His Spirit, anyone who humbly places their faith in Him and seeks to honour His Word can find themselves on the right side of God.

May the Lord bless you,


We are Family

June 5, 2016 1 comment

Sister SledgeMost people who have been on the earth for a long time would have a song going through their head after reading the title of this post. It was a popular tune by Sister Sledge that worked its way up the charts back in ’79. “We are Family ” was a heartfelt anthem in honour of family, slap bass and flowy pants. If this doesn’t ring a bell, just click the link and I’ll see you back here in a few minutes…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNAQ8LLptUo  

The concept of family resonates with all of us, either because of its presence – or its absence – in our lives, both of which are felt deeply. For those who have been raised in a healthy family, there is generally something deeply healthy about them, and for those who have been raised without one, a deep longing for family love and belonging is apparent. It seems that God has wired us for family. We need it.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that Churches are families. That’s just the way it is. If someone sets out to plant a Church, what springs up should be a family. If someone sets out to build up a Church, they should be building in a way that fosters family.

The early Church understood this. Right from the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit filled the Church, their identity as a spiritual family emerged for all to see, and they retained that practical “family-ness” even though they numbered in the thousands. In Acts 2:44-47 Luke writes, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people…”

So along with all of the other manifestations of the Holy Spirit, it seems that the early Church manifested spiritual family in a way that caused the world around them to take note.

These days, it is even more crucial for the Church to manifest our identity as a family. We live in a society that has lost a clear sense of what family actually is, and is in deep need of the real thing. What better place to find family than in the Family of God?

But as the Church, are we building family? Depending on how we build, instead of a Church we could actually be building a ministry, or a personal following, or a program, or a public service, or a show, or a school, and entirely miss the critical defining quality of Church – spiritual family.

Why would any Church leave this quality out? That one is unfortunately easy to answer. It’s because building a spiritual family is costly. It costs us to get to know one another enough to hurt, and get hurt. It costs us to be accountable to one another. It costs us to depend, and to be dependable. And so, many individual believers aren’t looking for a family, and many Churches aren’t looking to build one. Let’s face it: it’s easier for everyone to paddle on the surface than to go deeper.

Easier yes, but not better.

When my wife Karen and I were called to plant this Church called West End Christian Community almost 20 years ago, we had clear instruction from the Lord that we were to build a spiritual family. It hasn’t been easy; investing in the lives of others never is. But our testimony is that our lives have been immeasurably enriched by walking in meaningful fellowship with others, sharing in their joys and sorrows. And best of all, it’s a two-way street. It was only a few days ago that an emergency in our own family left us reeling. We were so grateful for our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom we could contact and share our burdens with, and who would pray along with us to our Father in heaven. We know that this is what the Lord has called His Church to be, and we know that we are the better for it.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, when it comes to building God’s Church, let us not settle for anything less than spiritual family, for that is what we are – family.

Cue the slap bass.

May the Lord bless you,


Restore Our Core

June 11, 2015 Leave a comment

There’s so much talk in exercise circles about our CORE. It’s that set of oft-neglected midriff muscles that are responsible for holding our innards together, stabilizing our bodies, and making sure that shovelling snow once doesn’t signal an entire winter of low back pain and ice packs.Cleaning Selkirk back lane

Cities have cores too. And like our bodies, a city’s core can become neglected, creating an unhealthy doughnut hole in the city’s centre, and generating a vast array of chronic social ills. You don’t have to be a city planner to know that when our core suffers, the whole city suffers.

Winnipeg is a city like that. Over the years, our core area has suffered neglect, and has ultimately become a kind of wilderness that one drives through from one suburb to the other, making sure the windows are rolled up and the doors are locked. We all know that something must be done to get our core back in shape, but whose responsibility is it? It’s about here that the fingers start pointing.

Happily, there are Christian ministries and community service organizations that skip the finger-pointing part and just do something about it. They have been working steadily and thanklessly in Winnipeg’s core for years and, understandably, they could use some encouragement.Cutting the lawn

Well, some encouragement came on May 29th and 30th with “Restore Our Core”. Interestingly enough, “Restore Our Core” was the brainchild of none other than our city’s police chief Devon Clunis. Chief Clunis, who himself grew up in Winnipeg’s core area, envisioned a grassroots restorative gesture involving a city street in the Core – Selkirk Avenue – and hundreds of volunteers from the Winnipeg Police Service, city Churches and ministries, and service organizations, cooperating to accomplish one mission: beautify Selkirk Avenue from stem to stern, that is, from Main to Arlington.

Actually, it was a crazy idea. First, it had never been done before. Second, it had never been done before on that scale. Third, it had never been done before with police officers, Church congregations, inner city ministries and other service organizations working together. The logistical challenges alone were enough to deep six the project.Nicole

But we did it. I was there, and it was a good thing, because I may not have believed it if I had only heard about it second hand. A hearty group of volunteers from WECC and a host of other Churches were there to represent the Church in Winnipeg. On the Friday, we worked hard to clean the back lane on our designated block of Selkirk Avenue, and on the Saturday, another team from our Church prepared and painted a whole building! Other teams from other Churches, mixed with police officers and others, worked in similar fashion, and by Saturday afternoon, Selkirk Avenue looked pretty shiny. People from the neighbourhood came out of their homes and businesses to thank and encourage us, and some cleaning teams even got a chance to pray with people. All in all, our Core experienced a touch of restoration, and those in it for the long haul were blessed and encouraged by the helping hand.On the ladder

Of course, Restore Our Core was only a start. But we’ve got to start somewhere. And having Churches led by pastors with work boots and brooms lockng arms with police officers, led by a chief with jeans and a shovel, isn’t a bad place to begin. Hopefully this effort will generate many other new and healthy connections with our core.

The next day, my own core was a little sore, but it was more than compensated for by the way Selkirk Avenue sparkled on Sunday, along with the knowledge that we all got together did something crazy to help make it that way.

God loves Winnipeg, and it was a privilege to bring that message in a unique way to our city’s core.

May the Lord bless you,


Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

April 12, 2015 Leave a comment

“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you…” – Matthew 12Empty tomb:38

It wasn’t the first time the scribes and Pharisees made this request of Jesus, and it wasn’t the last time, either. In fact, they were demanding a sign even as Jesus hung before them, nailed to the cross. They wanted Jesus to show them a miracle – proof that He was the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

Let’s consider the irony of this demand for a sign.  At the time the scribes and Pharisees were asking Jesus for miraculous proof of His authority (as recorded in Matthew 12), He had already healed a centurion’s servant, delivered two demoniacs from Satan’s power, healed a paralytic, healed a woman who was incurably ill for 12 years, raised a girl from the dead, gave sight to two blind men, restored a man’s withered hand, and brought sight and speech to a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. And that’s an abridged list. To top it off, the scribes and Pharisees had a front row seat at many of these miracles. They were there. They heard. They saw. And they still wanted more proof. What was going on here?

Jesus – in true Jesus fashion – pointed out the real issue to them. It wasn’t a proof problem. It was a heart problem. The scribes and Pharisees weren’t labouring under a lack of proof. They were suffering from hardening of the heart, due to stubborn unbelief. The resulting spiritual paralysis made them what Jesus called “an evil and adulterous generation,” stubborn and rebellious, spiritually fickle, and clamouring for proof that ultimately wouldn’t make a dent in their wall of unbelief anyway. As long as they continually demanded proof, Jesus wasn’t going to waste a sign on them, and He told them so. They would simply have to continue to witness the barrage of signs happening for others in front of their very eyes.

You see, the countless people who received miraculous signs from Jesus weren’t asking for proof. They were asking for help. They came humbly and simply to Jesus, asking for the impossible, and trusting that He could do something to help them. For these people, believing was seeing, not the other way around. And they were rewarded for their faith. But those who refused to believe would not receive a sign.

With one exception. Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except for the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The miraculous sign of Jesus’ identity and authority as the Son of God would be strikingly similar to Jonah’s rescue from a watery grave after three days and nights in the belly of the great fish. Only this sign would consist of Jesus literally rising from the dead, never to die again, after three days and nights in a grave in the earth.

Jesus also noted a tragic difference between the sign of Jonah and the sign He would soon give to the scribes and Pharisees. He pointed out that the people of Ninevah believed Jonah’s testimony and preaching, and repented, resulting in their reconciliation with God. But not so with the Pharisees. Jesus prophetically stated that, even though “something greater than Jonah is here”, the scribes and Pharisees would not believe the sign of Jesus – His empty tomb.

And so it was. Jesus rose from the dead after three days in the tomb, appeared to a total of over five hundred of His relieved and joyful followers over a month, ascended to heaven before their very eyes, and continues to work countless miracles through those who believe in Him, even to this very day. And the scribes and Pharisees, along with everyone since who suffers from an unbelieving heart, stand outside the empty tomb, scratching their heads and looking doubtful – drowning in proof, and yet still parched and paralyzed in their faith.

Before we start making the mistake of proudly thinking that unbelief and doubt belong only to those who reject Jesus, let’s recognize that Jesus was constantly amazed and saddened by these qualities in His own followers. Jesus addresses His own disciples as “You of little faith” five times in the book of Matthew. Evidently, unbelief isn’t something that only hinders and entangles unbelievers. It’s something we all struggle with.

So if we want to see the Lord work powerfully in our lives, it would be good to move on from thinking Jesus needs to prove Himself to us, praying “God, if You’re really there” prayers. It might be more productive to pray like the distraught father who desperately needed Jesus’ help: “I believe; help my unbelief!” With our faith in Jesus up front – where it should be – many signs will follow.

May the Lord bless you,


The Church is Not a Jesus Fan Club

March 6, 2015 1 comment

The BeatlesFan clubs are interesting entities. They issue from one primal drive: devotion. A shared devotion to certain people or things brings fans together to express a corporate love and loyalty to their idols. It’s one thing to be devoted to someone or something. But it’s way cooler to share that devotion with others.

Take a Beatles fan club, for example. Beatles devotees get together on a regular basis to share stories about how they almost met Paul’s gardener or almost got Ringo’s autograph. They pull out and pass around “relics”, like George’s guitar pick or John’s toothbrush. They engage in passionate debates about which Beatles’ album was the deepest or which of the Fab Four had the coolest overbite. In fact, a Beatle’s fan club meeting has pretty well everything a fan needs, except for one thing.

The Beatles.

It is in this sense, that the Church is not a Jesus fan club. Of course, devotion to Jesus draws His people together to express their love and loyalty to Him, and in many ways, we are Jesus’ fans, but when we gather, the fan club analogy ends. This is because, according to the Bible, God’s people not only meet in the name of Jesus, but in His presence! In Matthew 18:20, Jesus Himself says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Now, if Jesus just stayed dead after He died on the cross, He wouldn’t be able to pull this off, and we would console ourselves with a sentimental, figurative interpretation of this passage. But He didn’t stay dead. According to scripture, He rose from the dead on the third day and, after reuniting with his amazed disciples, taught them for a few weeks before ascending back to heaven, and resuming His omnipresent nature. So with this in mind, when He says that He is there among us as we meet, He means just that. He is present.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Church would certainly do well to not meet as if Jesus was absent from our midst, but we would also do well not to meet as if the Lord was merely passively present. When Jesus says that He will be with His Church, He doesn’t mean that he will be standing in a corner like some Tiki idol, mutely observing the proceedings and receiving the occasional nod in His direction. In Ephesians 1:22, Paul says, “And he [the Father] put all things under his [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church”.

So Jesus isn’t absent from our Church gatherings, and He doesn’t settle for a passive presence in our midst. His presence among us is a presiding one. He’s in charge!

If we begin to wrap our minds around this fact, our Church services might end up being radically different than we may be used to.

Imagine if the Beatles actually turned up at a Beatles fan club meeting (a scary thought today). No one would care about John’s toothbrush when John is standing there. No one would insist on reading the fan club’s minutes or follow the official agenda when the Fab Four walk in and say, “Hullo, mates”. No one would have a lot to say about Ringo, but they might have a lot to say to him. And the monologues would become dialogues.

The Church doesn’t need to imagine what would happen if Jesus showed up at a Sunday service. It happens all the time. I hope He has a sense of humour about being treated as if He is absent or passively present in His Church. But we would do well to embrace the reality of His presiding presence among us, and adjust our meetings accordingly.

And as Jesus’ fans, we might even find ourselves running to Church.

May the Lord bless you,


Were you there?

June 18, 2013 Leave a comment

I was there.

“There” is a One Heart Planning Committee meeting, months before the actual event. One Heart is the name of a city-wide Church service that we have annually in Winnipeg, where a surprising number of local Churches put aside their “localness” to flex their muscles as the Body of Christ in the city – One Lord, One Church, One Harvest. It’s a great time, and for the last number of years the One Heart service has been held at the MTS Centre, where we have seen upwards of 14,000 followers of Jesus get together for one great big Church service.

I was there when the bad news came.

In the latter part of 2012, we were trying our best to nail down a date in January with the MTS Centre for the 2013 One Heart service. But the NHL lockout was making it difficult to confirm anything, as the arena needed to be available for hockey games the moment the players and management could agree on something. So time was dragging on, and we were in lockout limbo, not knowing what to do. After seeing yet another date fall through, we sat around the One Heart planning committee table, nonplussed.

I was there when the stunning news came.

Right in the midst of our angst, a call came. It was from the Winnipeg Blue Bomber Football Club. The brand new Investors’ Group Field stadium was (finally) almost ready for use, and they were wondering if the city Churches wanted to have their OneHeartCityChurch service there on May 26th, for free. I don’t know what the football equivalent is for something coming out of left field, but it was that! Apparently, the Bombers organization wanted to have a test run of the facility before they had a “real” event there, and they were wondering if the city Churches would help them out in this endeavour. We all agreed around the table that this was an overwhelming, even crazy idea that none of us would have cooked up ourselves, so we concluded that this must be the Lord, and we decided to do it.

I was there when the challenges came.

The first challenge was one that was somewhat familiar. At the MTS Centre, “free” use of the facility meant a cost of $40,000 to us. At the Investors’ Group Field, everything was bigger, even “free”. Try $80,000. The truth is, the magnitude of the event – from the budget to the sound needs to the parking to the stage to the ushers (500) – was off the charts for us. We had no grid for this. It felt many times that we had no courage for this either. But it was happening no matter what, so we plunged in and kept swimming. And meeting. And eating KFC (we met on Tuesdays). And wondering how this could ever come together. To top it off, all this was happening in a context of questions about whether the facility itself would be ready by May 26th, as contractors worked madly to finish the job. Bells and whistles didn’t concern us so much as toilets. We prayed a lot.

I was there on May 26th.

I was there when the doors opened, allowing a record16,000 worshipers of Jesus to be the first ones to enjoy the use of the Investors’ Group Field.

I was there, listening to “Bless the Lord O My Soul (10,000 Reasons) reverberate around the stadium – thousands of people singing loud, heartfelt praises to the Lord. At that moment it was crystal clear to me why we were there.

I was there when over 240 people accepted the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and when people generously gave a record amount toward programs to help young people in the inner city of Winnipeg. So at the One Heart 2013 city Church service, the Church in Winnipeg conducted itself in fine fashion, glorifying the Lord and reaching out to the lost.

Were you there? If you weren’t, you missed a miracle. But there’ll be more to come.

May the Lord bless you,


Adam’s Family

Addams Family

They’re creepy and they’re kooky

Mysterious and spooky

They’re altogether ooky

The Addams Family

 Do you remember the bizarre TV family that this song refers to? Gomez and Morticia Addams, heading up a strange collection of relatives, including a dwarf-sized ball of hair with a hat, a disembodied hand, a robed uncle with his own personal electrical current, and two normal-looking children who are actually as weird as everyone else in the family.

The Bible points out that we all belong to another ooky family – Adam’s Family. Romans 5:12 says that “sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and in this way, death came to all men, because all sinned.” It seems that Adam’s sin of disobedience to God had a far-reaching consequence: an inclination towards sin and an inheritance of death for all who would come after him – the whole human family. Yes, that includes you and me. Adam started a family that would be sinners by nature, right from birth. “But”, one may protest, “can a pure, innocent little child have sin in his or her heart?” Every parent knows the answer to this question. Soon after the veneer of helpless babyness cracks, the undesirable character traits of our great, great, great, etc. grandfather become apparent, just as they did in us, and just as they will in generations to come: selfishness, coveteousness, stubborn pride, greed, jealousy… sadly, the list goes on.

So here we are, some of us displaying our sinful nature in bizarre easy-to-see ways, and others seeming outwardly normal, but nonetheless carrying and ultimately displaying the characteristic traits of Adam’s Family. Is there any escape from this hopeless generational nightmare? Paul addresses this in Romans 7:24-25, when he asks and answers this question in the same breath: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Yes, there is rescue from Adam’s Family! It is through a new Adam, so to speak – Jesus Christ, who through the Holy Spirit is establishing a family line of people who are being made free from their inheritance of sin and death in Adam by receiving salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to do the Father’s will, which included being crucified for our sins, dying and rising again, and forced open the door to the Adam’s family mansion, allowing all who desire to escape to be rescued and renewed through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul puts it like this in Romans 5:18-19:

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [Jesus’ death and resurrection] was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus Christ] the many will be made righteous.”

Do you suppose that there is no “ookiness” in you, that you don’t really belong to Adam’s family? Allow God to search your heart, pointing out your sin, and it will become as clear to you as it probably is to others. Or perhaps you know all too well that you are from Adam’s family line, and you can’t see any escape. If this is the case, I encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ, who has already broken down the door to Adam’s house and is willing to give you a place in God’s house, as part of His family. I encourage you to reach out in faith to Him, and truly receive a new inheritance that begins in this life with moral transformation and continues throughout eternity in fellowship with God as His dearly loved adopted sons and daughters.


May the Lord bless you,

Robert Baron


We were Made for This!

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Eric Liddell

This is Eric Liddell – or an actor who played Eric Liddell in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. Eric Liddell (the real one) made headlines during the 1924 Paris Olympics when, after breezing through the heats, he refused to run in the 100 metre final because it was scheduled on a Sunday morning – the day and time when God’s people go to Church. So he went to Church on that Sunday, then later in the week ran as a last-minute entry in the 400 metres – which wasn’t his event – and promptly won the gold medal!

This wasn’t the only thing that irked the Olympic gurus. Eric had this irritating habit of running “funny”. Contrary to all scientific sprinting theories of the times, Eric would run normally for a while, then begin lifting his knees high, throwing his head back and dropping his jaw, running like a crazy man. Then he would win.

When questioned about his unorthodox style, Eric Liddell simply stated, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” So it seems that this world-class sprinter, when doing what he was made to do, became supercharged by the joy of the Lord!

I’m sure we can all relate to this. Sometimes in life when we find ourselves doing exactly what we were cut out to do, we can gain such strength and endurance – and joy! – that even in the face of hard work and long hours we can shout joyfully, “I was made for this!”

The Church in our city can take a lesson from all this. These days, often the Church seems just plain tired. And it’s not the kind of tired that doing less fixes. In fact it seems that the less the Church does, the more fatigued it becomes. Perhaps this is because the Church needs to be doing more of what it was cut out to do. We need the joy of the Lord that comes from doing what we were made for, and the Spirit-stoked energy that proceeds from this.

But, what are we made to do? What are we cut out for? Happily, the Word of God gives us some key insights into this question. These insights come in the form of the “identity” things that Jesus says about His Church. There are many times when the Lord helps the Church understand who we are. I’ll just mention three.

First, we are ONE. This may be news to some of us in the Church as we continue to fragment, compartmentalize and isolate ourselves as households and local Church fellowships, but Jesus considers us to be one, a perspective which is summed up in His prayer to the Father as recorded in John 17:20b: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…” So when we gather as the parts of the Body of Christ, cooperating to be His hands and feet in this world, we are doing what we were made for!

Second, we are SALT. Jesus says, “You are the salt of earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matt. 5:13) According to Jesus, the Church is made to have a preservative influence on the world around us – preserving the truth that hope is still to be found in this world – hope in Jesus Christ. So it makes sense that we get out of the saltshaker and into the world, doing what we were made to do; preserving hope in Jesus in a world that has lost all hope, and bringing the flavour of Christ to a world that has become tasteless.

Third, we are LIGHT. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls the Church “the light of the world”. So as the Church, we are made to shine the light of God’s character in our dark world. The life of Jesus demonstrated that God is kind, patient, and generous, blessing the righteous and even the unrighteous, because of who He is. And when we as the Church shine the light of God in our fallen world, we are doing what we were made to do. Acting any other way doesn’t make sense. Jesus puts it best: “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So we are one, we are salt, and we are light. How can we as the Church do these things we were made to do, so that we can get out of the churchy doldrums and feel God’s pleasure as we function according to our design?

I’m glad I asked. On Sunday, May 26th starting at noon at the new Bomber stadium, the Church in Winnipeg will be getting together to celebrate Jesus at the One Heart City Church service. It will be a great time, but more than that, it will be the Church being ONE, which is what we were designed to be. I know that we will feel God’s pleasure as we gather.

The One Heart city-wide Church service is actually the kickoff event for another great opportunity to be what we were made to be. This opportunity is called Love Winnipeg – a chance for the Church in the city to be salt & light, working together as local fellowships in our city to preserve and shine, reflecting the character of God in our communities through neighbourhood cleanup projects, helping hands and practical expressions of God’s kindness to those around us. Here at WECC, we will be helping Discovery Children’s Centre on June 4th as we partner to provide a Family Fun Day for hundreds of people in our community. What an excellent chance to do what we were made to do, blessing and serving both this child care centre and the community around us!

Of course, there will always be critics of the Church as we attempt to be what we were made to be – salt & light together in a world that desperately needs our help and our message. But, as with Eric Liddell, the criticisms lose ground to a victorious Church that, although at times running awkwardly, is feeling God’s pleasure.

May the Lord bless you,


Living Letters

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

God is accused of lots of things, but one of the most ironic is the charge that He is not paying attention. We often say, “Why doesn’t God hear me? Why doesn’t God speak to me?” The truth is that God hears and speaks to us regularly. It’s us who often aren’t listening – we tend to stick our fingers in our spiritual ears and belt out a hearty, wilful rendition of Yankee Doodle while the Lord tries to get OUR attention.

This past week, the Lord spoke to our family of Churches in an interesting way. We believe that for the last while, He has been trying to get our attention about His mission for us – His Church – in this world. It’s all about our role as ambassadors for Christ – ministers and messengers of reconciliation between God and people. We have preached about evangelism, we have taught about hospitality and reaching out to others, we have done activities to practice sharing our faith… All with OK results. Not great, but OK. Then the Lord sent us a letter.

More than one letter, actually. Eleven, to be exact. Francine, one of our members, happened to come in contact with a group called Missionaries to Canada. It was a team of young people from Indonesia and South Korea who were living out a call from the Lord to come to Canada and share Jesus with Canadians! You might think, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that our gig? Isn’t Canada the one that sends missionaries to those countries?” The answer is a sad, “We used to.” Now we’re too enlightened to do that. And this “enlightenment” has caused our nation to become a spiritual shadow of its former self. The Lord knows the trouble that Canada is in, and He has answered our nation’s need for Jesus by sending Christians from other nations to bring the light of the gospel into the enlightened darkness that we have wrought, and to encourage Canadian Christians to pick up the torch again and reach out to the lost all around us. He is sending living letters to Canada.

As a result of this initial contact with the Missionaries to Canada, this team of international missionaries visited us for a week. They stayed in our homes. They ate with us. They provided presentations and equipping for us. They sang. They taught. They served. They testified about what Jesus had done in their lives. And they spoke to us in English, a language that many of them had only begun studying four months ago. Far from home, way out of their comfort zone, into a frigid zone, in our homes, in our Church, around the table, these young people became living letters to us. The Lord sent them and spoke through them about His heart for the lost, and His desire to see us doing Jesus’ work on the earth, with an eloquence and an effect that easily outdid any best-selling book or cool video on the subject.

The week we spent with the Missionaries to Canada was profoundly impacting. That’s because the Lord sent them and spoke to us through them. Sending living letters is just one of the myriad of ways that God uses to get through to us. I’m glad He doesn’t give up trying.

Are you feeling like God isn’t paying attention to you these days? Maybe He is already sending you a living letter. He does that.

May the Lord bless you,