Friday, August 22, 2008

Is it Time to Leave Afghanastan?

Canada lost 3 more soldiers in Afghanistan this week. The total number of soldiers now killed in this action is 93. 93 sons who won't be coming home. 93 families suffering the loss of a child who won't share birthdays, reunions, Christmas and other special family functions. I couldn't find how many of these warriors have left behind children and expectant wives. Somehow, 93 soldiers just seems like a lot of people and a great sacrifice for a nation. Justin Trudeau agrees. He says it's time for Canada to leave Afghanistan. The cost in terms of losses and casualties has simply become more than what we signed up for. It's not an uncommon sentiment.

Turn back the clock almost 65 years. Next June we will remember the 65th anniversary of D-Day or the beginning of the Invasion of Normandy. The day is historic for several reasons and Canadians are remembered for their heroic acts of bravery and tremendous sacrifices on the beaches of France. If you go to Juno beach, you'll find a memorial wall built to honor and remember the 961 young men who lost their lives on that early June morning. Total casualties among all the Allied Forces on that day alone, came to approximately 9000. Canadian losses through all of WW2 totalled over 37,000. The numbers are staggering and sobering to say the least.

Our national sacrifice and the sacrifice of young men and their families created a sense of national pride and identity. We discovered ourselves and our role in the world through the horribly dark days of WW2. We are peacemakers and peacekeepers. We don't believe in peace at any price, because that approach just creates another set of victims outside of those who do the bargaining. We believe in addressing tyranny and extremism. We are opposed to the oppression of people groups and men, women and children. There's something fundamentally wrong with denying girls the right to an education, women the freedom to choose their own destiny and killing people because of their faith or lack of religious zeal.

In addition to being peacemakers and peace keepers we are rebuilding a nation that extremists leading the nation destroyed through either lack of attention or through willful acts. In either case, today in Afghanistan, young girls can go to school and get an education, health care opportunities are available to those who need them and the atmosphere is changing to something more moderate and stable.

Sadly, there are lives that are lost when we choose to bring the same freedom and hope that we enjoy to other nations . I would prefer that we could fulfill this task without the loss of life, but that's not reality. At the same time, I'm extremely proud of every soldier who puts their life on the line to serve our nation. Most come home again.

We need to stay in Afghanistan until the mission of rebuilding a shattered nation is complete. The cost of staying is significant. The price of leaving the job unfinished is far more.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Train Wreck...

The board of Fresh Fire Ministries announced yesterday that Todd Bentley had stepped down as president of the ministry. Bentley, as you probably know was the primary leader at the Lakeland Revival. Several weeks ago, I watched the commissioning service led by Peter Wagner and attended by a number of high profile Charismatic leaders.

As I watched the service online, I just kept thinking that Todd was being set up for a huge fall. The question that kept swirling in my spirit was 'Who is going to pick up the pieces when this train leaves the track?' 3 weeks after the fact, there is a train wreck of enormous proportions. Todd and his wife have separated, he has admitted to an 'unhealthy emotional relationship', and the board has removed him as president of his own ministry. Added to that, tens of thousands of people are angry and disillusioned, the sceptics are crowing that they were right all along and the media smirks at yet another ministry leader who has crashed and burned under some close scrutiny.

I know some things about crashing and burning by both observation and experience. Crashing and burning is no fun and the pain of the crash is only enhanced by high-fiving critics who delight in your demise. The worst part is that innocent people get hurt because of the fall of the leader. Todd's wife and kids got hurt because he messed up. His staff, ministry counterparts who supported him and those who put their neck on the line for him have just been burned by his own personal failure. Add to that all of the people who travelled to Lakeland, sowed into his ministry and gave by TV. They've all just been burned too and I'm willing to guess that they aren't about to trust a church leader any time soon.

For the record, I feel bad for Todd Bentley. It would be easy to blame the people around him for not standing up to him, but I know enough people in Todd's life to know that wasn't the case. I feel bad for Todd Bentley because he fell into a deception about who he was and what the signs and wonders that were happening around him really meant. We have this ridiculous premise within the church that says if people are being saved and healed then God must be endorsing who we are and what we do. It's an intoxicating lie that we so quickly embrace because it meets some deep need for affirmation and approval in our lives. No self-respecting Christian leader would endorse Samson for ANYTHING in our world today. He was immoral, had anger issues and was generally an undisciplined 'wild man'. In spite of that, God used him as a deliverer of His people. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks about the day of Judgement when people will say, didn't we heal the sick and drive out demons in your name and He will say, depart from me, I never knew you. That verse sobers me in a heart beat and reminds me that what God wants from me is my heart.

John Maxwell says that if you fall on your face, it's good to take note of what caused it to happen. In this case, I think that the church needs to take a look at what just happened. The fact is that there were respectable people raising words of caution regarding this revival for some time. These weren't the standard critics who are opposed to everything. These are people who actually believe in healing and miracles but saw the error in Todd's teaching and methods and were courageous enough to stand up and be heard. I don't believe we need to pay attention to every critic that comes along. However, I think we've got to take a look at who is offering the criticism and if they have credibility, we need to take heed to what is being said.

Secondly, and of even greater significance is the whole matter of discernment. We've got to have our heads up and exercise discernment in our lives. It scares me that so many people could be so easily taken in by what was happening in Lakeland. I'm all for God being at work in unusual ways, but Lakeland was WAY OVER THE TOP!! Let's give our collective heads a shake and ask ourselves what's going on here and why am I giving it a second look? The reality is that Todd had an audience because people kept coming to see what was going on. GodTV kept fanning the fire and gullible kept giving and going. The really tragic thing is that 'discernment' is used to blackball people and cut them out of prayer groups and churches while at the same time we are oblivious to massive deception on a continental scale. It's time to tune into what the Spirit is saying to the church and recognize that there really are those who go about as wolves in sheep's clothing.

I hope that Todd sorts his stuff out, submits himself to godly men of the faith who will point him in the right direction. I pray that he humbles himself, gets some education and after an appropriate season, apologizes to the thousands of people who have been hurt. Most of all, I pray that he finds a way to be reconciled and restored to the wife of his youth.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What happens after the Olympics??

We are in full blown Olympic fever at our house. We are having a lot of fun making up stories about how I used to do those things before I grew up. I was just telling Tyler how I gave up the highbar to try the rings when he shared the funniest story with me.

When he was getting ready to run in the city finals this year, someone asked his teacher where you competed after the city's if you did well. Here's what his teacher told him...

If you do well in the city finals, you go to the regional finals.

If you do well there you go to the Provincials.

If you do well there, you go to the Nationals.

If you do well there you go to the Worlds.

If you do well there you go to the Olympics.

If you do well there...

you become a teacher...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

BC Day in Comox

I spent the Sunday morning of the BC Day long weekend as the guest speaker at the community church service at Nautical Days in Comox, BC. What a tremendous blessing. I was so blessed to be there! The entire morning was fantastic and I was so honored to share the vision of Leading Influence Ministries with the Church in Comox.

I was particularly thrilled to meet a city councillor from Courtenay as well as the MP for the area. Both communities are blessed to have such quality leaders who give of themselves to serve politically. While I was there I was told that Comox actually means 'land of plenty' and that the First Nations People who were there believed that the Comox Glacier was a symbol of a giant whale. They certainly were right about the land of plenty. What a beautiful place. During worship we sang 'Blessed Be Your Name In the Land That is Plentiful'. I couldn't help but feel that we were in that place.

This is a full and busy month for me. I am speaking every Sunday this month which is a bit of a change. I'm delighted to have a full schedule and look forward to seeing how the Lord will work and what He will do over the coming month.

Baseball Report

Some of you will be aware that Tyler has been playing all star baseball this summer. Last week I mentioned that his team (Victoria Rebels) won the Vancouver Island Championships. This past weekend they were in Surrey for the Provincial Championships. We knew going in that they were a strong team but that they would face some equally strong opposition. They finished the round robin portion of the tournament with a record of 3 and 1. They lost their last game on Saturday when a player was hit by a line drive and was taken off the field by ambulance. The other team chose not to continue and was willing to forfeit the game but our team (even though they were at bat with no outs) accepted the score and took the loss. I'm really proud of our coaching staff and they way they handled the situation. They showed class all the way through the tournament and season and they really helped the boys develop as players and people.

Where it all began...

Barb and I are at a Pastors Camp this week. It's fun to spend a week with friends and peers who share so many common values, dreams and experiences. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, sometimes we worship, sometimes we pray. These are days of refreshing and renewal for us and we are so appreciative of the opportunity to be here.

The vision for Leading Influence Ministries was born here on a day a lot like this one. The speaker shared a message on dreaming the dreams of God. We did what he asked us to do and were surprised by what God spoke to us. The road from there to here hasn't been without it's bumps and challenges, but to be able to return here with the dream starting to unfold is very exciting and to be truthful almost surreal. God has been remarkably and abundantly faithful to us and the ministry and we are so blessed!

Our speaker this morning shared several thoughts on God and dreams that I'd like to share with you.

1. God is able to fulfill your dream. Phil 4:13 - 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' I think I've always been a dreamer, but for most of my life I dreamed too small and believed for too little. Choosing to walk this particular road has forced me to dream large dreams and to believe for big things. I have yet to be disappointed. If anything, I scramble just to keep up with what God is doing in our lives and ministry. God is able to fulfill your dream too. He's just waiting for you to say yes.

2. God is willing to fulfill your dream. Phil 4:19 - 'My God will supply all my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.' I've come to understand that God almost always says 'YES' to those things that require me to exercise my faith. It's not that He doesn't ever say no as much as it is that He loves to respond to faith. I don't have it all figured out by any means but I can say that I've never been so fulfilled and satisfied as I am righ now. Barb and I have chosen to go on an adventure with Him and it is so exciting to see HOW He does WHAT He does.

3. God has promised to fulfill your dream. Phil 1:6 - He who has begun a good work in you will continue it until the day of completion. I love this verse. It give me a confidence that God isn't finished with me yet and that even though I might become tired, weary and distracted at times, HE doesn't abandon me. When I am renewed, revisioned and re-focused, I discover that He has been constantly working in the background because He's comitted to finishing what He started in me and through me. God doesn't (and won't ...) give up on you or your dream either. Stay with it and you'll see your dreams come to pass.

4. The dream comes with a price. Jesus said that it was important for us to count the cost. There's a cost to dreams becoming reality. We left friends and a city we loved. Our kids left schools and friends. We made some tremendous personal and financial sacrifices but we did it because the dream inspired us to lengths beyond anything that we had dared to do before. Seeing the dream come to reality has made our sacrifices worthwhile and we wouldn't change a thing. Your dream will cost you, but it will be worth everything that you lay down for it.