Thoughts on Unity

I was re-examining some Scriptures on unity this week. Things popped up in our community that got me thinking about what unity was and what my role as a believer is.

Psalm 133:1
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!"

This is probably the most oft-quoted Scripture on unity. I believe unity is a God thing and can change, not only our life, but the lives of those around us.

However, look at that Scripture again. It is pleasant for BRETHREN to dwell together in unity. My brother and I are a part of the same family. The same thing goes for my spiritual family. I can have unity with those of the same faith, Christianity. However, it is kind of hard to have unity with someone who doesn't believe in the same God as me. It is hard to have unity with someone who doesn't believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Coffee, yes! Unity, No!

Ephesians 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Let's be honest. God's children have not always modeled unity. It is hard to convince the world Jesus loves them when we can't even demonstrate that to someone from another denomination! Jesus ate with sinners and yet, I see pastors who can't share a coffee with one another!

Romans 15:5-6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is the key...following Christ Jesus. If we, the followers of Christ, would focus on what we share instead of where we DENOMINATIONALLY differ, I believe God would be glorified even more.


More Lessons From My Son

I love learning things from my kids.

Over the years my daughter, and now my son, have taught me a lot about God's character. God has also used them to teach me more about my character as well. Like my need for patience, understanding, compassion, etc.

This week I have been watching my son. He is getting more expressive and his facial reactions are priceless.

One thing I have noticed is his reaction to me as his father.

When I come home from work his face lights up. We start are day together as I lift him from bed and he "helps me" let the dog out, feed the dog, etc. He expects it now, waking up and looking for me to pick him up.

He likes to fly to the ceiling...as I lift him up and let him touch the smoke detector he get's giddy with excitement, and now, when I pass the doorway, he looks to the ceiling and smiles...

There is a devotion, a longing on his face to spend time with me...with his mom, his sister. He wants to interact with us.

It's the same devotion and longing for interaction I should have with the Heavenly Father.

It reminds me of Psalm 63:1-8

1 O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
7 Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.

Kids are wonderful!


What, Me Worry?

I felt a ball in the pit of my stomach as I hung up the phone at work. Audit. The word conjured up images of IRS agents going through years worth of records looking for a period missing on an obscure document long forgotten in the the bottom of a box.

Of course this was Canada...and not a government audit. No, this was a company auditor flying all the way from Toronto to go through everything with a fine tooth comb.

Over the next few weeks, the burning sensation in my stomach got worse with each email from the auditor. I took over the job with all of the paperwork handed to me in boxes. I did not even know what was in half of them.

Finally, the fateful day arrived.....

and it wasn't so bad!

After 3 days and many hours the auditor filled me in on areas needing improved and nothing that I worried about came to pass.

It was actually fun. There was a word I never expected to use when in the midst of an audit.

Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew 6:27, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

In the end, I worried for nothing. I wasted time and energy projecting what might happen instead of praying and trusting God.

I'd like to say it won't happen again.....

I don't think I can. However, I can say I will be seeking God for strength in this area. I covet your prayers.


5 More Questions With Martin Smith (Delirious?)

Welcome to 5 More Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Martin Smith. Martin did an interview with me back in June 2009 and has returned for a follow up discussion regarding CompassionArt.

Martin was the front man for the wildly successful Christian rock and worship band Delirious? and is not only an excellent vocalist but a talented songwriter and guitarist as well. His songwriting hits include "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever","Shout to the North","The Happy Song","Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble" and "Deeper". Before Delirious? Martin was a producer. Working mainly with UK artists. One of the original three founders of "Cutting Edge" (the previous incarnation of Delirious?).

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Martin,

Question 1: The initial funds from he CompassionArt project came in and so far £48,000 ($74,000+ US) has been distributed to various projects. How did it feel to see the first wave of grants go to much needed projects?

It was a truly great moment to see the first wave of funding being released. We are due to release some more funds in the near future which is even more exciting, and so we pray daily that God will bless the usage of these songs and get them into the hands of companies and individuals who can direct them into places where they can continue to generate income for these 16 CompassionArt projects.

The sales of the album and book have dropped off now and so we are relying on royalties from third party usage and CCLI. God will find a way when it seems sometimes, there is no other way.

Question 2: The funds are still coming in as the songs recorded on the CompassionArt project are played around the world. How will CompassionArt continue to sustain the outlay of grants?

Yes, a few of the songs are beginning o travel and are getting picked up and played by radio stations, churches and worship leaders. "King of Wonders" is becoming popular, so to is "You Have Shown Us" which is currently being used for the Micah Challenge 10.10.10 campaign. See www.compassionart.tv for more details and please support 10.10.10. We must keep praying every day. My mum used to day when I was growing up, "seven prayerless days makes one weak"! So true. CompassionArt is not a big organization. We have deliberately kept overheads to a minimum to enable the money generated to flow through to projects. We have one member of staff who works for us just 1 day a week........my brother, Paul. He's a saint and keeps on top of all the administration including liason and communication with our trustees.

Question 3: Any chance for more CD's or books coming from CompassionArt?

Anna and I do not have any plans to create additional books or cd's for CompassionArt. Obviously it will take a lot of time and money o produce another product, and so if there is anyone out there who would like to get on board, donate, support or financially endorse a second album please come forward! Songwriters such as Michael W Smith, Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman, etc. are always booked up 18 months in advance and so if we were to plan another similar songwriting retreat to the one we did in 2008, the earliest we could try and get everyone together would be sometime in 2012 and if the songs turned out to be any good then the recording would take a further 10-12 months before being complete. But we never say never, and continually seek God for clarity and direction knowing He is always one step ahead of us. We would need to know that making a second album is the right thing to do, but for now we are entirely happy with the way everything turned out the first time. We get e-mails on a daily basis from people telling us that one of the CompassionArt songs has blessed them in some shape or form. Its all very encouraging.

Question 4: What kind of feedback have you gotten from those involved, both artists and organizations?

We have partnered with various organizations this year. To name a few, Tearfund (global poverty prayer week), Christian Aid (christian aid week) and Micah Challenge (10.10.10). I can honestly say working alongside these professionals has been amazing. Feedback would suggest they also have enjoyed working with CompassionArt. Christian Aid have already invited us to journey with them again in the future in some shape or form. They managed to raise a staggering
£13 Million overall. The artists/songwriters continue to be supportive but as you can imagine they all have separate focus and very busy lives. A percentage of the income stream is directed towards their nominated project and so there will always be communication between us on that level. I am so appreciative of them all lending their time and talent, for something greater.

Question 5: How can people continue to help the work of CompassionArt?

Well there are many ways people can help. Firstly, we need help to get these songs taught to congregations and sung in churches. We need people to further understand that if they adopt one or two or three of these songs and sing them regularly in their churches it is actually raising funds for the 16 different CompassionArt projects. There is no easier way to fundraise.......just open up and sing!

Churches are adopting the idea and realizing the benefit of people and local communities coming together and inviting people to use their God given talent. Events, and concerts are being hosted by communities involving school bands, choirs, comedians, opera singers, dancers and solo singers. Churches charge an entrance fee and the money is donated to CompassionArt projects. It doesn't have to be music related events. It could be a bunch of athletes organizing a mini Olympics or a group of cake makers getting together to bake and sell delicious cakes to raise money. There are so many creative ways to fundraise and so many talented people that could step up and do it. Over to you!

Thanks again for coming back for a second interviews Martin.

There you have it. If you missed it the first time around I would encourage you to pick up the CompassionArt book and CD. You won't be disappointed. You WILL be helping to meet the needs of those in abject poverty. For more info on CompassionArt check out their website: CompassionArt

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


CompassionArt - 1 Year Later

Last year 12 artists: Michael W. Smith, Darlene Zschech, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Paul Baloche, Israel Houghton, Graham Kendrick, Steven Curtis-Chapman, Andy Park, Stu Garrard, Martin Smith all got together to write and record songs for charity.

The proceeds from this project, called CompassionArt, and other projects they initiated all go to 4 charities picked by the group and 12 by the individual artists. I covered the CompassionArt project quite frequently on this site..

In addition to mentioning the original project and the book, I had the chance to interview a few of the artists.

Martin Smith, Andy Park, Darlene Zschech and Matt Redman all took time out of their schedules to discuss CompassionArt with this blogger.

Now, thanks to permission from CompassionArt, I can provide you a bit of an update:



Jan-June 2010


In December 2009, CompassionArt released its first wave of funding (£48,000) to various church based projects it has committed to support. The grants were distributed and divided up as follows:


At a total cost of £12,000, CompassionArt has contributed £6000 towards a boat purchased to support people living on remote islands situated on the banks of the river Amazon. The government in Brazil refer to these families as the forgotten people as no one really knows how many families and children exist on these islands. The waters are infested with piranha fish and tree stumps which makes it dangerous to reach these people. The CompassionArt boat will enable doctors, teachers and missionary’s to visit safely to provide much needed healthcare, education and pastoral care.

Rwanda (Darlene Zschech)

In the village of Hope based in Kigali (Gasabo) £2000 has been contributed towards the provision of 16 rainwater tanks. The rainfall in Rwanda is not a problem. Catching it and keeping it clean is. There is no underground water to be found in this area so women are currently walking two hours to the local, poor quality, community tank for 5 litres of water. The new water tanks will need little or no ongoing maintenance.

UK – Helping Ex-offenders (Tim Hughes)

A grant of £2000 has been used towards providing support to caring for ex-offenders registered churches as well as linking ex-offenders to these churches. Between January and June 2010, a total of 70 ex-offenders were helped due to improved relationships with chaplains, resettlement governors, probation services and community chaplains. During this reporting period 48 ex-offenders were linked to supportive churches. Future developments are taking place with preparations to deliver a 17 week pan addiction course based on a 12 step process, a 4 week money course for those struggling with their financial situation and production of a “so help me God” dvd.

China ( Steven Curtis Chapman)

Marias big house of hope has received a £2000 contribution to continue with the daily care of special needs orphans in china. The money has done so much to provide for these children in the area of housing and food which in turn has further made it possible for doors to open in desperately needed areas such as medical care and surgeries. To date this money has supported the lives of 200 special needs orphans and in the last six months several have benefitted from a physical and occupational therapy programme. A medical team visited the home in March to perform the first round of cleft lip/palate surgeries for children awaiting these procedures. This is a picture of Clarissa when she was admitted to the centre and three months later after receiving physical and occupational therapy.

Manilla, Phillipines: Tondo Rubbish Dump ( Martin & Anna Smith)

An investment of £2000 has been made into community healthcare training. Healthcare teaching and training was carried out in January over four sites, more than the original two envisaged – the Tondo dump clinic, Tondo dump school, Navotas cemetery and Baguio dump. The main focus of training was on simple infection control.

South Africa (Graham Kendrick)

Funds amounting to £2000 are helping children who find themselves caught up in the crime and gun culture on the streets of South Africa. A music teaching facility is being developed to shift the attention of these youngsters to give them the opportunity to learn a musical instrument leading to exams and certification. The school teaches music theory and practical and includes performing, arranging and recording of musical pieces. Life skills’ training is also built into the programme. The London College of Music and Yamaha are also helping to develop this facility.

Kenya (Israel Houghton)

The children’s Mosop orphanage based in Sotik, Kenya, has used their £2000 contribution from CompassionArt to restore and repair ceilings in their school classrooms. Fortunately this work has been completed just before the rainy season starts.

Other projects being supported

£6000 supporting two buses regularly visiting a rubbish dump in Cambodia providing education food, showers and a place of shelter for children working in the area hoping to find food or earn a dollar a day.

£2000 is being held to start an animal husbandry programme starting later this year in south east Asia, primarily in India. The programme will help kids with HIV learn how to harvest milk, raise and breed animals and participate in their daily care. Buffalos, chickens and goats will provide food and milk to local communities.

£6000 is helping to spread a global awareness campaign for young people called “Start Freedom.” School age kids all around the World are taught what trafficking is, how it affects their life, and what they should do to combat it.

£2000 to a Compassion church based child survival programme based in Uganda. The project is having a tangible and lasting impact on the lives of mothers and babies in need of support.

£6000 is in a reserve fund in an effort to help Watoto in their bid to raise $300,000 to build a creative centre in Kampala, Uganda. The centre will be a facility for orphaned children to learn to dance, sing, learn to play musical instruments, songwright, and learn production tools. The hope is to see future generations become worship leaders and teachers.

£2000 is supporting the on-going monthly costs of a baby centre situated in Kampala, Uganda. The rescue centre takes in abandoned babies needing urgent care and attention and looks after them until they are well and strong enough to live with a surrogate family.

£2000 is contributing to a life skills programme serving 766 HIV affected children per month in the townships of South Africa. Over the last six months Life skills educators have managed to reach a total of 4601 children needing urgent help in the areas of drug, alcohol, sexual abuse and Aids.

£2000 has been sent to a very depressed area in Hong Kong where drug abuse and crime is a serious problem. Jackie Pullinger and her team are helping to provide food and education for children in need and are awaiting government authority to build a meeting shelter situated next to a big car park where a lot of the affected kids hang out, committing crimes and taking drugs.

A £2000 contribution is being held to build a safe house in Texas later this year. There are 300,000 victims of child sexual exploitation in the United States, but only five specialised aftercare homes exist to meet their needs. Trafficking in the U.S. is growing much faster than our collective response to it.


Are we really relevant?

I first came across this video last year on a friend's blog.

"What if Starbucks Marketed like the Church?"

Though I laugh when I watch it, I also feel twinges of sadness. I believe that the church has tried to be relevant in ways that have actually made us look foolish.

I heard someone say recently that as soon as the church tries to become relevant, they actually become irrelevant.

Some try to market and package the church to bring out the youth. They want to appear cutting edge so that young people will flock to the youth groups where they can play lots of games and maybe hear a few words about Jesus. I remember sitting in a "fun filled" youth group that was a mile wide and an inch deep! People flocked to the game nights and activities and the Bible nights looked like a prayer service...only a faithful few in attendance.

All this talk on relevance is really a re-packaged church growth seminar.

Is this what Jesus called us to?

Jesus spoke truth, showed love and listened to the Heavenly Father. He prayed lots, healed many and ate with sinners.

Jesus didn't try to be relevant. He wasn't just focused on the here and now but on all of eternity.

I am not saying we shouldn't focus on reaching each generation in a way they can relate to.
However, I do feel that if we focus on the Father and listen to His voice, we will reach this generation far more easily than we would if we tried to make ourselves "market savvy".

Young people can sniff out phoniness faster than an adult can get their DVD players to work.

I believe the best way to reach EACH generation is found in Ephesians 5:1-2, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

Just be real. It truly is the best way to be relevant!


Comfort Zones and the Bible!

I was reading the story of Ananias in Acts 9:10-19 and it reminded me of something I really don't see in scripture. Maybe I am wrong, however, I can't find comfort zones in the Bible.

Ananias knew of Saul's reputation. In fact, when the Lord told him to go speak with Saul, Ananias tried to point out to Him that Saul had done a lot of harm to the saints and had power to bind those who called on His name! Talk about stepping OUT of your comfort zone. Go talk to a man about me who can arrest you for talking to him about me!

Needless to say, God called, Ananias went and the Lord moved mightily.

Throughout the Bible, every book I read, God seems to specifically move people OUT of their comfort zones.

Think about Abraham, Peter, all of the prophets, John and of course Jonah. All of them were moved out of their comfort zones. It was there they became most effective.

I think being in our comfort zone dulls our senses. This can apply to our jobs as well. We need challenges. When we aren't challenged we become lax and many great opportunities can slip by!

God doesn't want us "comfortable", He wants us obedient. He might keep us in the same town for our entire life, but this doesn't mean He wants us to stay in our comfort zone. He might want us to talk to people we would never have thought to talk to before. He might want us to start something for Him that we would never have chosen for ourselves!

He could ask us to move (jobs, towns, etc) and really I think that scares people. God might ask us to do something we don't feel comfortable doing. This fear however, shows a complete lack of trust in God. He is not out to "make our lives miserable." He is wanting us to be obedient.

His call can make us uncomfortable, it might involve risks, it may even involve pain...but He has a plan we don't always see.

Remember, His ways are higher than our ways. (Isaiah 55:9)

Is God calling you to do something that makes you uncomfortable?

Would you rather be obedient or comfortable?


Admission vs. Confession

While reading Anne Jackson's latest book, Permission to Speak Freely, she mentioned that there was a difference between admission and confession.

That got me thinking....so, I looked up admission and confession in a dictionary. This is what I found:

Admission: acknowledgment that a fact or statement is true

Confession: a written or oral acknowledgment of guilt by a party accused of an offense

There is a huge difference here. Especially when it comes to dealing with sin, hurt, fear, etc.

I can admit something is true and never deal with it. I can admit I struggled with porn in my past. Yet if all I ever did was admit it, well I am no better off and neither is my relationship with my wife or with God. No, I have to confess that I struggled with porn. Confession means I am guilty. It also means that I need to deal with my actions. I do that through repentance.

I can admit I struggle with fear. I can also confess my struggle. When I confess it I am saying that I am guilty of disobeying God's Word which tells us to Fear Not! I can then repent of my fear and allow my confession to draw me closer to God.

I can admit that I was hurt by someone in the past and move on. Confession means I have to deal with the hurt. I might have to forgive that person. I might have to repent of gossip. I might even need to seek reconciliation.

Admission requires nothing. We live in a world where people admit all kinds of things. Usually their admission is acknowledged and people are praised for their honesty...but nothing really happens.

Confession requires action. It requires us to admit wrong, or wrong done towards us. It might require repentance or forgiveness, restoration or reconciliation.

My prayer is that we, as God's children, practice confession. I would love to see us model James 5:16, That we confess our sins one to another and pray for one another. It won't be easy. It means through relationship we build trust with someone. Imagine though, imagine what would happen if we confess to one another and turn our hearts towards God! If we repent, restore and relate, not only will our hearts be transformed...but so will the world around us.

Boggles the mind.


Messy Faith - Just A Thought #45

When I became a Christian a week before turning 14, the church I went to made faith sound very easy. It was all about what you do:

1. Read your Bible everyday.
2. Pray every day
3. Go to church.

3 was easy, 2 happened because of guilt and 1 didn't last long. No one told me where to read and once I got into Leviticus and Numbers I was done....I put my Bible down for a long time...which increased my involvement with number 2. Then we lost everything we owned over a few years, my Mom was healed of MS and the church we attended wasn't impressed with their prayers being answered and didn't want my Mom to talk about it.

My faith was low but my desire for relationship with God was high. Of course some of that was guilt and fear. It's amazing the lessons you take away from church services. My teenage view of God was that He was quick to condemn, ready to punish and, in a moment of kindness, sent His Son to die for us.

Faith is about relationship and I knew mine was lacking.

Thankfully I decided to pick up the Bible again and read it for myself. I found out that "faith was the SUBSTANCE of things HOPED for and the EVIDENCE of things NOT SEEN!" (Hebrews 11:1) I also found out that faith wasn't like what I heard in church. If you think faith is clean and easy you shouldn't read the Bible.

When I read the Bible, faith is messy. Peter denied the Lord, Thomas doubted him. David hid in caves. Paul fell out with a few fellow missionaries. When I see the men of faith in the Bible I see weakness, fear and vulnerability.

Kind of like real life.

Yet, His strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9) I find that to be encouraging. I feel weak many days.

At times my faith is like the man found in Mark 9:24, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief." Try confessing that one in church!

Faith is messy. Let's not be afraid to get dirty!