5 things satan doesn’t want you to know about friendship

Proverbs 18:24  – “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The ancient Hebrew wisdom of Proverbs 18:24 could be translated a couple different ways but the main point comes down to this: quality over quantity. It’s more important to have a one or two good, true, friends than many “companions” who don’t stick around. The problem is that sometimes the familiarity of having a lot of “friends” (social media, weekly church services, etc) blinds us from the need for quality friends we can depend on. In other words, we can spend years frequently going to church and experiencing pleasant, surface-level, “community,” with dozens of acquaintances and actually end up feeling alone in a crowd if we haven’t developed true, deep, quality, friendships in that community. Those supposed friendships could be like a comforting background noise that turns to deafening silence when you really need someone closer than family. The bottom line is this – community isn’t enough if in that community we don’t develop actual, true, deep friendship! 

While studying this Proverb I found 5 things I wish I knew sooner about friendship:


1. God has a much higher view of friendship than we do.

While studying through Proverbs it’s helpful to think of the wisdom in the book of proverbs like a set of blueprints; they are the schematics by which the world, including you and I, were created. Friendship is one of the recurring subjects that Proverbs touches on again and again as a fundamental area of the infrastructure of our life and faith. Some have even called the whole book of proverbs an exposition on friendship! As I studied the subject of friendship in the Proverbs and in our culture it became more and more clear that this essential part of our life is essentially extinct.

Loneliness is a huge problem in our world and especially in our North American culture. 3 out of 5 people today reportedly suffer from loneliness. Human society has never been more lonely. In contrast, we have never been more connected with the world through technology than we are today. We can call or FaceTime family and friends around the world, add more facebook friends every day, and attend as many zoom conferences and meetings as we want, but we still have a growing sense of being unknown, unloved, and alone.

In her recent book, Find Your People, author Jennie Allen describes how history has shown that we have sunk further into depression the more we climb higher in independence. The happiest places on earth are the places where communal living is still the norm. As villages have gained access to modern technology their depression has spike proportionately. As our society develops in industry and technology we have less and less need for each other.

C.S. Lewis was right when he observed that friendship has become “something quite marginal; not a main course in life’s banquet.” We see it as nothing more than the icing on the cake; a nice, optional add-on, but not really a high priority or necessity.  

No matter how much we intentionally distance ourselves from people or even unintentionally shelter ourselves from others our bodies and souls are not convinced and they are good at keeping the score. As we neglect friendship in our lives the statistics are showing how important this factors in on our life and health! Loneliness is more of a health risk than obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and lack of access to health care. Loneliness is as damaging to our bodies as cigarette or alcohol damage. Lonely people are even 50% more likely to die prematurely than people who aren’t lonely.”

So, seeing what a high view God has on friendship and what a low view we have on friendship, I had to ask the Bible; how did we get here, why do we do this to ourselves, and how can we change?


2. Sin has deprived us of the friendships God intended for us.

I would agree that fundamentally friendship is challenging because, while people are arguably the greatest source of pleasure and joy in life, people are also the source of most pain and conflict we experience in life! We were made for each other, but we are completely dysfunctional with each other. To the extent we were made to love and build each other up, we end up hurting and tearing each other down. In fact, the closer you are to people the more we risk deeper betrayal and hurt. So, the more we let each other down the more we learn to “put another brick in our wall.” 

The problem behind all of this is sin of course. The nature of sin has deprived us of good friendship on a personal and cultural level. This great design of God’s wisdom for our relationships has been deprived by rebellion and evil leading us to a total and drastic downgrade across the board. Essentially, we experience relational conflict not just between husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, and friends, but with God Himself.

God is a personal, loving, Creator, sustainer, and provider. He knows us, loves us, and saves us. By nature we are made, programmed, and hard-wired to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Instead, we reject our Creator and savior all the time by taking self-honor and giving him dishonor. We take advantage of his goodness, we take credit when things go our way, and we blame Him when things don’t go well. From the first rebellion in Adam to you and I today, we have all inherited this selfish, independent, defensive posture.

Sin affects my friendships more than I thought. I often fail to be a good friend; lacking the necessary love, commitment, and honesty it takes to create and sustain deep friendships. All those elements have been tarnished by sin. Instead of selfless love I see friends only as useful to my convenience or advantage. Instead of opening my life to my friends in a consistent commitment I give only spare time to friendships and usually only when my life or my house is in order. Instead of giving my friendships honesty and vulnerability I keep people at arm’s length with my guard up.

I’m probably not the only one who struggles with this. This distance is something we’ve gotten used to living in to the point that friendship can seem, not just hard, but weird! Friendship has a deep history of showing love, commitment, and vulnerability. 1 Sam.18 says, “Jonathan loved him [David] as his own soul.” David said of Jonathan, “your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26 ESV). John 13:23 says, “Lying back on Jesus’ chest was one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved (NASB).”

Describing friendship or showing love like this seems strange today. Karl Deenick, reviewing the book, Made For Friendship by Drew Hunter, points this out saying, “there is a biblical, creational, not to mention trinitarian reason for such expressions of deep affection and friendship. If we find that weird, it’s not because it is weird. It’s because we’re weird. Our society has conditioned us to find biblical friendship peculiar.” To Quote C. S. Lewis again, “On a broad historical view it is, of course, not the demonstrative gestures of friendship among our ancestors but the absence of such gestures in our own society that calls for some special explanation.” Deenick concludes, and I agree, “From the vantage point, not only of history but, even more so, from the Bible’s portrayal of friendship, our modern experience of friendship looks incredibly thin.

I would even add that it is not just society conditioning us to find friendship strange, but Satan who wants nothing more than death, destruction, and loneliness on the rise in the world and in the church. With friendship being the spiritual discipline and means of grace that it truly is, who else would be the biggest fan and proponent of loneliness but the one who must hate friendship so much? As it stands, instead of people being seen, known, and loved, we are lost, alone, and abandoned. 

It’s heartbreaking to imagine 3 out of 5 neighbors thinking they don’t have anyone to talk to, to turn to, no one who will listen, no one who will understand, no one who will care, no one who can help. It breaks my heart to imagine that we too in the church have lost such a means of grace that our concept and practice of friendship has eroded to such a point as this.


3. The Gospel makes us friends with god

Sin can explain how we got here and why we keep doing this to ourselves, but the Gospel explains how we can and must change our practice of friendship. The same design God gave to Adam in perfection is the same design by which you and I are still made today despite the depravity of sin. When God created Adam in the garden He said It was not good for man to be alone. And it is still not good to be lonely. Normally everything we experience that is “not good” is a result of sin, but in this case, “Adam was not lonely because he was imperfect, but because he was perfect. The ache for friendship is the one ache that is not the result of sin … This is one ache that is part of his perfection.” – Tim Keller. Our capacity to know and love each other through relationships of all kinds from friendships to marriage was not lost in the Fall! Even more, God is still the same today, yesterday, and forever. So there is hope for us to live today the way God has intended for us to enjoy and experience friendship with Himself and one another by His grace and power. We should listen to the ache for friendship like a check-engine light signaling our need for help.

This relational design is not just something we inherited from Adam. We actually share this attribute with God in His Holy relational DNA as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; all glorifying each other in collaboration of creation and salvation as one God in three Persons. We get to know and enjoy and reflect God better by sharing in his relational nature. Just like children share genetic traits and personal mannerisms with their parents our relational attribute reflects something of the DNA we share with God our Father and His personal mannerisms as a loving and communal God. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1)

This concept is magnified in Jesus when he prays that we might be one as he is one with God (John 17:11, 21) and that you and I being reconciled together with him might experience something like the relational love of the Trinity (John 17:26). Jesus took this relational attribute and lived it out through ultimate love and friendship. Psalm 25:14 tells us, “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.” Jesus later fulfills this in saying, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends… No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15)

In Christ we see the friend of sinners like you and I who lays down his life for us. Calling God our friend would seem borderline blasphemous if it were not actually true. But because of Jesus’ own perfect life of obedience to God and his substitutionary death on the cross for our sin, rebellion, and staunch independence, this is now true for you and I. When we were stuck in the hostility and rebellion of sin Jesus came to show us true love, sacrifice, and promise. Now, by the Gospel of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, we will never be alone. 


4. Friendship is redeemed by the Gospel.

Through our white hot and rock solid friendship with the Lord, now, our friendship can flow openly and generously and passionately out to others. 

Just as statistics have helped reveal the reality and danger of loneliness, research has also helped identify some of the relational elements that make friendships work. Together with Scripture we also have common grace experience and observation that can help develop our understanding of friendship. Shasta Nelson, friendship enthusiast and author of Frientimacy: the three requirements of all healthy friendships, says that “frientimacy” requires three basic elements of positivity, consistency, and vulnerability

Through the lens of the Gospel I think we could redeem or redefine some of the meaning behind those terms but I think there is truth in it. It so happens that these are the three elements I found lacking in my own poverty of friendship and I believe the Gospel provides these elements in ways you and I never could find on our own. In fact, no other community of people on earth can offer these crucial elements like brothers and sisters in Christ can offer in the church.

Now, instead of simple positivity we can actually contribute deep love toward one another. Loving one another includes rebuking and exhorting and reminding and encouraging and building each other up. We can not just bear each other down with sin but we can bear one another’s burdens from sin. This is crucial in our Christ-centered friendships. 

Instead of simple consistency we can offer true commitment. We are committed to each other as brothers and sisters adopted by God and we are called to do life together, not just on Sundays, but involved in real life together throughout our week. 

The term I agree on the most with Shasta is her point on vulnerability. While it is hard to be vulnerable, truthful, transparent, honest, and trustworthy, the Gospel makes this possible like nothing else in the world can. We can open our lives and hearts to one another because of what Christ has done for our sin and righteousness by his death and resurrection! “The security of Jesus’ love enables you to need less, and to love more.” – Keller

These principles are true for all of us. Many people (3 out of 5) are missing this essential component of friendship in their lives. By bringing friendship into the picture they can in fact live a more complete and healthy life. But, only the Gospel can bring this missing piece into the puzzle and then bring it to life. Many people can live a complete and healthy life and still be dead in sin. Christ came to give us life, and life abundantly, and that would be characterized by an increasing and abounding love for one another. Friendship will say a lot about who you are and what the church is to the world. The world will know we are disciples of Christ by our love for one another. Surely this means more than Sunday gatherings and small group meetings. It must include Gospel friendship.

“A church where there isn’t a rich culture of friendship is a church that hasn’t received the gospel in its entirety. …part of the work of the Gospel is to make our hearts like the heart of Jesus toward one another and to the wider world.” – Sam Allberry 


5. we need more Gospel friendship in our churches:

Sundays: We gather with the church as friends. Our commitment to each other is a priority. We come ready to serve and encourage one another as friends. Imagine if we rethink kids ministry through the lens of friendship. Rather than seeing kids ministry as losing time from the worship service we can see this as gaining time with friends. Try making a commitment with friends at church to serve together once every 5 weeks. Most of all, see yourself as a friend to the children in your church. Your influence has an eternal impact on their lives! If the world is actively discipling our kids through the education system and media then the church should be even more proactive in discipling kids as friends they can trust! Apply this to any ministry at church like greeting at the door, setting up equipment, worship, etc.

Weekly: City Group is another context to commit to each other as friends, go above and beyond and out of your way to love your friends, invite them, come to them, serve them, and be served by them in normal ways outside of a weekly meeting. Eat dinner together. Vacation together. Have fun together. Change Group – This is the best context to be vulnerable, consistent, and encouraging. Find a group of 2-3 friends (men or women), set a place and time to meet every week, every other week, or as often as you can. Show up for each other and share, read, memorize, pray, encourage, and send each other out. Check in on each other. Ask each other the important and hard questions. 

Your neighborhood: “Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Prov. 27:10). Not only do we offer the Gospel of salvation to our neighbors but we also offer the community, friendship, and love in which we live out and demonstrate the Gospel. If your life is your greatest apologetic then your life in friendship is going to be one of the most effective tools for sharing the Gospel. Showing friendliness to a friendless world is exactly the kind of countercultural love the world needs at this very moment!


P.S. If you’ve read this far I know who my true friends are. Now like, share, and comment to see who your true friends really are 😉 haha JK, JK!

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I Have a Brother in Heaven

IMG_6525_1024In many ways this world tried to take my brother Josh’s life long before he died. Eventually the toxic poisons of this hostile world took his life. Fortunately, someone else claimed Josh’s life before the foundation of the world; his Creator and Saviour, Jesus. 

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. – Zechariah 3:1–5

The angel of the LORD, a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus, chose this Joshua from out of the clutches of the enemy whose primary role is to accuse as well as to kill and destroy. Because our Redeemer lives and intercedes for us, no accusation will stand against us. As with Joshua the high priest, so with Joshua my brother, he is one plucked from the fire.

This world is a hard place to live. God did not make it that way. We chose this.

This world can be a very difficult place to live. We are reminded of this now more than ever with the Coronavirus pandemic. But the pandemic of sin has been reigning long before this novel virus. God created a master blueprint of a world made with absolute beauty and perfection. The rivers that Josh loved – God made those. And if God thought the intricacies of nature and geography were important in his perfect created world, I feel like the new Heavens and new Earth will be 100x better. God created man to steward, multiply, and expand this creation but, deceived by the enemy, we instead chose a world where we try to be God, and we live in those results daily. 

Thistles and thorns grew up from the ground and man worked to survive by the sweat of his brow. In carpentry it was Josh’s work to make things right, true, and level. But the cuts, jams, splinters, cold nails, broken pieces, skewed cuts, dull blades, and busted tools all reflect a futile strife against thistles and thorns. Jesus himself was the son of a carpenter and experienced the cold nails and splintered wood of the cross in this broken world.

God came down.

Fortunately, this strife doesn’t and won’t last forever. God actually instituted lifespans on mortal life because, 1. the penalty of sin is death, but 2. Because he mercifully will not allow the righteous to endure separation from him forever, nor sin/sinners to contend with him forever.

Isaiah 57:15 says, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” 

Healing paralytics, hanging with sinners

But if God took on flesh then what would this actually look like in person? Miraculously, this God whom no one has seen has been revealed in Jesus, the image of the invisible God (John 1:18, Colossians 1:15). Two examples of this Jesus stand out from what I read in Mark chapter 2 on the morning before I heard the news of Josh’s death. 

Mark 2:4–5 – And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 

This shows me a Jesus who forgives sins not based on merit, righteous effort, or impressive show but on sheer faith and honest desperation. 

Mark 2:16–17 – And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

This shows me a Jesus who didn’t come for the self-righteous or religious rule-keepers but for sinners in need of grace.

Do you believe this?

John 11:25–26 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Such a claim, such a promise as we see from Jesus words in John 11 are hefty words that demand belief. Do you believe? If so, 

We have a brother in Heaven. 

I conclude with these words from the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, on what a brother we have in Heaven.

“Oh, what relationship there is between Christ and the believer! The believer can say, “I have a Brother in heaven; I may be poor, but I have a Brother who is rich, and is a King, and will He suffer me to want while He is on His throne? Oh, no! He loves me; He is my Brother.” Believer, wear this blessed thought, like a necklace of diamonds, around the neck of thy memory; put it, as a golden ring, on the finger of recollection, and use it as the King’s own seal, stamping the petitions of thy faith with confidence of success. He is a brother born for adversity, treat Him as such.”

Who is My Neighbour?

A guide to relational evangelism…

First, it’s worth prefacing this with a reminder that the role of Gospel presence (or relational evangelism) among neighbours is a blessed privilege and responsibility for all Jesus-followers, not just a few “ministry professionals” or “paid missionaries.”

  • Matthew 5:16 (“let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”)
  • Matthew 28:18-20 (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”)
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10 (“…that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”)
  • Ephesians 2:10 (“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”)

Second, once we understand this calling to steward the Good News, we might still need help thinking through, “who is my neighbour?” Below I’ve put into writing some ways I’ve found it helpful to think through 3 different kinds of neighbours in part 1. and 3 different levels of evangelistic relationships with these neighbours in part 2.

Part 1. Where are your neighbours at geographically?

  1. Next door neighbours – Where you live
  2. Natural neighbours – Where you naturally spend your time
    1. (Intentionally adopt a “usual spot” vs random time everywhere).
  3. General neighbours – Intentional community involvement beyond your “usual spots.”

City Group Circles of Influence (1)City Group Circles of Influence (2)

Figure 2. Shows what these circles of influence look like in a geographical area. Figure 3. Shows how a community on mission can reach a large area of neighbours just by living life on mission together. Below, I’ve given some space to think through and name at least 3 neighbours in each relational/geographic context. 

  • Next door neighbours: Home
    • _____________
    • _____________
    • _____________
  • Natural neighbours:     _____________ (local restaurant/gym/park/coworkers)
    • _____________
    • _____________
    • _____________
  • Intentional community:  _____________ (city councilman/community volunteer/friend across town)
    • _____________
    • _____________
    • _____________

Part 2. Where are your neighbours at relationally?

We want to make disciples, but our neighbour down the road is a complete stranger; how could we possibly disciple someone we don’t even know? Here are several layers of relational growth between being “strangers” in our community and making disciples, and the steps to move deeper at any level.

  1. Strangers – (a face in the crowd)
    • Step 1: become a familiar face somewhere
    • Step 2: get on first-name basis with someone
  2. Acquaintances – (first-name basis)
    • Step 1: Invite familiar neighbours into your life
    • Step 2: Start inviting others to meet and know your neighbours. This builds more relational context/influence.
  3. Friends – (knowing your neighbours beyond the surface level or public context)
    • Step 1: share your life, story, and life rhythms where Jesus is central.
  4. Disciples – (an ongoing relationship with spiritual direction)
    • Step 1: continue investing time with Gospel intention

Below, taking the names you listed above, think through, “who of these do I know as acquaintances (“I only know their first name”), friends (“I’ve met them and/or their family in another context.”), and disciples (“I’ve been able to share my faith and continue demonstrating and declaring my gospel hope with them.”)?City Group Circles of Influence (3)

  • Strangers (“familiar faces”)
  • Acquaintances (first-name familiarity)
    • _____________
    • _____________
    • _____________
  • Friends (deeper relationship)
    • _____________
    • _____________
    • _____________
  • Disciples (spiritual investment)
    • _____________
    • _____________
    • _____________

A challenge to us:

If we follow Jesus then we are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to make disciples of Him. However, many of us have a hard time finding those opportunities. Instead we fall short when… 

  1. We remain strangers. We go in and out of the community but don’t invest time meaningfully. Instead we spend time randomly in a wide range of areas.
  2. We don’t establish friendship. We may have many friendly acquaintances who recognize us or know our name at our usual spots but they have never been invited to our home, a missional-community event, or a deeper personal friendship.
  3. We don’t disciple. We may succeed at being social and getting people into our homes but stop at friendship. Instead of investing spiritual hope into the friendship we “guard” many friendships with superficial comfort.

What if we could take just one step this month (or each month) to go from being a stranger to getting to know someone’s name? …To go from first-name only basis to getting to know more about their life or family? …To go from being a friend to being someone who takes genuine interest in sharing your greatest hope in life and death; the good news of salvation through Christ for all? I believe and have seen that “drilling deep and reaching wide” (to borrow a phrase) is key to effective, relational, evangelism

Finally, cover these names in prayer (lift them up to God, intercede for them, ask God to turn his attention to them, etc.), and ask God to direct every moment, minute, and hour, of your time and by God’s grace He will bring divine appointments and genuine friendships you never could have otherwise created or thought to ask for.

God’s Faithful Affliction

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God has a faithful, painful, plan to make you into something you are not yet; into who He has created you to fully be, into a reflection of His perfect Son. Like an artist looks at his raw material, in God’s mind he envisions a finished product even if right now you’re not yet there. The areas of your life that will need a bit of pruning to get there He carves away to make you just a bit more like Him. That’s sanctification. His testimony will become your testimony. In the end He will not stop short of presenting you pure and blameless in His glory.

Lately my artistic expression has been carving linoleum blocks; also called block-printing or lino-cutting. When I have an idea for a block-print I start with a “canvas” of clean, malleable, linoleum. I draw out the image I have in mind and begin to carve away at the negative space in my picture. I have a different set of blades for each desired cut. The broad, wide, scoop for large spaces. The narrow, fine, blade for detailed lines. In the end, my block displays for the page what my mind displayed for the block. While cutting away at the material I inflict pain to the linoleum (so to speak). But this cutting away isn’t destructive; it’s actually creative, even constructive, because my desired outcome will be more beautiful. My product will bear the signature of my design as our life and testimony are shaped to reflect that of God.

Psalm 119 says,

“Your testimonies are my delight;
they are my counselors.” -v.24

And,

“I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
and shall not be put to shame,” -v.46

And,

“Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.” -v.79

See how the writer is shaped (counseled) by God’s testimonies and then echoes God’s testimonies as they become the very message of his life. God’s testimonies are greater than our experiences, more real than our revelations, and more true than our perceptions. They shape us and counsel us as we delight in the Creator’s plan. The writer says he delights but also realizes the costly process as God seems to carve away at our very flesh with the blades of affliction.

Psalm 119 also says,

“This is my comfort in my affliction,
that your promise gives me life.” -v.50

And,

“I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” -v.75

And,

“It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” -vv.71–72

God comforts in affliction. God is faithful in affliction. God is good in affliction. His blade is carefully guided by faithful hands and the outcome is more valuable than gold and silver. What is God cutting out, cutting away, carving, or refining in your life right now? The pain is real today but one day I’m convinced we’ll look at the cutting room floor and glory in the final product of His faithful design.

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PS. This is my latest block-print illustrating a poem written beautifully by my friend and colleague Ryan Bussiere. Check out his poem here: A Lantern’s Wish

Getting over a stomach flu is like Heaven

Three weeks into our arrival to Montreal our family was hit with a vicious stomach flu. Unfortunately, it even lasted through Christmas. Thankfully, God is good even when we’re sick and gives us opportunities like this to appreciate Him and desire for restoration even more!
Getting over a stomach flu is like Heaven. The flu virus totally depraves your body of health, strength, joy and peaceful rest. Body aches make every muscle sore; feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck. Fevers spike your body temperature from sweating hot to shivering cold. Nausea expels your sustenance and dehydrates your whole body.
Waking up to Heaven must be like that first beam of warm light you feel when you wake up from laying in bed all day in pain, then laying in bed all night in exhaustion…then the morning comes. The first sip of cool water or Gatorade that soothes your cracked lips and quenches your deep thirst is life giving! The first food you can keep down is revitalizing. You take a shower and you start to feel like yourself again.
One day we will feel like ourselves again… the selves we haven’t known yet. The original man and woman of God’s creation were the most-fully-human-beings; unhindered by flaw and not limited by sin and malfunction. They were made in God’s image. They were “very good” when everything else around them was just “good” (which I would bet we would call “perfect”).What was meant to last forever in perfect order fell out of order for a time (the time we are in now) and has continued to degrade and decay until a time when everything will be restored by our Creator and Sustainer.
Based on the original glory we fell out of (in the first book of the Bible, Genesis) and the future glory we will enter into (in the last book of the Bible, Revelation) we can see how entering Heaven will be like waking up from horrible sickness. Being there, it would be like we didn’t even know how sick we were on earth until we feel how healthy and whole we are in Heaven. The decrepit disease of sin is so pervasive we’ve just gotten used to it and medicate it ourselves. Medicating our hunger for wholeness ourselves with the buffet of the world’s cheap thrills is like the children in the slums of La Saline, Haiti, who fill their starving bellies with mud pies mixed with butter and baked in the sun. It only fills them temporarily and prolongs the inevitable disease and death. Our Creator who designed us to be fully human, not the fragmented, shadow-veiled, humans we are today, holds out His hand with the true life-bread so that we can wake up to new glory one day!
About this bread, Jesus had a conversation with some Jewish leaders in his day:

Jews: “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

Jesus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jews: “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

-From John 6:31-35

There’s bread… and then there’s true bread. Sure they both give life, but only one gives true life. So who is this bread for? Who did Jesus come to and who will respond? Check it out:
Here’s another run-in with the Jewish leaders (Pharisees):

The Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at [Jesus’] disciples, saying; “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

-From Luke 5:30-32

Waking up from sickness is so good. Our whole family is now recovering from a severe round of the stomach flu. How awesome will it be for all who realize they are sick to go to the true, divine physician and take the true bread of life (which is himself) and one day wake up from all of this!

The struggle is real, part 1

2 chronicles 20:2-3

“Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘a great multitude is coming against you…’” 

“Then Jehoshaphat was afraid…”

Do you ever try to not be afraid because you think it’s wrong? Like, our faith should instinctively and instantly dismiss our fears because, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”…? Sometimes, however, there are real, legitimate, plausible, imminent threats that do cause fear, and it is not wrong. This is when the struggle is REAL. How do we handle trials and challenges which crush us to the end of our rope, when circumstances are beyond our means or control? We learn so much on this from King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:1-23

The chapter starts out with some military intelligence reporting to the king that three nations were teaming up and on their way to attack, kill, and destroy the nation of Judah, their cities, and families. Jehoshaphat (I’ll call him Jo) was matter-of-factly right to be afraid in this REAL moment. However, it’s what Jo does with his fear that is our key to real victory amidst real struggle. 2 Chron. 20:3 says, “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid AND set his face to seek the Lord,” What do you do when you’re afraid? Is it more like, “Jo was afraid and consulted his master plan?” “Jo was afraid and threw his arms up in defeat?” “Jo was afraid and worked really hard to fix the situation?” No! The first thing Jo turned to was God, the God who had always been there for him and who never gave him a reason not to be trusted. Jo (along with the whole nation) specifically turned to God with prayer and fasting. 

Jo prayed. Jo’s prayer is packed with truths about God’s character that I think we can apply even to the struggles we face today. Jo’s prayer begins by praising God’s sovereignty at every level of need:

  1. “Oh Lord…are you not God in heaven?”
  2. “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.”
  3. “In your hand are power and might,”

What are you struggling with? What is the imminent threat? God is sovereign over every trial, threat, or disease:

  1. Oh Lord, are you not God in heaven?
  2. You rule over all the doctors and hospitals
  3. Even the cells of my body are not outside of your control

Try it yourself by filling in the blanks with your own need; surrendering your burden to God knowing that He is in control at every level.

  1. Oh Lord, are you not God in heaven?
  2. You rule over [A, B and C].
  3. Even [X, Y and Z] are in your hands.

The second part of Jo’s prayer in 20:7-12 gives great hope in the midst of the clouds of fear when you can’t see where you are, where you’re going, or what’s going to happen. First, Jo looks back, “God, you brought us here, you’ve provided our safety before, you’ve never given us a reason to doubt you.” Second, Jo looks forward as he leans on God’s promises. “You told us that if we ever came across war, famine, etc, and we called out to you, you would hear us and save us. Well, now these people are coming for us and we are calling out to you.” Finally, Jo concludes, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” This is the mantra of one who reaches the end of himself and finds his only hope in God! Make that your mantra! 

God answers. The Holy Spirit took a hold of Jahaziel in 20:14 and declared to everyone, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them.” God declares his victory right here and it is AS GOOD AS DONE. But, even as God declares the victory He doesn’t just call the people to sit and wait passively. Instead, He still calls them to go out actively against the threat.

They go. They go worshipping and believing. After God answers, Jo leads the people to respond to their salvation (v. 17, “see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf”). Jo and his people bowed their faces to the ground and worshipped and the next day appointed a choir to go ahead of the troops singing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 

God rescues. “…when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men who had come up against Judah…” 
What’s your go-to song when you don’t even have the words to cry out to God?

Whatever threat you are up against, consider these questions.

  • In your fear, have you turned to the Lord? Or are you still trying to muster your own strength and devise your own strategy?
  • In turning to God, have you been in prayer and fasting?
  • In your prayer, can you look back and see God’s provision in the past; thanking Him?
  • Can you look forward and see God’s promises; trusting Him?
  • In hearing from God, do you sit passively or do you believe he goes with you against the threat? (V. 17, “Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”)
  • As you go with God, are you sulking and wringing your hands or are you worshipping and praising?
  • In your praise, have you started singing yet? It’s when they began to sing that the Lord began to work…

Finally, king Jo proclaims a truth for us all as we march on, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”

There are many challenges and trials we face today but our greatest personal threat is probably not war. The Lord to whom Jo prescribes his people to believe in -the “salvation on your behalf” – would come again one day as God-incarnate, a king named Jesus, from Judah, to destroy our real greatest imminent threat once-and-for-all. Our biggest threat is the coming of God’s wrath toward sin and the war-like uprising residing in our own hearts and bodies. Jesus Himself says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

How to reach neighbors in need

How do we reach the unreached? Who are the unreached? Why do we reach the unreached?
There are tragic stories all around us of those who are living without hope and without the spiritual well-being we all need. A woman diagnosed with a rapidly advancing Huntington’s disease takes her own life before the disease takes it and her husband soon follows her in death. A single mother of two young autistic boys, now a new mother again, self medicates her pain with drugs and alcohol and wakes up from a blackout to find her infant dead. A 64 year old man in a rural town bursts out in domestic violence, confronts the arriving police officer with gunfire and is shot dead. These are stories that have all just recently occurred not in 3rd world countries, not in inner cities but in what is statistically the happiest state in the country, reportedly the most peaceful state in America, Maine. Though our state is known for it’s peace and beauty there is an underlying darkness that is seldom known until we unfortunately see it on the news. Surely these people have jobs, neighbors, friends, communities, but are living unreached; far off from God.
So, what are we to do? Do we dismiss these tragedies as just an unfortunate, unpreventable part of life? How do we get to know these neighbors? Specifically what is the Church supposed to do who more than anyone is commanded to love their neighbor and be the good Samaritan. Our well-put-together weekly programs and modern Sunday morning worship music isn’t what I see being prescribed in scripture as the solution to draw near those who are far off.

First, we start not with what to do…but who we are that will motivate and equip us to reach our neighbors. The apostle Paul who tried to destroy the early growing number of Jesus followers -turned one of the most influential early fathers of Christianity- says, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ…having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ…And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” -Ephesians 2:11-17. Does this not sound like some of these neighbors in need? “Separated, far off, having no hope.”

So, yes these neighbors are in need. Maybe that moment of need isn’t right now but maybe next month they’ll lose a loved one, maybe next year they’ll receive a life changing diagnosis. It is our responsibility to emulate Jesus to the world all around us and this is how these people who are unreached by a life-changing, hope-giving Gospel will see and hear his good news.

Our methodology for doing this, and part of our personal vision for ministry for the province of Quebec and the city of Montreal, is through what we call Missional communities- groups of people who are committed to the work of knowing their neighbors and coworkers in a deep and caring way to demonstrate the peace between man and God that Jesus has brought to us.

You won’t find the concept of Missional community anywhere in the Bible and I’m not saying Missional community is the next big idea that your church needs to be a part of. What I am saying is that this is a way we can all be involved and connected in what God’s word does call us to in our personal ministry of stewarding the mystery of Jesus, being an ambassador of God’s kingdom and being a witness to our neighbors of the continual work of Jesus in our lives. This work is extremely difficult but it is a life and death matter when our neighbors walk through deep darkness apart from spiritual hope. If we can make an effort to know just 5 neighbors or coworkers on a deeper level then this good news will multiply and lives will be turned from dark to light by the body of Christ, His Church.

Thank you, 2016!

img_2518Friends and family, allow me to thank you for following me and my family this year as we transition to join a growing church planting network in Montreal QC. Your prayer, support and words of encouragement have meant so much to us. I believe the greatest hope for you this year, friend, is the best love out there- God’s personal love for you through His Son, Jesus. The goal of our ministry is to bring this awesome truth to people who have never heard it. If you would consider giving towards this goal of launching and sustaining Gospel-centered churches in Montreal, QC please follow the below link to join our team. Thank you in advance, Geoff Wright

Thankfulness in Suffering

Disclaimer: I’m writing this on 0 hours of sleep in the past 24 hours and just popped a Zquil, a Zyrtec and a Prednisone to help me finally do so.

I hate suffering. I know I haven’t suffered a lot compared to many people (but I’ll get back to that). What I do know is that I have suffered enough to know that I hate it. I’ve suffered things like deep corneal abrasion, raw 2nd degree burns across my back which was literally the closest thing to excruciating (of the cross) as I’ve yet to experience, and now currently: hand, foot, and mouth disease. The name sounds more weird than bad or painful but how does itchy and painful blisters on your face, hands, in your ears and in your nose sound? Yeah, it sucks. So much that I literally couldn’t sleep last night. At. All.

I’ve only ever not slept one night once in my life and, again, I know that for some people difficulty sleeping is a misery they suffer with regularly and for others (late teens/mid-twenty-year-olds) it’s a lifestyle. For me- I can usually fall asleep on demand anywhere at any time. These sores would not let me sleep last night. I stayed up and updated my website, I tried falling asleep, I watched Better Call Saul, I tried falling asleep, I tried reading the Bible, no sleep, I tried memorizing Colossians 1:13 and rehearsing myself to sleep, still no sleep, I watched the Bible miniseries, I almost fell asleep, I finished the entire first season of Better Call Saul, I knew I wasn’t going to sleep.

The sun was already up and the walk-in clinic would open soon to properly diagnose whatever flesh eating auto-immune disease I thought I had. That’s when the doc told me about hand foot and mouth: that I have it bad, and that it was probably going to get worse. But wait…I was certain 11 hours ago that Jesus was able to get rid of this thing instantly and definitely overnight. I even prayed over a glass of water confident that this sanctified H2O would be the glass that would flush my system of this trash. I didn’t expect that I would have to suffer longer, but alas. For me this will take a few more uncomfortable days but it will go away. Back to those I mentioned who know what real torment is all about. I cry just thinking about the chronic illnesses and long term pain some of my loved ones deal with daily; things that won’t just clear up and go away with time.

Enough babbling, I actually did learn something about what the God I was praying to is capable of. Going back to my efforts to fall asleep last night God turned me to Colossians 1. At first I was trying to memorize verse 10 basically with a commanding tone: “Be more deserving of God’s love! Do more good works! Do a better job at knowing God!”

“so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:10

My head wasn’t receiving the fact that Paul’s prayer for what the Colossians’ character would be only comes as a result of who they already are in verse 13. With this verse stuck in my head through my fatigue and pain and bitterness it dawned on me not what I could expect God to be able to do for me but to give thanks to God for making me part of his inheritance (paraphrase Col. 1:12). Verse 13 tells what God is capable of: “he has delivered us from the domain of darkness (that’s crazy capable) and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son through whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

“giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:12-14

It doesn’t say, “through whom we have instant healing all the time.” My heart learned right then that even though my body feels like garbage at the moment my soul is more well than I could ever ask for or deserve and with that in mind why would an annoying rash be my preoccupation? I still know he could heal me instantly and if he is able to give us eternal life why would he not also grant us little things too. And yet for me today I relished the realization if he is able to give me eternal life how can I bother to ask for anything more?

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32

The Wrights’ Journey (back) to Montreal

Montreal has been a part of who we are since the day Jillian and I met 8 years ago. Since then our vision for God’s work in Quebec has continued to develop more and more. Our story began when our worlds (almost 500 miles apart) were brought together inseparably when we met through a summer ministry in Quebec, Canada. Several years later our family has grown (Haven is almost 2 and Elijah will be joining us this September) and our ministry is coming full circle- back to where we met on those streets of Montreal.
Jillian was born and raised outside of Philadelphia PA and I, Geoff, have been living in Maine since 2004. Even though we came from two very different places the Québécois have long held a special place in our heart for introducing people to Jesus since the summer of 2008 when we were both part of an evangelism team in Montreal. Our vision now is to transplant our family to Montreal and see the Gospel spread exponentially through evangelism on a grassroots level.
After years of training and ministering locally in Maine this vision is now being realized in our opportunity to move to Quebec and join Church 21, a multi-parish church network in southern Quebec. When we arrive next March I will begin a ministry leadership residency (Extend) with Church 21 as an associate elder. Through this program our goal is to plant churches in Quebec while using and developing my spiritual gifts for ministry.