Paris. Now What?

A few days ago there was a murderous rampage by members of the terrorist group ISIS on the streets of Paris. In light of such horrific events, and in their wake of the emotional trauma and fear, I’m left wondering what the Christian faith has to offer at times like these. Distance removes most of us from the victims, and takes us out of orbit to their pain. Few of the people reading this, if any, will have a role in directly comforting the victims, their families and loved ones. But you don’t need to be a Christian to comfort the afflicted. You just need to be a decent human being. So what does Christ-like faith have to offer the world at at time like this? Three thoughts come to mind:

  1. Trans-formative Justice. The work of the prophets is to call the nations of Israel and Judah to justice. Life in the ancient world was lived under the tremendous burdens of empire. Taxation was oppressive and political and economic systems were designed to keep the poor trapped in horrific poverty while the wealthy reaped the benefits of exploitation. There was no middle class in the ancient world; there were only the incredibly wealthy and the victims who supported their wealthy lifestyle. The Christian faith, at its core, calls for a radical reevaluation of how we live. To live with justice as per the ethos of the prophets and of Jesus Christ is to radically change the way we interact with others, bringing freedom from oppression, corruption and crushing poverty – the very conditions which radical fundamentalism needs to thrive.
  2. The Incarnation. One of the foundations  of Christian faith is the belief that Jesus is divine, and that he took on human form. Jesus being clothed in humanity is known as “The Incarnation.” The reason why our efforts in the middle east (and elsewhere) have failed so spectacularly, and continue to fail, and will continue to fail, is because we operate from the basis of empire to conquered people, and our work in the world suffers from colonialism and ethnocentrism. We operate from the perspective that if failing nation states are going be successful, they’re going to be like us,thus perpetuating the evils of our world. If we are to truly follow the way of Christ we are to become embedded in the culture of those we care about. If we are to follow the way of Christ we become a part of the social, cultural, political and economic lives of our friends. We can only effect positive change in the world, particularly in the middle east, from within the body of the ‘other’.
  3. Self-sacrificial Service. If we are to take the words of Matthew’s Gospel at face value, then we cannot help but acknowledge that Jesus “…came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Clearly, Jesus operated from a position of powerlessness, but the objective of his philosophy was to be a ransom – a rescue or redemption – for others. The Christian faith, as lived by it’s most noble practitioners, brings rescue or redemption to those enslaved, oppressed and to those denied hope. It takes a particular depth of faith to live with justice when we realize that we are the oppressor. The authentic voice of faith does not ask “How can I make you like me?” but rather, “How can I help you reach your full potential?”

I’m not naive enough to realize that we can live in a world without armies, and that our history will not continue to be blood-soaked and violent. But the Christian faith, contrary to popular belief and popular practice, is a radical, revolutionary call to live with justice and mercy, and offers the world compassion, redemption and hope. What Christian faith offers the world is the hope that this world, here and now, can be a better place and a vision for how we might get there.


Our Own, Personal Jesus

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:1-6) 

The problem the people of Nazareth had was that they knew Jesus a little too well. They knew him as the son of “the carpenter”, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. There were many at the synagogue that morning that would have grown up alongside Jesus,  studied with him, and ate meals with him. There would have been boys who would have played games with him and played jokes with him. Oh, they knew exactly who Jesus was.

Or so they thought.

I suspect we think we know Jesus, also. I suspect that most of us who call ourselves Christians have spent the better part of our lives with him. We’ve prayed to him, sung songs of worship to him, felt him at work in our lives. All of us, saints and heretics alike, are convinced that our theology is correct, and that our understanding of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the most finely nuanced, is the most finely balanced, the one apt view of freedom and truth.

What if our very familiarity with Jesus is the one thing that is keeping us from fully experiencing the Kingdom of God? With this familiarity comes expectations, and with expectations come demands that we place on Jesus. In our culture the expectation of Jesus is that he will bring me a personal peace, a personal happiness, a personal and individual healing, that he will bring me prosperity. We’re very familiar with this kind of Jesus. We like this Jesus. He meets or exceeds our expectations.

What does Jesus expect of us?

At the very beginning of this story, as told by Luke, Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah and says that he has come to , “bring good news to the poor” and to “set the oppressed free.” (Luke 4:14-30) In keeping with our personal, individual Jesus, we like to ‘spiritualize’ these things. But if Jesus is talking about community, and about what we’re to be about in the world as his followers, then he’s telling us to be good news for the poor. Actual, genuine good news, not just  “here’s how to get saved” good news. He’s telling us to bring  actual freedom to people who otherwise aren’t free at all…

This is a Jesus we don’t know. He’s not the Jesus we’re familiar with. And we probably won’t like him very much, either.


watchOne of the characteristics of our culture is the incessant need for speed. Our pace of life is so much faster now than it was ten years ago, and will likely be faster a decade from now. How many times have you seen the date and marvelled at how fast the month has gone?

Much of this ‘speeding up’ of time has to do with technology. We’re all connected now. We’re all able to get in touch with anyone in our network of friends and business contacts now. With incredible ease and reliability we can become an imposition is someone else’s life, and they can become an imposition in ours. We can take work home with us, work remotely, stay in sync with the office when we’re on the road, check our email while on vacation in another part of the world, or check our voicemail while across town. We can send each other documents, edit them and send them back, and get a bit of work done while we’re waiting at the doctor’s office. We can listen to podcasts in the car and open apps on our watch. What was once a quiet coffee at the cafe is now an opportunity to ‘check in’. Not everyone will do all of this, but even those who resisted having smart phones are now being forced of necessity to join the fray.

All of this takes a toll on our human psyche and human spirit. We need downtime. We need time to unplug. We need to have solitude, silence and stillness in our life. To care for our spiritual self is vitally important in this frenetic age, and caring for our spiritual self requires time. It takes time for prayer, for centering prayer, or lectio divina; it takes time to read the scriptures, it takes time to meditate on the scriptures or to pray through them, it takes extended periods of time to find the stillness and silence in which we can hear God speak. Perhaps the most revolutionary, countercultural thing we can do today is to intentionally live from our spirit.


I’ve heard people say, “All we can do is pray’ as if they were resigned to accept prayer as a substitute for action, of as if they were resigned to accept prayer as a second-best alternative to doing something about a particular problem. Sometimes, people use this phrase as an excuse for doing something concrete about a troubling situation. When used this way, saying, “All we can do is pray” is dismissive and actually reflects the belief that God cannot act – we must do things on our own. Far too many Christians have no idea of the power of sustained prayer to move the heart of God, and to move him to action.

Prayer is the work of the Kingdom. Prayer must always go before action, Prayer must always go before the doing. God seldom acts without someone praying, and with prayer he seems to do a great deal. But first we must pray. Sustained, fervent, heart-felt prayer is the kind that moves God. Simply reciting a list of requests may have some effect, but God seems to act in response to heartfelt pleading. Silent, meditative prayer may have a great effect on the individual praying, but does little to move God to act in a specific situation. God is moved to action when his people cry out. God is moved when his people earnestly plead before him. God is moved when his people pray with their whole heart.

Let Your Roots Grow Down Into Him…

tree with apples

Colossians 2: 6-7

 “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

The Apostle Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel in Jerusalem and starting a riot. As was the right of a Roman citizen, he appealed his case to Caesar. Now near the end of his life, Paul is writing this letter to the church in the city of Colossae (in what is now western Turkey) from his prison cell in Rome. He had never visited the Colossian church, but has learned that false teaching has entered the church. He’s writing this letter to counteract that teaching. Paul first paints a portrait of Christ and then, in a loving, fatherly tone, offers his own teaching on what it means to follow Christ.

“Let your roots grow down into Him…”

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Paul tells us to “…let our roots grow down in him”, and to let “our lives be built on him.” He’s using the image of a tree to describe our life in Christ. The picture Paul draws for us is of a tree that is deeply rooted, solid, and stable. We are rooted, or anchored, in Christ. We derive our sustenance and nourishment – our life – from Christ. Like a tree, we get our stability and the ability to stand firm in storms from our roots. And like a tree’s roots go down into the earth, so our ‘roots’ are to go down into Christ. Our ‘roots’ in Christ give us stability and security, and we draw spiritual nourishment up into our lives from him.

“…let your lives be built on him.”

An apple tree produces apples. An apple tree never has to think about what kind of tree it is, worry about whether or not it will produce apples, or work at developing the ability to grow apples. An apple tree simply grows apples. In the same way, many of us never give any thought to what our lives produce, we simply live. Are you producing good things in your life? The answer depends on what you’re rooted in. Are you rooted in the good soil of Christ’s love, or something else? Do your roots go down deep into Christ’s love, or do you live on the surface of that love, truth and beauty?

“…your faith will grow strong…”

The Apostle Paul wants his readers to focus on Jesus as the basis for their life. He wants them to live not for Christ but from Christ. This is not just a clever play on words, but is an essential truth for Christians. If we are separated from our roots, or are not deeply rooted in Christ, we run the risk of not being healthy. We run the risk of not growing good things in our lives, and we run the risk of being toppled by the storms of life.


In addition to growing strong in our faith, Paul says that if we are rooted deeply in Jesus we’ll become ‘thankful’. Gratitude appears often in the New Testament, and it’s often described as a way of life. The Apostle Paul sees it as a result of letting ‘our roots go down deep into him.’ Gratitude can’t coexist with a sense of entitlement. Gratitude can’t co-exist with the belief of ‘I deserve this.” Gratitude requires us to have humility and to relinquish our hold on selfishness. Almost – if not all – of the world’s troubles, evils, and difficulties can be traced back to selfishness.

It Takes Time

The process Paul describes takes time. It takes consistency and some effort on our part. This flies in the face of our culture, where everything is instant and immediate. But the results of not building our lives on him are evident everywhere in our world in broken families, broken systems and broken relationships. So the question remains – what is your life built on? Perhaps there’s a better question. How can you grow your roots down deep into Jesus?

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Christ Over All

Colossians 1: 15 – 20

     “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on the earth.

    He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

     Christ is also the head of the church which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.

     For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

 This is probably a hymn of the early church, which the apostle Paul recites to the church at Colossae, to whom he is writing letter (we know it as the book of Colossians)

Fact Check: The Person of Jesus 

Is Jesus the “visible image of the invisible God?” Hebrews 1:3 tells us that, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…”  As to Jesus being at one with God before the creation of the world, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In verse 14 John continues, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Fact Check: Jesus as Creator

Hebrews 1: 2 says, “God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.” Christ is the agent of God’s creation; the world was created “through” Him. The Father and the Son had two distinct functions in creation yet worked together to bring about the cosmos. John says, “God created everything through [Jesus], and nothing was created except through [Jesus].” (Hebrews 1:2) Paul reiterates: “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1st Corinthians 8:6.

Fact Check: The Resurrection

The early church believed that there was a resurrection of the dead in and through Jesus Christ, and the church has continued to believe this for almost 2000 years. In Acts 4:2, the Apostles Peter and John were arrested for preaching that “…through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead.” In Acts 26: 22-23 the Apostle Paul tells the Roman Governor Festus, “…I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead…” In Matthew 22:29-32 Jesus himself confirms that there is indeed a resurrection from the dead.

 Fact Check: Jesus Is Head Of The Church

1st Corinthians 12:27 reads, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” For almost 2000 years the church has placed Christ at its head, both individually and collectively, and acknowledged Christ as the leader of the church. Ephesians 1:22 says, “And He [God] put all things in subjection under [Christ’s] feet, and gave [Christs] as head over all things to the church…”

What Does This Mean For Me?

All of this points to the exalted position of Christ for the early church. Christ reigned supreme. The question is: Do we have the same exalted position of Christ in our lives today? Do we believe that Jesus is God, second person of the Trinity? Do we believe that everything was created by Christ and for Christ, and that he exists in every aspect of creation and every aspect of our lives? Do we live like this is true?

Today, more than ever, we have full to-do lists, full schedules and we juggle so many things at once. Some days, there isn’t enough time to do everything that’s on our list. Constantly being tuned to social media, and constantly connected to friends and family, adds another layer of stress to our already burdened minds. King Jesus becomes an add-on to our lives.

We often ask why we don’t see miracles today like we read in the book of Acts. Part of the reason may be that we don’t hold Jesus in the same high regard as the early church. For some of us, Jesus is a reason for living, not the reason for living. For some of us, Jesus is an idea, and not a living person who we recognize as our King.

Our world has one thing in common with the world of the early church: Jesus. And Jesus isn’t asking to be a part of our life. He’s claiming to be the reason we live.

What does that look like for you?

A Key to Blessing: Meditating On Scripture

037We’re advised in scripture to meditate on the bible. Psalm 1:2, contrasting foolish people with the wise says, “…they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” In Joshua’s famous charge to the Israelites he says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it…” (Joshua 1:8)

But what is meditation? How does it work, exactly?

There’s many different ways in which Christians meditate on the scriptures. One of the most common ways is through focused thought. This is when you fix your thoughts on something for a period of time in a conscious, intentional way. This type of meditation requires that we be fully present with the scripture we are engaging. This is the thought behind Philippians 4:8 where it says, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word we translate as ‘meditate’ means to mutter or to moan. The sense here is not of complaining, but or reading the scripture aloud with a heartfelt longing. When you’re faced with a particularly difficult situation in life you may have – or may need to search for – a bible verse that seems to speak to your situation. When you find it, you’ll know – God will confirm his promise in your spirit. Repeat the verse quietly throughout the day – a dozen times, a thousand times. This is the “mutter” part. While doing this, be conscious of God’s presence, and that you are speaking his promise (This is the “moan” part). In essence, you are praying God’s word back to him, asking him to be faithful to his word. God doesn’t hear a thousand prayers any more than he hears one prayer, but this “mutter and moan” form of meditation changes us. It keeps us focused on God and the fulfillment of his promise to us. And I believe that God rewards persistence and perseverance (Luke 18: 1-8)

One of these bible verses that I frequently mutter and moan is Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

There are Christians who make a habit of ‘muttering and moaning’ much larger portions of the scriptures. Many Christians pray through the psalms and The Paraclete Psalter is a terrific resource for doing this. Others meditate on specific passages to achieve a breakthrough in some area of their life – such as Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word or the excellent book from Wesley and Stacy Campbell, Praying the Bible.

Fragrant Good Friday

candle 2I sat in silence and watched the Minister,
Approach the candle then lower his head.
And cup its tiny flickering flame,
As if to embrace, but blew it out instead.

Now just a single white column of smoke remained,
Where seconds ago it was burning bright.
The flame symbolic of Jesus’ life,
Had now been taken from my sight.

I closed my eyes and slowly bowed my head,
And quietly began to pray.
As the scent of the candle now filling the church,
Silently drifted my way.

I came to church, in search of the flame,
Unprepared to witness its death.
And with my heart now increasingly heavy,
I solemnly drew my next breath.

And discovered that it wasn’t until the candle went out,
That I could appreciate its fragrance within.
The gift it had given once the flame was gone,
Our eternal life that Jesus had given.

As it entered my body with each ensuing breath,
How quickly it filled my heart.
His love now replacing my sorrow,
Allowing the healing to start.

And through this insight of His crucifixion,
This precious glimpse not soon forgot.
Every candle I behold now reminds me,
Of why Jesus is alive in my heart.

Doug Langille