Taste and See!

I had an addiction when I was at university.  I didn’t have it before I went to UBC.  In high school I was clean.

I grew up in a solid, middle class family in North Vancouver.  My family was not Jesus following, but we were good people.

When I arrived at UBC as a starry-eyed 18 year old I was introduced to a whole new world.  Wow, I had never really seen things like this before.  I went from a sheltered, homogeneous high school of 1500 where I knew most people and was known by most, to a diverse community of 40,000 students and faculty – a small city.

An appetite was awoken in me that I had not been aware of before.  I was enticed by something that captivated all my senses.

I was first drawn in by the aroma – I had never smelled anything like that before.  I remember strolling through our student union building during a break in classes.  I had time on my hands and was exploring all this new University life could offer me.

I smelled it, and then I saw it…

Cookies By George.

What I would soon learn was that this was home to most incredible chocolate chunk cookie on the face of the planet.  I couldn’t resist, I dove in and bought a bunch.  What a phenomenal flavour!  What an ecstatic, gastronomic experience!

I was immediately hooked!  I had to make this a regular part of my routine.  And that I did.

My addiction followed me through university and into marriage.  When we moved to Winnipeg I soon discovered a Cookies By George in a downtown mall and made many an excuse to cruise by to buy a taste of culinary heaven on earth.

And now?  The only Cookies By George I can find is in the Edmonton Airport.  So whenever I fly into Edmonton I make a point to buy 2 Classic Chocolate Chunk cookies.  Only 2, 3 is too much I have discovered.  I am controlling my appetite for the cookie that changed the world and my life.

You may be asking yourself what these amazing cookies taste like.  Well, it’s difficult to explain, but they’re soft and chewy, not too chewy though.  They’re best right out of the oven when they’re delightfully warm and almost melt in your hands.  The chocolate in the cookie is in soft chunks of amazing Belgian dark sweetness, rich and creamy.

The cookies are beyond description and must be tasted to be believed.

And that’s just my point: it’s impossible for you to truly understand what the taste of a Cookies By George Classic Chocolate Chunk cookie is like through my description alone.  My words can never do it justice.  The world’s greatest writers could not put pen to paper and enable you to experience the taste of a cookie.

You must taste it in order to see for yourself what this cookie is all about.

The things of God are no different.

David encourages us in Psalm 34:8 to,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

There are no words to describe the goodness of God in a way that’s even close to actually experiencing the goodness of God.  David is inviting us to choose to taste and see that God is good.

Don’t just listen to the sermons, watch the videos, read the books and hear the stories of others.  Dive in.  Take God at His Word.  Walk with Him in wholehearted obedience. Take His hand and follow Him where He is leading.  Take refuge in Him.  Go to Him for your life, love, hope, faith, freedom, strength, healing, joy – everything you need.

The key to experiencing the goodness of God, is to trust God – trust in His great goodness and His good greatness.  Believe that He is who He says He is, and follow Him.   Belief is a verb – it requires action.  Our obedience to God opens up our ability to taste and see God.

What action is the Lord inviting you to take so you can taste and see that He is good?  Dive in and experience Him.

Psalm 34:9-14

“Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.  The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.  Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.  Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.  Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

John 14:23

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”

Mark 8:34

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”

Proverbs 3:5, 6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Who’s Got Your 6?

“Sorry Dave, we’re outta here!”

And with that, I was alone.

But I was not really alone.  I was bereft of allies, but I was quickly going to be surrounded by my enemies.  And this enemy was focused on killing me.  I had to move or I would be dead.

I surveyed my surroundings, gauged how much time I had before the enemy would be upon me, and chose my escape route.  I knew my enemy had discovered my location because I heard the commander yell something like,

“Bogie at 1:00!  Delta team move in now!  Alpha team flank from the North!”

And then bullets began to zing past both sides of the tree I was hiding behind.

Well, they weren’t really bullets.  They were paint pellets.  It was the early 80’s and I was one of a small number of young men discovering this new sport called Paint Ball.

It was a cool autumn day in the forests of the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.  I was with a bunch of friends who were out for a good time.  We had booked this war game to have a little fun and get a taste for battle-tested friendship.  The guy who ran the game asked us if we wanted to stay as a group and fight the BC Champions.

“What?  BC Champions?  Are you serious, is this actually an organized sport of some kind?  What kind of guys would be that “into” this sport?”

We were soon to discover that the kind of guys who were into this sport were just a little “different”.  Some might say, “Psycho”, but that may be a little judgemental.  Let’s just say they were definitely more fanatical about this sport than we were.

Back to my predicament…

I managed to get out from behind my tree and began to slide down hill, head-first on my back behind a fallen tree.  I was feverishly doing the backstroke downhill to expeditiously get away from my opponents.  I sat up from time to time to see my enemy strategically and steadily get closer to the tree behind which they thought they would find me.

Ha!  I had fooled them.  I shot one of them, but my pellet bounced off his jacket – too cold to burst.  Not a kill according to our rules of engagement.

I swam further downhill.  I sat up again to take a look.  No one around.  I swam some more.  I sat up again.  I then felt a pain like I had not encountered before.  Right at the base of my ear, just behind my jaw bone I was shot.

The pellet hit me with such force it split my skin and blood mixed with the blue paint now covering the base of the left side of my skull.  I was dead.  My killer stood over me to ensure I was dead, then continued with his platoon to thoroughly decimate my buddies.

I was alone on the field of battle, eliminated by the enemy.  I was without my “band of brothers”.  I was an “abandoned brother”.  No one had my “6”.

Your “6” is in reference to a clock.  Wherever you’re facing is 12:00, so directly behind you is 6:00, or your 6.  No one had my back and I was dead for it.

So who has your 6?

Have you cultivated a community of friends who “cover” each other?  We must build relationship with men who are our spiritual allies.  Men who encourage each other to walk wholeheartedly with Jesus.  Men who will pray for us and with us.

The spiritual battle we face is far more deadly than a point ball game.  The ammunition of our enemy is mean to kill and destroy.

We need allies to survive and thrive.  These kind of relationships will not happen by accident, we need to intentionally build them.  It takes effort, but the benefit is worth your effort.

Start by going out for breakfast or coffee with a guy, or guys.  Do a study together, do some work together.  It takes time, but it’s time well invested.

If no one’s got your 6 you may end up spiritually dead – and that’s not good for anyone.

Hebrew’s 10:24, 25

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Nehemiah 4:16-18

“From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

I Have Decided

“There is no try, only do or do not.”

Can you name the origin of this sage wisdom?

King Solomon perhaps?  Winston Churchill?  Mahatma Gandhi?  Steve Jobs?  Nope – it’s none of the above.

It’s Yoda of Star Wars fame.

Yoda’s statement is all about commitment and conviction.  Do you go into something simply wanting to give it a try, or are you wholeheartedly doing everything you can to ensure success?  Don’t just try – do it, or don’t do it.

Another euphemism for the same sentiments is to, “Nail your colors to the mast!”  This expression means, “To defiantly display one’s opinions and beliefs. Also, to show one’s intention to hold on to those beliefs until the end.”  It is a refusal to surrender – victory or die trying.

“Your colors” is a reference to your country’s flag.  In naval battles, surrender was indicated by “striking your colors” – which meant you would lower your flag and hoist up a flag of surrender.  The origin of this expression “nailing your colors to the mast” dates back to the 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars.

The expression was coined in reference to the exploits of the crew of the British ship Venerable, at the Battle of Camperdown, a naval engagement that was fought between English and Dutch ships.  The English fleet was led by the Venerable, the flagship of Admiral Adam Duncan. The Dutch had the upper hand in the battle.  Venerable’s main mast was struck and their colors came crashing down.

The rest of the English ships could have interpreted this as surrender had it not been for a handy seaman and subsequent national hero, Jack Crawford.  Crawford climbed what was left of the mast with the colors and nailed it back where it was visible to the rest of the fleet.

Crawford’s act of “nailing the colors to the mast” rallied the rest of the English fleet.  They turned the tide of the battle and defeated the Dutch fleet.  This victory is attributed by many historians as being the end of the Dutch naval superiority and the beginning of the age of Britain’s naval dominance.

“There is no try, only do or do not.”  “Nail your colors to the mast.”  I saw a bold demonstration of the sentiments of these expressions this past weekend by a man wearing a t-shirt that had a simple phrase emblazoned upon it,

“I have decided.”

Nothing more, nothing less.  “I have decided” was all it said.  But what made it so powerful was where he was wearing it.  He was wearing it standing in a horse’s watering trough.  The watering trough was unusual for sure, but it was its location that made it truly unique.  It was on a stage on the second floor of a commercial building in a small community where a church was meeting.

This horse’s watering trough was their baptismal tank.

And now my friend, who after more than 40 years of life on planet earth, had finally discovered the reason for his existence and was about to nail his colors to the mast.  He was publicly declaring his allegiance to Jesus.   There was no try, it was do or do not time.

He had decided.  He was doing it.

What an awesome celebration!  He was saying goodbye to his old way of thinking, to doing life his way, and he said “yes” to Jesus’ new life in him and through him.  The old is now gone, the new life has come.

What do you need to decide to do?  Do you need to get baptized as a public declaration of your allegiance to Jesus?  Is it time to nail your colors to the mast?

Is there another area of your life where Jesus has been inviting you to deepen your commitment, your conviction and your obedience?  Have you been half-heartedly “trying” instead of wholeheartedly “doing”?

Let’s decide to follow Jesus.  No turning back.  The world behind us, the cross before us.  Though none go with me, I will still follow.  No turning back.  No turning back.  No try, do it!

I have decided.  Let’s be men of conviction, commitment and obedience to Jesus.

Galatians 2:20 (The Message)

“Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.”

Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

Revelation 3:15, 16

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Community is Critical

Have you ever been to a social event where you didn’t know anyone?  It can be a little awkward can’t it?  Or, it can be a little adventurous…Who will you meet?  What can you learn?  What interesting people are here that you would never otherwise have the opportunity to connect with?

A number of years ago I found myself in this very scenario.  I was working with a client in Atlantic Canada whom I had spoken to on the phone a few times, but never met prior to this encounter.  We spent the day together as I trained his staff and that evening he invited me to a surprise birthday party for a close friend of his.

I initially declined because I figured I would feel out of place, and people would wonder who the new guy was in the corner and why he crashed the party.  He explained to me that there would be over 100 people at the party and I would fit right in.  This changed things, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to meet and party with some friendly eastern Canadians.

So, that evening I found myself amidst scores of partiers enjoying live music, great food and beverage, and who were there to celebrate the life of their dear friend who, by the stories shared by many in attendance, had spent his 50 years making other people’s lives better.  I felt honored and privileged to witness the community this man had built by caring for others.

It made me think, who would be at a party like this for me?  Have I invested my life in a way that has created community and made other people’s lives better?

I ended up chatting with a certain man for an extended period of time.  It turns out he was a very well known and influential politician.  He has enjoyed a long and significant career in provincial politics having served as Minister of Finance, Minister of Education and other powerful positions of authority.

We talked about community, change, the political process and politics in general.  I judged him to be a man of high moral value and one who truly wants to work for the good of society.  I asked him a specific question,

“How do you maintain your vision and motivation to create positive political change in the midst of oftentimes ruthless, vicious, unfair and selfish political opposition?”

His answer caught my attention…

“By surrounding myself with like-minded, good people who will stand together in the midst of the opposition reminding me why we are doing this”, he replied.

Wow – so simple, yet so profound.  I immediately saw how this was relevant, not just to those in politics, but to all of us.  I would call what he was talking about a “band of brothers”, or a community of allies.  Sadly, most men feel like “abandoned brothers” and not part of a band of brothers.

But you know something?  We can’t expect community to somehow magically form and then invite us in with open arms.  No, we must create community.  We must take the initiative to make community happen.  We must choose to reach out and connect with other men.

We must choose to meet together regularly, cultivating deep, open and honest relationships as allies in this adventure called the Kingdom of God.  Like Clint Eastwood said, “A man alone is easy prey.”  Similar to my new political friend, we are the targets of ruthless, vicious, unfair and selfish opposition that we can not withstand alone – we need each other.  We must walk together as one in a community of allies.

Have you chosen to surround yourself with like-minded, good men who will walk with you in the midst of spiritual opposition and remind you why we are doing this?  If you have not, it is never too late.  Community is critical and it must be created.

Take the initiative and create a community of allies to help keep you envisioned and engaged in this adventure of walking with Jesus.  We are not meant to walk alone.  We must be united in community, walking together as one.

John17:11, 21, 22, 23

“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world and I and coming to you.  Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one…that all of them may be one…I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me.   May they be brought to complete unity…”

Proverbs 27:17

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Acts 2:44

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.”