Learn From Me

I love to read. You are probably well aware of that as you see me regularly posting reviews on books I have read. I read all kinds of books. I love learning new things and being challenged to think about how I am living my life. I also love to read for entertainment and to relax.

I often go through times where I am focused on a certain topic. Recently, I have been reading on the issue of the Holy Spirit and spiritual renewal personally and for the local church. As you will see from my reviews when I find an author that writes about this, I like to read all he has written.

Over the years I have attended many seminars and pursued life-long learning. I took my first course towards my Masters of Arts in Leadership and Ministry in 1992. My last course was completed in 2018. It took me 26 years to graduate. This was due to a few reasons. I was not always able to afford the cost or time to take another course. But I also preferred learning a little at a time rather than sitting in class for 2-3 years and getting one big dump of knowledge. I love to learn.

Recently, God chastised me regarding my learning focus. I was praying and journaling when God gave me a picture. I was running a race.

There were a number of runners just in front of me but for some reason I wanted to see who it was in front of them, but I just couldn’t see past them. I asked God what this was all about. It seemed unfocused, unclear.

And then it was as if God said, “Learn from me. Don’t just learn from others on the journey, even if they are ahead of you.  Learn from me.” It was a good reminder that my focus should be on Jesus, and listening to and learning from the Holy Spirit. Not just from other people.

Matthew 11: 29 says, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (ESV)

I read my Bible just about every morning, but I have made a commitment to read more of the Bible more often. I want to learn from the Master, not just from others who have learned from the Master.

We fall into this trap quite easily. As believers, we need to regularly read the Bible and hear from God. Too many Christians are content to listen to their pastor and other preachers online or on television while not reading for themselves. Too many people of faith treat hearing from God like a mama bird feeding it’s young, eating only what has been regurgitated for them. God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with others feeding us. He wants us to chew our own food, to read the Bible ourselves and to ruminate over it. We need to personally hear God speak to us and rather than only hear the stories of others who have heard from God.

“Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

– Jesus

I love that you are reading this blog. Thank you! But I hope you are going to the Master and learning directly from him too. I’m glad that people show up in church to hear the sermon I prepared and preach. But I hope you are taking the time to learn from the Holy Spirit. After all, that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.” (John 16: 15, NLT)

Learn from the Master, and keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

A Few Cautions Against Spiritually Keeping Up with the Joneses

A natural part of being human is to compare ourselves to others around us. Sometimes we pick out a bad part of their character or how they live and then make ourselves feel better because we are better in that area. Often it is the other way around. We look at others, and feel bad that we can’t attain that level. This could be how much money we have, toys, or status. It could also be about character.

This attitude creeps into our Christian life as well. We have a tendency to notice people who are really gifted in a certain area and we feel bad that we can’t compete. For me, there has been a tendency to compare myself to other pastors, thinking I don’t lead as well or preach as well or grow a church like they can. Our comparison could be in how God has used someone to heal people, or somehow act with the power of the Spirit in a way that we have not experienced ourselves.

Here are a few cautions of why comparing is not helpful.

1. We don’t know the whole story. 

We have heard enough sad stories of people who had great public ministry only to find out later that their private life was a mess. They were sinners just like us. Sure, they had a large platform and a wide audience, but their personal life or their home life suffered greatly. Some of these were terrible to work for. They were mean and bullied their staff.

We don’t see the things that hold others back from being their best. We focus in on one or two key areas that we can see, and then we assume that their whole life is way better than ours. They may have a better position in a church or organization and we envy that, but we don’t know the struggles and the depression they fight as they work to be their best. We see their great family and don’t know the pain they are dealing with in the privacy of their own home.

2. God has gifted us all differently

John Maxwell writes in “No Limits”, about a man who devoted his life to being the second chair. He had realized early on that he was not a good leader. He was great at being the second in command but needed someone above him to be the leader. We need that kind of personal discernment about what we are capable of, how God has gifted us, and what we have learned through experience.

It is valuable for us to learn who we are, how God has gifted us, and how we can best serve God. There are a number of assessment tools out there that may help, but some of it comes with trial and error. Try something, see if you are good at it, and if not, try something else.

I was never going to be a pastor, but the president of the Bible College I attended encouraged me to do a summer intern position. I remember the specific day I was preaching to the small crowd gathered on that warm summer evening in that stuffy church. I was preaching from Philippians – when I suddenly had this feeling, this thought – I like this. I think I could really enjoy doing this. Sometimes it is as we try new things that we discover where we fit.

3. Compare yourself to yourself.

If you want to see how you are really doing, compare yourself to what you were like last year, or five years ago. Have you grown and developed personally in that time? Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus? Are you living in the fullness of the Spirit living in you? Have you figured out some of what you are good at? And are you working to do that and to continue to improve in how well you do?

4. Compare yourself to Scripture.

There are many places in scripture where we are told how to live. We are told what kind of actions and behaviors glorify God. How are you doing with that? As you read the Bible, and I hope you read it regularly, daily, keep asking yourself how well you are doing in regard to what you are reading. Look at how to improve daily. Look at how to develop habits that help you develop into a person who consistently glorifies God with their life.

5. Ask God what He thinks of you.

I have enjoyed having more conversations with God – not just praying to Him, but also hearing from Him. I believe that you can ask God what He thinks of you and He will tell you. Ask God where there are areas you need to grow in and what you can do to grow. Instead of trying to become like someone you admire, become someone God admires. Become who God wants you to be without worrying about how big your audience or your fame is.

The envy of others will never make you a better you. You need to learn to be the best you that you can be. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own path. Maybe God will give you a large public voice, and maybe it will be a quiet encouragement to individuals. Like the story of the talents in the Bible, you are only responsible for what you have been given. God has made you with your unique abilities to be you in your own unique way. Your responsibility is to just be the best that you can be, without comparing to others. And then serve Him well.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Don’t Let Satan Give You a Time-Out!

Many children are familiar with a “time out” This is used as a punishment to remove the person from something they would like to do and, help them see the behavior results in negative consequences such as missing out.

As a follower of Jesus, I want to do what is right and good. I read the Bible and talk with God. I make decisions to do right and work at being self-disciplined. I work at training myself to be whom God wants me to be. But like you, and everyone else around us, I sin. There are times when I allow the sinful nature in me to take over, where I do something that is clearly against God’s best for us.

Spring brings us to the holiday of Easter. This is much more than bunnies and eggs. This is the annual celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection for all people. Because of our sin, we deserved to die. That was how God created things. And then He arranged for a way out. God sent His own son to die in our place – to take our penalty for us. Good Friday is the reminder that Jesus, the only perfect human, died in our place. Easter is the celebration that when His friends went to the tomb, Jesus wasn’t there. He was alive! This resurrection gave Him the right to offer forgiveness and new life to all who believe in Him.

When we put our faith in Jesus, when we acknowledge our sin and repent of it, confessing it to God, Jesus forgives us. And we enter into a relationship with God! God now sees Jesus’ righteousness in us!

So, yes, we sin from time to time. Now what?

Often, we have this feeling that we need to put ourselves in a time-out. We feel need to wallow in our guilt for awhile before we can be in right relationship with God again. I don’t think I’m the only one who has felt this way. We think that to be sorry for our sin means we have to show it by spending time in our sorrowful guilt-ridden state.

But that is straight from the devil!

God does not want us to live in a state of guilt. Jesus has paid for our sin. God arranged this plan because He did not want us to live in guilt but to live in the joy of freedom. If Jesus already died on the cross, He already paid for that sin. The sin you are wallowing in is already paid for, already forgiven!

When we sin, we can immediately come to Jesus with it. As soon as the Holy Spirit reminds you that what you did was wrong, you can use that conviction to repent. The Holy Spirit is not pointing out your sin in order for you to feel bad, but in order for you to repent. So confess your sin, stop doing it, and get back on your feet.

Some of you might remember that old commercial that had this one iconic line: “Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Well we may have fallen, but the Holy Spirit is already showing us we can get back up. Jesus is already reaching out a hand to lift us to our feet.

1 John 1: 9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins an to cleanse us from all wickedness”.

This does not tell us we have to take a time-out. It says, confess and receive forgiveness. Receive the cleansing from Jesus, and get back on your feet. Serve Jesus again!

Yes, we sin, but we can confess and receive forgiveness immediately. We are then cleansed and ready to be of use to God again. This is the only way that I, and any other pastor, can stand up every Sunday and preach a sermon. It is because Jesus forgives all my sin of that week and that morning. He cleanses immediately so I can preach with confidence.

Do not allow Satan to put you in a time-out. Receive Christ Jesus’ cleansing forgiveness and get on your feet immediately, serving God again.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


AN HOUR ON SUNDAY – By Nancy Beach

In An Hour On Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder, Nancy Beach draws on her years of experience creating great worship services. She covers many aspects of how to create meaningful experiences for church congregations, focusing on the arts and artists involved in making these experiences moments of “transcendence”. She writes, “Our aim should be to create services so compelling, so meaningful, and so unexpected, that the time sails by and attenders leave with an enthusiastic desire to talk about their experience as well as the content of the service.” Her chapter on creativity is one of the best. This book is a great encouragement to do our best to create services that impact people in meaningful ways.

The Transition Pastor’s Process

More and more churches are choosing to hire a Transition Pastor to help them as they say goodbye to one pastor and look to hire the next. If you are curious about how this transition process works, then you are at the right place. (This post builds on a previous post: Do We Need a Transition Pastor?)

The process begins with the transition pastor getting to know the congregation and the way the church functions. They complete various assessments and evaluations to get a clear picture of what is really going on in the church. This is a helpful step whether the church is healthy or unhealthy, and whether the pastor left on good terms or not. These assessments are done with the whole congregation as well as the leadership and various ministry leaders. Often there are interviews of staff and members of the congregation to get a clear understanding of how things are going and what areas may need to be addressed. It is important to take some time to look back to make sure there are no issues that have just been “swept under the rug”, but adequately faced and dealt with. Unforgiveness for past mistakes will make it difficult to move ahead in a meaningful way.

The assessments can help the pastor know what to preach on. He can address current issues facing the church from scripture.

The first issue to acknowledge and address is often grief. The assessments and interviews will determine the level of grief, as the church is often mourning the loss of the pastor and his family. Often the preacher will focus sermons on the “one another” passages in scripture. These can help build on or restore much needed unity in the church.

After taking some time to look at the past and then getting a clear picture of the present situation, the pastor can move the church to start looking ahead to establish a clear vision for the church. This may include understanding the demographics of the church as well as the community it serves. It will include having vision meetings with both the elders and the church as a whole. My belief is that the vision a church develops usually does not vary much from where they have been in the past. The value of this practice is not so much in coming up with something unique for the next part or the journey, but in being able to clearly articulate their vision together.

This process is bathed in prayer, and builds on the assessments and understanding of the community the church feels called to reach. The vision guides the church moving ahead. Often, when a church goes through the process of hiring a new pastor, they do not have a clear vision and so the newly hired pastor moves the church in the direction of his own vision. This is not a bad thing, except each new pastor may go in a different direction. If the church can clearly identify a vision before they hire their next pastor, then they can hire a pastor that fits that vision.

For pastors looking for a position in a church, it helps to know what the church’s vision is so he can tell if he will fit there or not. I have taken a position in a church only to learn two years later that my vision and theirs were very different, opposite even. It is helpful to both the church and the pastor to be clear on this before being hired. It will prevent some pain in the future.

The completed assessments and articulated vision help the church know exactly what kind of pastor they are looking for. The transition pastor can help guide them up to this point and help them through the search process as well. One valuable tool the transition pastor can help the church with is developing their Pastoral Profile. All the other assessments and processes the transition pastor leads the church through really culminate in the clarifying their vision and determining what kind of pastor is needed to help them accomplish that vision. Without all the work leading up to this point, a church may not have a clear idea who will best fit their church. Too often there is just a pendulum swing where one teaching pastor with no shepherding skills is replaced with a shepherd with no teaching skills. A Pastoral Profile is built on all the work produced during the transition process so the church knows how to truly evaluate a candidate against their real needs.

The Transition pastor concludes their time with that church before the next pastor is hired.

If a church is between pastors, hiring a transition pastor will be of great benefit. Those months, up to two years, of a transition pastor leading a church through a transition process will be extremely beneficial in planning well for the next step of the journey for the church.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


LIGHT UP THE DARK – by Douglas A. Balzer

Light Up The Dark is an encouragement to restore healing and deliverance to disciple making. Doug walks through the historical decline of healing and deliverance from its prominence in the ministry of Jesus and the Early Church to its eventual relegation to history and the occasional miracle. He shows how something that was central to the ministry of Jesus has been allowed to fade into the background as if God doesn’t want to work in that way anymore. This book wakes us up to the fact that healing and deliverance should be part of making disciples and what the average disciple would practice. He is calling for a restoration of healing and deliverance to its prominent place in evangelism and discipleship in the way that Jesus and the Apostles practiced. A great read for anyone who wants to truly bring the church back to its role of bringing healing to the hurting.

Prayer: The Gateway to Intimacy with God

It is impossible to get close to another person if you never talk, and it is impossible to become truly intimate with another unless your share your heart. I love my wife. I enjoyed dating and getting to know her. I loved getting married and spending more and more time together. We recently took a little holiday, and loved sharing some time new experiences and time together. I have developed an intimate relationship with Lynnette through years of sharing my life with her. We have had many conversations about anything and everything. All this has brought us closer to each other. We are falling more and more in love with each other.

We can be in a close relationship with God. We can develop an intimate relationship with God. This is possible through prayer.

Unfortunately, many of us have confusing ideas about prayer. While I was a pastor at one church, I remember someone coming to me a number of times to get a “prayer” from me because I was a pastor. She didn’t want me to pray for her or with her. She wanted a specific prayer that she could take with her to use for a certain situation she wanted to deal with. She didn’t want God to do something. She thought this “prayer” would solve her problem like a lucky talisman. This type of prayer will not help us develop intimacy with God.

Some people pray before they eat, thanking God for the food. Some pray for God to do certain things in their lives. Some pray prayers like the Lord’s Prayer or others written by leaders of the past. When used only as a routine or ritual and not prayed from the heart, these are not prayers that will develop intimacy with God.

Prayer that can truly develop intimacy with God means we will spend time in prayer. We will spend time talking with God. Prayer that develops intimacy depends on us having regular conversations with God. Scripture tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I realized I was doing this the other day. I noticed a little car in the lane next to me, driven by an older gentleman. I was immediately reminded of Jerry, a man who was in one of the churches I served. He passed away a few years ago. My first thought was: “So God, how’s Jerry doing up there?” It was just automatic and so natural. I spend time with God and constantly talk with him about what is going on.

Intimacy developing prayer means we have conversations with God. For many of us, prayer is something we do when we list off a laundry list of requests. We talk to God often. We tell him all the things we need and all the problems we need help with. While we think that may be prayer, it is definitely not a conversation with God. We need to learn to have a conversation, where we may talk for a while, but then we listen for a while. We need to realize that for prayer to help us develop intimacy with God, we need to do more than just talk to him.

Intimacy-developing prayer means we expect to hear from God. We actually pause long enough to listen and expect God to speak to us. We could occasionally come to God with a question, ask it, and then just wait and listen to what God is saying. Don’t say anything else until you hear God speaking.

Prayer that helps us develop intimacy with God is also often connected to Scripture. Pray and read scripture. Ask God to speak through what you read, and then read with an expectation that God will reveal himself to you in His Word. Commit to spending time with God regularly, reading scripture and talking with Him.

One of the intimacy-developing practices I have right now is to take two mornings a week where I pray through a “One Hour Prayer Guide”. In his book, The Hour That Changes the World, Dick Eastman suggests that one divide an hour into 12 periods of 5 minutes each. Topics in the 5 minutes segments include steps including praise, thanksgiving, confession, and praying scripture. There are a few sections that focus on watching for God and listening to God. It is surprising how quickly the hour passes, and very encouraging in how it makes me feel like I am more connected to God and what He wants to do in me and through me.

The Hour That Changes the World, Dick Eastman

You can develop intimacy with God. He longs for that. In fact, He created the world so that he could have a relationship with his created people. When you desire intimacy with God, he will eagerly respond to your efforts. Conversational prayer, taking time with God, and praying as you read scripture, is the gateway to intimacy with God.

Do you want to know God intimately? Then make the effort to spend time with him, having conversations with him, and experiencing him at work in your life.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Book Reviews: Andy’s 2022 Reading Experience

I will be sharing a brief review of every book I read this year. Hope you enjoy and hope it encourages you to keep reading.


SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY – by Dr. Rob Reimer

Rob Reimer has written a few books on experiencing a deeper relationship with God and seeing His power at work. He describes how God wants to partner with us in releasing the Kingdom, in helping people find freedom, especially freedom from the forces of evil. He gives some direction on how to handle different situations as you work to set people free. One of his key phrases is this: Spiritual authority is rooted in identity, expanded in intimacy, and activated by faith. He emphasizes that we can do nothing without an intimate relationship with the Father and filling of the Holy Spirit. It is only then that we can experience the power that Jesus displayed. This book encourages a deeper relationship with God and an encouragement to help others find freedom.

Know Your Yes, Know Your No

You do not have to say “yes” to every opportunity to serve that comes your way.

When we are young, and just starting out in life, the opportunities are endless. You could go in almost any direction for a career. As you get older and get more experience you learn that there are certain things that you are good at and certain things you are not as good at. There are certain roles you take on that you love and others where you struggle to survive the day.

As we get older, and hopefully a little more experienced, we begin to narrow down the real and meaningful opportunities for us. We are not quick to jump in to jobs that will require us doing things we hate. We choose to do what we enjoy if at all possible. We prefer doing what we enjoy, and over time get a clear sense of what those things are.

Beyond that, I believe that God has certain roles for us to fulfill. He has given us gifts and abilities, and led us through circumstances that prepare us for what is next. We can ask him to clarify for us what he wants us to do with our life, and he will. I believe that God has a role for everyone, if we will only ask him to help us discover that.

Through a number of different circumstance God has brought me to the place where I believe he wants me to focus on helping churches and leaders achieve their God-given dreams. I have been a pastor for about 30 years, and generally loved the role. I had the opportunity, with a few others, to start up and establish the Rural Church Pastors Network. I loved the opportunity to equip and encourage fellow pastors. I enjoy writing and sharing my thoughts with others. And God, through these experiences and some clear signs from him, called me to this role of helping leaders and churches.

God has called me to help churches and leaders discover their God-given dreams. I was recently offered a position that looked interesting. I knew I could do what was required, I might even enjoy the role, but I couldn’t say yes. As I prayed about it, God reminded me that he had called me to this role of helping leaders and churches. This new opportunity was not part of that. Saying “no” to something that I might enjoy was not easy, but I knew what God called me to do.

Knowing your “yes” helps you know your “no”. When you have a clear understanding of what God has called you to do, you can clearly say no to that which is not part of the plan. I know it is hard to say no to people. We want people to like us and so we try to please them. Knowing our specific calling from God helps us have an easier time making decisions about what we choose to agree to and what opportunities we decline. Then we can say no with a clear conscience when we know what fits in God’s plan for us and what does not.

Sometimes we are overwhelmed with all that is on our plate. I wonder how often that is a result of us not clearly understanding what we are called to do so we do everything that comes our way. We say yes to every good thing when maybe God would like us to focus in on a specific opportunity. We tell ourselves that we can’t get out of these responsibilities when maybe we just need to say no. Sometimes we get frustrated with people and all they demand of us, but the problem may be us. We haven’t set clear boundaries on what we should or should not do, what fits into the scope of who we are and what does not.

Clarifying who we are and what God is calling us to may be harder to determine when we are young and have not had time to try new things or experience various roles and opportunities. As we get involved in different jobs and serve in a variety of places, we can narrow down who we are and what we are called to do.

This allows us to  figure out how God has gifted us and what talents we have. But clarifying who we are and what we become involved in does not just depend on age and experience. I believe we need to have time with God asking him to clarify what he wants us to do with our lives. God may speak to you through your reading of scripture. He may speak to you in your prayer time. He may speak to unique ways such as dreams or visions. What I do know is this: if we ask God, he will answer. Ask him to clarify his calling on your life and then you will be able.

I hope you can clarify your “yes” so you can also know your “no.” May God show you your unique place in this world.

Keep looking up

Andy

Healing – What the Church Can Offer

I recently heard two statements by two different people that I believe are prophetic words for the church. In my experience, there have been shifts in how the church functions or what church leaders think is important in reaching people for Christ. When I was a young youth pastor, it seemed the emphasis was on finding ways to make church fun and cool. As I got a little older, books and seminars seemed to focus on the church being relevant and relatable to unbelievers. What is the next emphasis of the church as we reach out to people who have not yet met Jesus personally?

On January 24, 2022, I heard Adam Browett of Glad Tidings Church in Victoria, B.C., make a profound statement in his sermon: The church moving forward “looks more like a healing center than a rec center.” He pointed out that if we were to be following Jesus’ example, we would be surrounding ourselves with hurting people and healing their hurts.

Our world offers all kinds of entertainment. The church does not need to provide entertainment. The church needs to find ways of helping the hurting and lonely. Our church buildings should be places where people find healing. Those of us who have a relationship with Jesus, the Healer, should be people in whom others can find healing as we point them to Jesus.

Dr. Rob Reimer writes in Spiritual Authority, “I think more people are going to come to faith in Christ in this generation because they know they are broken and in need of a Healer than because they know they are sinners in need of a Savior.” Our emphasis when we share the gospel has so often been about showing people how sinful they were so they would recognize they need a Saviour. Instead, if we focus on brokenness and healing, people don’t need us to point out how hurt and lonely they are. And we have an answer to that hurt and loneliness. We have a Healer.

In his book, Reimer points out that almost every time Jesus mentioned the kingdom of God he also mentioned healing from diseases and casting out of demons and restoring what is good and right in people. The church has been too focused on the “getting out of here” aspect of the Kingdom of God, where our goal is to gain eternal life and then just wait for that to be fulfilled. The kingdom of God is where what is bad is made right. The kingdom of God must be evident in displays of God’s power, as can be seen in demons cast out and people healed and relationships restored.

Our world is full of conflict. Countries are at odds with each other. People are at mad at each other. Large demonstrations and protests are rising up out of people’s frustrations. Violence is not uncommon. Disputes and arguments dominate social media. People are mad at the government and frustrated with the pandemic and all its fallout. Marriages and families are struggling and breaking apart. Many people are struggling with depression. Suicide is a way out for many. People are hurting.

If we truly love our world, if we as Christians want to truly love the hurting as Jesus did, then we need to be people offering healing, and our churches need to be places of healing. We need to believe God can still do miracles and bring healing and restoration. We need to speak and act with His authority and power to bring healing to our world.

This will not be just up to the pastors or church leaders. This is the role of every believer. We have the Holy Spirit in us. We have his power at work in and through us. We need to learn how to bring his healing to the hurting people around us. This will take much prayer, some in depth reading, and practice, as well as a continual filling of the Holy Spirit.

This is the need of the church today, but it is really just going back to what Jesus did when he was on earth, and what the apostles did as they established churches, and what New Testament church leaders did in their communities. We need to come back to inviting God to display his power and to bring healing to our hurting world again.

Let’s pray that the church will become the healing center it is meant to be.

Keep looking up

Andy