Author Archives: Rev. Joel

About Rev. Joel

Joel is intimately concerned with redemption as a former and once-again pastor whose opinion sometimes barely matters in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Those to whom his opinion matters most are his beloved and his five children.

Sow what?

In 1879 a botanist named W.J. Beal initiated an experiment in East Lansing, Michigan. Beal put different varieties of seeds in different bottles, packed them in sand, then buried them a foot and a half into the earth. 20 bottles, each containing 50 seeds from 20 different species.

Another generation of scientists dug those bottles up 100 years later to complete the experiment. They wanted to know how many seeds would still have life-giving potential after a 100 years in the earth. They found a couple species still had viable samples alive.

That in itself is amazing. The seeds were effectively dormant for those 100 years but life could still come forth, producing another generation.

Just as exceptional is Beal’s motive. He knew this was an experiment whose findings would not benefit him. He invested in it, not to get life from the seeds, the immediate benefit in his time, but to pass on life-giving information to another generation. He was making a contribution that would serve somebody else, far after he was dead and gone.
In the immediacy that all of us have become accustomed to in our culture, we get addicted to seeing quick results. Diet and exercise fads, hair extensions, nail jobs, eyelash implants (can you believe there is such a thing?!?) all promise the results we want now. Waiting is a thing of the past. We tend to overlay those expectations onto our faith journey, also. We pray or we serve for what we want now, the blessings and the spiritual payoff need to come quickly or else. I can’t imagine Beal understanding that mindset.

How much of our faith journey is about investing forward? What if the prayers we pray will not all be answered for us in our time? What if some of them will come to be in our children’s or grandchildren’s generation? What if God is calling us to pour ourselves into something, like Jesus, in a truly self-sacrificial, other-centered way? I think of Jesus, in John 17, praying for those that would believe because of the impact of his apostles. Jesus’ mind was already moving past those he could immediately influence in that moment, and praying for generations to come in the future.

Abraham, as a father of faith, also had this vision for each generation that would come from him.

On resolving his conflict with Abimilech in Genesis 21 over the well at Beersheba, it says Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree. A tamarisk tree in the Middle East can grow fairly high – up to 24 feet or so – and is useful in the hot, dry conditions for providing shade on those long sunny days.

They grow slow though. Really slow. What Genesis is telling us here is that Abraham is not looking for immediate shelter for himself. In fact, it doesn’t seem he’s thinking of himself at all. He is thinking of those that are yet to come according to what God has promised him – descendants as numerous as sand on the seashore and stars in the sky. The tree is for them. He is devoting his resources to care and provide for all of those that will come from him, not just his genetic line, but his spiritual one as well. Abraham is putting down roots, in a literal and figurative sense, to tell us he’s in it for the long haul, not for what he can get from it right now.

Those of us today, on this side of the world, or anywhere in the world, are far from his tree, his time, and his location. But we all benefit from the example he lived out and the commitment he showed. He is not just a father to us all, but an example for us also.

I’m just like everyone else. I want what I want when I want it. I pray for me, for the things that will benefit me. Today, I’m going to go bury a treasure for the next generation. My prayers will be for those that I will never meet. At least, not on this side of things.

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” (John 17:20)

Redemptive Unrest

I live and serve from the conviction that God does some of His greatest redemptive work out of our biggest messes. After all, God didn’t come to make bad people good or good people great. He came to save sinners, heal sick, and make dead people live. This is the God who hovers over the watery abyss, sees opportunity, and breathes life and light into existence – then blesses it and says, “It is very good!” This is also the God who hung on a cross and broke out of a tomb to so I didn’t have to go in one.

This sermon was preached at King of Kings Fellowship on October 9, 2016. Great church, wonderful people, and a pastor with a great heart for the gospel. It was a privilege to visit!

The Big 4-0

It has arrived. What was once inconceivable began as a faint whistle from a distant meadow. It grew to an approaching rumble and is now a steaming, chugging, creaking, imposing presence that looms over me. Towering, it stirs up awe and fear, uncertainty, and maybe delight. But a little more creaking than I’m happy with.

I’m 40.

Well, tomorrow I’m 40. Today is the last day of my 30s. But now I know it’s here. All the tomorrows have come and gone for this one.

There was an age when the collection of days passed that would total 40 years was unimaginable. But as they do, the days have rolled by into months and seasons and then years. The summer has waned and fall has arrived. A fall of 2016, and also my life. I’m on the other side now. The view up the mountain was good, it’s fantastic from the top. But I see where I’ve been more clearly than where I’m going.


The possibilities are endless.

Yesterday my sons got haircuts, a little different than they usually get. They looked in the mirror and speculated on what everyone might think of their new appearance with anticipation. I miss those days. When innocence was an unnoticed guest in every conversation. When disappointment could still be converted to opportunity. Skin was thin, but memories were often short.

Today I have work to do. There’s always work to do. There are meetings to attend, jobsites to visit, and errands to run. There is planning to do.

When I was 10 I didn’t plan anything. Except to buy junk food. I would scour for change that would add up to what I needed. A quarter could buy you something, even if not much.

Now there are quarters everywhere. But never enough quarters to add up. I always need to get more.

When I was 13 the future was endless possibility. I could be a star quarterback, a star point guard, and also a movie star in between games. Then off to the ring to defend a heavyweight title. It would be a great life for a bestselling novelist.

Now, the future is an accommodation of sorts. What do I do to make the best use of what I have?

That’s always the question, actually. I just didn’t know it when I as 10, 13, 18. I didn’t know it when I was 20 and I wasn’t clear on it when I was 30. Now I know.

But speculating on the next 40 years tells me that now that I know a better question, or at least know to answer a question of some kind, I still don’t know how to answer it. I don’t quite know how to channel those years to get the quarters I need, plan the meetings that matter, and consider what hasn’t even been on the mental agenda yet.

I’ll let you know in another 40 if I chose right.


Good Friday, 2016, message preached at The Miz City Church. It is a scandal that the one sinless man would die for all sin. So while his life surely ended in scandal, it began and begat scandal from the beginning too. Today the scandal still runs through our stories also.

Do you want to get well?

A sermon preached on John 5, the healing at the pool of Bethesda, at The Miz City Church on Sept. 25, 2016.

It was an invitation to come and be a part of Jesus’ Church, while also fully becoming all He has created you to be.