Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

Remain Calm!

Posted by Jeff on October 17, 2014

A lot of people, it seems, are worried about the Ebola Virus. I wouldn’t call it “mass hysteria” yet, but we are getting close to the need for a “remain calm” announcement!

There is much in the world that can cause harm; it has always been so. The realities of contemporary media mean we hear about it a lot sooner and more often than we used to. But in the midst of that which can harm, there is also that which can bless.

Worrying, of course, does nothing to help us or the situation about which we’re concerned; as Jesus told us, we can’t add to our lives by worrying (Matthew 6.27).

Whatever our concerns, know that we can give them to God and be assured of his care. The answer we receive, whatever it may be, may not be exactly what we ask for, but it can be part of God’s greater plan, which is too vast for us to know.

Take heart in these words from Psalm 90 (NLT), and be at peace.

Lord, through all the generations

    you have been our home!

 

Before the mountains were born,

    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,

    from beginning to end, you are God.

 

You turn people back to dust, saying,

    “Return to dust, you mortals!”

 

For you, a thousand years are as a passing day,

    as brief as a few night hours.

 

You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.

    They are like grass that springs up in the morning.

 

In the morning it blooms and flourishes,

    but by evening it is dry and withered.

 

We wither beneath your anger;

    we are overwhelmed by your fury.

 

You spread out our sins before you—

    our secret sins—and you see them all.

 

We live our lives beneath your wrath,

    ending our years with a groan.

 

Seventy years are given to us!

    Some even live to eighty.

But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;

    soon they disappear, and we fly away.

 

Who can comprehend the power of your anger?

    Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.

 

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,

    so that we may grow in wisdom.

 

O Lord, come back to us!

    How long will you delay?

    Take pity on your servants!

 

Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,

    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.

 

Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!

    Replace the evil years with good.

 

Let us, your servants, see you work again;

    let our children see your glory.

 

And may the Lord our God show us his approval

    and make our efforts successful.

    Yes, make our efforts successful!

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ALTAR EGO: The Disease To Please

Posted by Jeff on October 12, 2014

The “Altar Ego” series has been fun to prepare and preach, and people seem to have been finding it encouraging.  I am grateful for the outlines, and for the writing of Craig Groeschel, who wrote a book called Altar Ego (which you can find here).  In the series, we’ve been laying on the altar of God’s grace our feelings of inadequacy, our need for control, and our right to be offended.  In this message, we look at laying on the altar of God’s grace our longing for approval.  Based on Galatians 1.1-10 and 1 Thessalonians 2.1-6, you can listen to the message here:

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Stop. Rest. Now.

Posted by Jeff on October 10, 2014

Most Canadian households will celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend in one fashion or another, whether it’s by inviting the extended family over to the house for a turkey dinner, or going north to close up the cottage before the frost gets at the water pipes.  And while I would often take this opportunity to encourage you to be thankful – and I do encourage you to be thankful! – I wish instead to encourage you to take a break.

Stop.

Rest.

Not just after the potato overdose kicks in from Thanksgiving dinner, but now.

Stop.

Rest.

The time from the day after Labour Day until Thanksgiving tends to be one of the more hectic times of year, with all sorts of activities restarting after their summer hiatus.  Many of you will already be in need of a break, and there’s still the Thanksgiving celebration to attend to.

Stop.

Rest.

Now.

Simply marvel in God’s goodness to you, and accept his invitation to come, and rest in him.  If you’d like some accompaniment for that rest, even for two minutes, feel free to listen to this setting of a text from the Song of Solomon by the English-Canadian composer, Healey Willan:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdEIYnQsSZQ

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come” (Song of Solomon 2.10b-12a, NRSV).  True, the winter is not past, it is on the doorstep!  But the beauty of autumn remains, and the invitation of the Lord to us, like the invitation of the love to the beloved, remains.

Stop.

Rest.

Now.

Before the rush of the weekend.

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ALTAR EGO: That ‘F’ Word (Again)

Posted by Jeff on October 5, 2014

Many people carry a burden of unforgiveness.  In this message, we’re encouraged to lay on the altar of God’s grace our right to be offended.  It’s based on Proverbs 19.11 and Romans 12.1-5.  In the middle of the message, I showed this video.  You can listen to the message here:

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“We Day” for the church?

Posted by Jeff on October 3, 2014

Yesterday was “We Day” in Toronto, an annual event that encourages young people to engage with their communities and be good ‘global citizens’. While there is an all-year educational component to it, the annual rally that is held at the Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto gets a lot of press. It looks like a peculiar combination of a rock concert and an evangelistic rally – which, as I see it, is precisely what it is. There is entertainment, and there is a strongly hyped message encouraging young people to change the world.

In its comparatively short existence, We Day has had a profound impact. This year, the rally drew over twenty thousand students. I suppose some of that figure is bolstered by the promise of free entertainment and time out of the classroom, but any event that can fill a hockey arena with teens is worthy, at least, of our attention.

In fact, as God’s people, we should be inspired by We Day; we should be inspired to do more and do better, if for no other reason than that the church has an even better reason to encourage young people to engage with their communities and be good global citizens. It’s one thing to “be good for goodness’ sake,” as the old Christmas song puts it, but that has only a limited impact. (In the case of the song, it’s for the purpose of raking in more Christmas presents.) It’s quite another thing to enrich the world for the glory of God and the sake of God’s Kingdom.

To make the world a better place by encouraging young people to engage with their communities and be good global citizens for the sake of humanity is commendable, but it has no eternal impact. To make the world a better place by encouraging young people to engage with their communities and be good global citizens for the glory of God and the sake of God’s Kingdom has an eternal impact.

As I’ve often said about environmentalism, the church should be at the forefront of caring for the world, because while others merely want to preserve the earth for future generations, the church should do so because the earth is the Lord’s (Psalm 24)! Helping youth to engage more deeply and contribute positively to society should be a key task of the church, in order that they may be disciples of Jesus, formed in his image and living out his will in the world, and in preparation for eternity.

Praise God, there are some churches that are reaching young people and making disciples and changing the world through their ministries. But this shouldn’t be the task of some churches. It should be the task of all churches. It is not easy, by any means; we have an uphill climb merely to regain a winsome standing with the youth of our society. Some think that needs to happen by lowering standards and tossing the Bible out the window, but the churches that are succeeding at engaging youth would tell you that, if anything, they have raised their standards and taken (and taught) the Bible very seriously.

In order to make this happen, churches need to love the Lord more than they love tradition, and they need to love young people more than they love their own preferences. It is congregations that adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude, under the faithful guidance of the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture, that will be able to bring the fervour and positive message of We Day to the place where it belongs.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12.2, NIV).

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ALTAR EGO: Edging God Out

Posted by Jeff on September 28, 2014

This week, in our series, we’re talking about control issues.  “Ego”, for me, has always been an acronym:  “Edging God Out”.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!  In this message, based on Genesis 16.1-16 and James 4.13-17, we will hear about control issues, take a few minutes in silence to be honest before God about things we try to control, and then look at some questions to help us assess control issues.  In the end, we learn that God is faithful, and we can trust him to be in control.  Listen to the message here:

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Afraid? Of what?

Posted by Jeff on September 26, 2014

I shared a poem at a memorial service this week which I had used many years ago, but stumbled upon again. It was written by a missionary to China in response to a number of missionary martyrdoms, and has always, for me, been a powerful testament to what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for Christians, a poignant illustration of the apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth when he quoted Isaiah: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15.54b, NIV).

 

Read this slowly and meditatively, and let its meaning wash over you today.

 

Afraid? Of What?

To feel the spirit’s glad release?

To pass from pain to perfect peace,

The strife and strain of life to cease?

Afraid – of that?

 

Afraid? Of What?

Afraid to see the Saviour’s face

To hear his welcome, and to trace

The glory gleam from wounds of grace?

Afraid – of that?

 

Afraid? Of What?

A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;

Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!

A wound of His a counterpart?

Afraid – of that?

 

Afraid? Of What?

To do by death what life could not –

Baptized with blood a stony plot,

Till souls shall blossom from the spot?

Afraid – of that?

 

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God’s Masterpiece

Posted by Jeff on September 21, 2014

Have you thought about your “altar ego”?  In this series, we’re going to look at four different aspects of how we can lay down who we think we are – or who others think we are – on the altar of God’s mercy and grace, and be the people God thinks we are.  This message, on feelings of inadequacy, is based on Judges 6.11-16.  You can listen to it here:

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Pain as a gift

Posted by Jeff on September 19, 2014

We may not like to think of it this way, but pain is a gift.

Most of us would rather not experience pain, and many people go to great lengths to avoid pain, and even to avoid feeling pain. Yet without pain, we cannot know that something is wrong; even if we don’t know what is wrong, pain tells us something isn’t right.

The much-publicized hospitalization of the mayor of Toronto this week serves as a reminder that pain is a gift. The diagnosis received by Mr. Ford is serious, but now that he has done something to address the pain, treatment can begin.

Yet many people – not just men, women too – will put off dealing with pain. And sometimes, they wait until it’s too late. The beauty of Canadian health care is that our taxes pay for a system that enables us to consult experts on pain without fear of the cost involved. Of course, that system can be abused, but its existence means that if I feel some pain inside that isn’t going away, I can get it attended to right away.

Spiritual pain is no different; we often think that spirituality is personal, and that we can’t consult a professional when we are feeling pain in our souls. But the truth is that we can talk to others about our spiritual pain. It doesn’t always have to be a ‘professional’, either! While pastors and spiritual directors and counsellors can be of immense help, we can share how we feel with trusted sisters and brothers in Christ, too. They may or may not be able to help us deal with the pain, but they can at least share the burden we feel, praying for us and helping us find someone who can help us.

If we feel physical pain, the problem of which the pain is a symptom can be treated. If we feel spiritual pain, the problem of which that pain is a symptom can be treated as well. Sometimes, medical professionals give us prescriptions to mask the pain, but that doesn’t do us any favours. The problem itself must be unearthed and treated. Spiritual professionals, and trusted Christian friends, can’t write us prescriptions, and that’s probably a good thing. Instead, they help us to dig beneath the surface and discern how this gift of pain can help us grow in faith, and what wound may need to be brought to light so that Jesus can bring healing.

Dr. Paul Brand, who worked tirelessly to bring relief to leprosy patients, remarked that one of the greatest difficulties they face is that they lack the gift of pain. As their disease takes away nerves, they no longer feel anything – including pain. Imagine touching a hot stove and not feeling it!

If we are not careful, we can end up being spiritually leprous, where we are so callused toward the pain we feel, covering it up in whatever ways we can find, that we no longer note it, and the real problem that the spiritual pain has brought us is left unattended.

Do you have spiritual pain? Is there something going on in your life that has left you wounded? Can you invite Jesus to heal that wound for you, and relieve you of that pain? Doing so will help you live your life in Christ to the fullest.

Share each others burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.2, NLT).

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“Through the Roof” Friendship

Posted by Jeff on September 14, 2014

How much – really – do we care about our friends and loved ones?  Jesus encountered some friends who went to great lengths to see their paralyzed friend receive God’s healing.  Are you prepared to overcome necessary obstacles to bring a friend to Jesus?  You can read the story in Mark 2.1-12, and you can listen to the message here:

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