Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

Wait Patiently

Posted by Jeff on April 13, 2014

The final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, is a call to come to Jesus, and a call for Jesus to come.  Yet we wait.  How can we wait, constructively, for Jesus’ return?  Listen to this to learn more:  

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Iron sharpens iron

Posted by Jeff on April 11, 2014

Yesterday, I had a three-hour conversation with a colleague whom I deeply respect and genuinely like. Our conversation went ‘around the world’ in one sense, but found its focus on God, the things of God, and being leaders of God’s people. It was the kind of conversation that leaves one energized and encouraged about the task of serving God’s kingdom.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in church leadership or not; you need a friend with whom you can have those comfortable conversations. Ideally, you need a friend with whom you can talk about your work and your faith; for my colleague and I, of course, those two things are intricately interwoven. But to be able to chat freely, openly, and vulnerably with someone about life and faith is a real gift. Hopefully, you can do this with your spouse, if you have one, and that’s an important part of any marriage; yet it’s also good to have friends, particularly who share similar vocational or avocational interests, with whom to exchange ideas and just generally commiserate.

John Calvin certainly had this in mind when he created his Company of Pastors, a weekly gathering of clergy from all around Geneva and environs, in the 1530s. Not all jobs have any sort of built-in method for fellowship, but that doesn’t stop us from creating them. Even if we are not working outside the home everyday, as is the case with retirees and stay-at-home parents, there can still be room for connecting with friends in a similar place in life. (If you’re not sure of the value of this, check out any moms-and-tots group, or the coffee klatch at the nearby donut shop most weekday mornings!)

These examples allude to another form of Christian fellowship from which we all can benefit: the small group. Congregations have different names for their small groups; at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we call them LifeConnect Groups. They are avenues for study, fellowship, mutual support, and service, and are key means of helping the congregation fulfill its mission to connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community. Being part of a small group is a great way to remember that our faith is not just a Sunday thing; God calls us to integrate our faith into every aspect of our living. That’s basic discipleship. Following Jesus is the vocation from which every other part of life flows. Having a church family, a small group, and faithful friends make a difference in our walk with God.

We all need people in our lives to keep up sharp, in the best way. They are gifts from God; sometimes, though, we need to seek out those gifts! Have you?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27.17, NLT).

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Posted by Jeff on April 6, 2014

The Bible gives us few glimpses of heaven, but perhaps the most vivid is in Revelation 21.  Today’s message helps us understand not only a little bit of the symbolism involved in this complicated chapter, but also how we can prepare ourselves for life in the New Jerusalem.  Listen here:  


I also sang “The Holy City” in this service, but I’m not broadcasting that recording!!

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Sanding off the edges

Posted by Jeff on April 4, 2014

Most readers of Encouragement From The Word are involved in a local church, so I probably don’t need to sell you on the importance of engaging in worship. We understand the importance of the church, and we get that it’s not just a building; it’s the people that matter. It’s a community of faith. To encourage your ongoing participation, though, I want to share a quotation I read earlier this week: “The community provides rules and boundaries against which I can break off some of my sharp edges (or they are broken off!). And it provides authentic models” (Norvene Vest, Preferring Christ [Morehouse, 2004], p. 148).

Did you ever think of the church playing those roles for you? The church, the community of faith, can round some of our corners and sand us down a bit. Most of us would rather not admit our need of this, but if we’re honest, we know we all need a bit of, shall we say, smoothing out. And loving, caring Christian community can do that for us.

The church can also provide models in authenticity for us and for our children. There aren’t enough role models out there today whom we can really trust, are there? Many parents say that their kids won’t listen to them, but they’ll listen to other adults in their circle of acquaintance. The church can be the place where you find a mature follower of Jesus to mentor and disciple your son or daughter – and where another parent finds you to mentor and disciple her or his child! It also can be the place where you yourself find someone who will make a difference in your own life and walk with the Lord.

All this means, of course, that the church is not just a body gathered together for an hour (plus coffee) on Sunday morning. Deepening relationships involves an investment of time. Make no mistake – it is an investment: there are dividends that are paid. Those dividends, though, are not paid to us, at least not directly; they are paid to the person in whom we invest, and in turn, in the Kingdom of God. Think of those whom you may meet in heaven who will be able to thank you for spending time helping them love Jesus better! They may be little ones you taught in children’s ministry or adults you walk with in a small group. They may be people with whom you spent an hour in the coffee shop one day, on a whim. All because you journeyed together as the church of Jesus Christ.

Along the way, others may have come along and helped to make you a more beautiful disciple, shaping and sanding and breaking off corners to help you live more like Jesus.

Sure, there’s sawdust on the floor, and maybe bits of clay. There are empty coffee cups, poopy diapers, and notes tucked into Bibles, written on napkins. Being the church, being active, can be messy. But with God, not one bit of it is wasted.

Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10.25, NLT).

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Sending or Seating?

Posted by Jeff on April 2, 2014

I read a quotation on Twitter last week that I found really thought-provoking. I don’t know who said it, but it has been kicking my butt ever since I noticed it. Take this in:

We should be more concerned with our sending capacity than our seating capacity.

The more I think about the future of the Christian church in Canada, the more I believe that sending is going to matter more than seating.

Don’t get me wrong: gathering for worship is crucial to our spiritual development and our maturation as disciples of Jesus. We want to grow numerically even as we grow spiritually. But as time goes on, we are going to have to move from an attractional model of being the church to a missional model. And that says more about going out than coming in.

My latest reading has been Al Roxburgh’s book, Introducing the Missional Church (Baker, 2009). Among his premises in the book is a bit of a head-scratcher: the concept of ‘missional church’ cannot be clearly defined. He says that trying to define the missional church is like trying to define the Kingdom of God; it’s just too big to wrap our heads around.

However, we can garner principles that will help the church in the future. And key to those principles is getting out and being the church in the community, serving people in mission. That can be a mission of helping, such as doing lawn mower maintenance (or even lawn maintenance) for single moms. It can also be a mission of listening, such as hearing from business owners and school administrators in the community about what the church can do that will make a difference.

What are your thoughts on what it means to be missional as a church?  I’d love to read your comments and start a dialogue.

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Prepare For Judgment!

Posted by Jeff on March 30, 2014

Judgment is one of those topics that Christ-followers tend to avoid, because we’ve garnered such a reputation – not wholly founded – for judgmentalism.  The reality is that Scripture indicates there will be a judgment, so we should know what it takes to be ready for it.  Based on Matthew 25.31-46 and Revelation 20.11-15, you can listen to “Prepare For Judgment” below.  Feel free to chime in – was the approach too hard?  Too soft?  What about eternal fire versus annihilation?  Have a listen and share your thoughts.  

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See the glass half full!

Posted by Jeff on March 28, 2014

“What goes into a mind comes out in a life,” wrote A.W. Tozer, the great Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor from the 20th century.  He was right. And we200458043-001 see this reality all around us.

Media of all sorts provide us with many entertainment and information options, and we are left with choices. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t always choose wisely, do we?  Even if what we pick seems benign in its morality or its message, it’s easy to fill our minds with cognitive junk food.  Even non-violent video games, some of which aid our hand-eye coordination, so well exercise one part of our brains that the other part feels edged out.

Much of what passes for news is not very encouraging, and even some bits that are intended to take our minds off the discouraging news are not altogether edifying.  (I mean, really, who cares that Kanye West is inviting royalty to witness his marriage to Kim Kardashian?  Really?) All this, coupled with what feels like a much-delayed onset of spring, can leave the mind feeling pretty flabby.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church at Philippi from prison, encouraged the believers in this way:  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4.8, NLT).  In a sense, what Paul wrote was not just good advice, but a helpful spiritual discipline. When we are tempted to think or speak or act negatively, we can fix our thoughts on what is true, honourable, right, pure, lovely, admirable.  We can choose to see the glass half-full.

It doesn’t have to turn us into religious pollyannas; we can still be realistic. But amid our realism, it is good for us to think positively, to attempt to see others as God sees them, and to live in such a manner that others see Jesus Christ living in us. May people see us, and long to follow Jesus!

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Be Ready To Worship

Posted by Jeff on March 23, 2014

We often think of heaven in very romanticized terms that rarely reflect what little the Bible says about heaven.  When we read about eternity in Coffee Mug - Far Side - Wish Id Brought a MagazineScripture, the commonality is simple:  worship.  When we are in heaven, we will be in worship.  Revelation 4 is a vivid example of this.  If we want to prepare for the end of time, we need to be ready to worship.  Listen to the message here:  

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Taking the risk

Posted by Jeff on March 21, 2014

It’s hard to believe that a large commercial jetliner could just vanish.  The loved ones of those who were flying on Malaysian Airlines flight 370 vietnam-MH370-searchcertainly can’t believe it, and neither can those who are searching for some sign of it.

There are so many variables that, unless and until the famed ‘black box’ is recovered, we may never know the whole story behind what happened to the flight, which carried nearly 300 passengers and crew, heading for Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.

This much we do know:  the passengers placed faith in the crew to get them to their destination safely, and the crew trusted the process, which they had undergone countless times previously, to the same end.

When I fly, which is, admittedly, not that frequently, I know I am taking a risk.  Statistically speaking, it’s a safer risk to fly to Winnipeg than to drive.  The difference is over who’s in charge.

Upon purchasing a plane ticket and boarding the aircraft, I relinquish control of my journey.  I trust the flight crew to operate the jet safely and get me to my destination in a safe and timely fashion.  I have no control over my circumstances at that point, except over which movie to watch and what snack to purchase.  I can’t walk into the cockpit and tell the captain I’ve decided to get off in Thunder Bay instead of Winnipeg, and would he please land there, thank-you-very-much.

(Well, I could try, but all it would get me would be an icy stare from the chief flight attendant.  And maybe a warm welcome from the RCMP when I deplaned in Winnipeg!)

Were I to drive, on the other hand, I could stop when and wherever I wished.  But the trade-off is that it would take ten times as long to get to there, not to mention the wear-and-tear on my vehicle and the iffy highway conditions I’d have to traverse at this time of year.  Given the choice, will I opt to fly?  You bet.  But it’s a risk.

In the Christian life, surrendering control to God is a risk.  When we pledge to follow Jesus Christ as Lord, we submit to his will for our lives, not our own.  That can mean forsaking some (seemingly) outstanding opportunities in favour of prayerfully doing what the Lord calls us to do.

The great thing, though, is that we can always rest confident that the risk of giving control over to God always is the better choice.  Why?  Because God knows what is best for us.  When we can be content with whatever place and station in which God places us, the risk of stepping out in faith and trust is no risk at all.

Have you stepped out in faith and trust?  Our Captain, Jesus, is ready to welcome you.

I have learned to be content with whatever I have”, wrote the apostle Paul to the Philippians (4.11)…from prison…for Jesus’ sake.

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Don’t be lukewarm about it

Posted by Jeff on March 16, 2014

Water is one of those things about which we appreciate extremes:  cold is good, hot is good, lukewarm is not.  In today’s message, part of the series, DSC_4465-940-glass-of-tap-water“The End Is Near”, we look at why the image of lukewarm water made sense to the church at Laodicea, and what the Lord Jesus called the church to do about it.  Based on Revelation 3.14-22, you can listen to the message here:  

The video that’s shown near the end of the message can be seen here.

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