Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

Jesus is worth the wait

Posted by Jeff on November 28, 2014

Though the radio stations are already playing Christmas music, and Wal-Mart has gifts and tinsel up for sale (heck, Costco had decorations up in October!), it’s not Christmas yet. That doesn’t start until December 25.

This Sunday, we begin the Christian year with the season of Advent. It’s a season of waiting, of anticipation. In years gone by, it has been a season of penitence, though that seems to have gone by the wayside. But I think there’s great value in celebrating Advent, in waiting for Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a household where, if you wanted something, you saved up for it until you could afford to buy it. Credit was unheard of in my parents’ home, unless you count the mortgage. And there was a certain satisfaction in that, wasn’t there? You saved up to buy something you wanted, and there was anticipation in it. If you really needed (or wanted) it, the anticipation only made the acquisition all the more sweet. If it was just an impulse, and you didn’t really want or need it, saving up for it saved you from buyer’s remorse, because the interest waned while you saved.

Nowadays, saving up for something seems like a quaint custom of a bygone era. And I think that has cost us – not only in terms of interest paid on credit cards and lines of credit, but also in terms of the value of waiting.

For many people, what the world calls the Christmas Season is a frenetic time. Celebrating Advent can actually slow us down a little bit. When we focus each Sunday, and perhaps the surrounding week, on hope, peace, joy and love (or whatever other themes your church might want to use beyond the traditional), we are able to savour all the more fully the amazing gift that is the birth of Jesus.

Followers of Jesus know that the birth of the Saviour was no ordinary birth. This was God’s entrance into history in a tangible way, unlike no other time before – a gift beyond measure…a gift worth waiting for.

Let me encourage you, this year, to celebrate Advent. Even if your church doesn’t mark it in any significant way, you can celebrate at home. There are Advent calendars (though most involve chocolate and only recognize the month of December, it can still be a useful tool); you can make and light an Advent wreath in your home; you can (and this is radical!) even consciously decide not to sing Christmas carols until Christmas! If you can’t handle that, you might consider saving one special Christmas carol for Christmas Eve. (I do this with “O come, all ye faithful”.)

Jesus is worth the wait!

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.   Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27.14, NLT).

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Do unto others

Posted by Jeff on November 21, 2014

I heard a story the other day about a woman who was in labour, preparing to give birth to her second child. Her husband got her and their young son packed up, so that the son could be delivered to his grandparents’, and so that the woman could be taken to the hospital to deliver their next child! But there was a problem: this happened earlier this week in Buffalo, New York.

In case you missed it, Buffalo, and other parts of New York state close to the Great Lakes, have been hammered with lake-effect snowfall; Buffalo alone had received more than a metre-and-a-half as of Wednesday, with the promise of more yesterday. The photos have been astounding.

So the trip for this young family to get to grandparents’ and hospital was not exactly routine. In fact, with mom in labour, they actually stopped to help a stranded motorist to get out of her car. They brought her into their vehicle and carried on toward the hospital – difficult though that was, with the roads clogged with snow and trapped vehicles.

Soon it became apparent that the baby wasn’t going to wait for the doctor. That child would make her arrival in the car. So the vehicle was stopped, and they prepared for the delivery – stranger and all!

What if they hadn’t stopped to help the stranded woman? Would they have made it to the hospital? In the end, they knew they did the right thing, because this stranded stranger turned out to be a paediatric nurse who specialized in labour and delivery! She was able to give guidance toward the safe arrival of the family’s newborn little girl. And eventually, they made it to the hospital. All are well.

The man had no idea that he was helping someone who would help him and his wife. He stopped to help because it was the right thing to do, irrespective of the outcome – even though he, if anybody, had a good excuse to avoid stopping.

How often are we “too busy” to stop to help someone in need? What could you do today that would make a difference in someone’s life, even though it might not benefit you in any way?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7.12, NIV).

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LOVE ONE ANOTHER: God’s Children

Posted by Jeff on November 16, 2014

One of the things John strongly affirms in his first letter is that we are children of God if we do what the Lord commands and live in him by faith.  What does that mean?  What has to change in us in order for us to be children of God?  Based on 1 John 2.28-3.10, you can listen to this message to find out:

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Waiting, waiting…

Posted by Jeff on November 14, 2014

Today is a day of waiting, for me.  Granted, it’s not as serious a form of waiting as, say, loved ones waiting for the results of surgery.  And it’s not as exciting a form of waiting as, say, anxious grandparents waiting to hear of the birth of their first grandchild.  No, this waiting is much more (if you’ll pardon the expression) peripheral.

Today, I’m waiting for the Bell technician to come to the church to install a new Internet connection.

I was told that the technician would arrive sometime between 8:00 a.m. and, well, next Thursday.  (Not really.  He’s supposed to arrive before 5:00 today.)  And it’s not like I don’t have plenty to keep me busy around the church.  But when you are waiting for someone to arrive, and you don’t know when it will occur, there is a certain impatience, a certain anxiety, that goes with that waiting.

God’s people have been in just that sort of waiting mode since the ascension of Jesus.  Time and again, the Lord Jesus told us that he would return to earth to consummate time as we know it and to receive his faithful, dead and living, to himself.

When we look at world events, it’s tempting to expect that Jesus is coming back soon.  Of course, he said as much, revealed to John, in the penultimate verse in the Bible:  “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22.20, NIV).  So if he has been coming “soon” since the end of the first century, when Revelation was penned, how long is “soon”?  Of course, Peter reminds us that for God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day (2 Peter 3.8), so if that tells us anything, it’s that making predictions is a dangerous thing to do.  Even Jesus himself said that only the Father knows when that time will come (Mark 13.32).

At least with the Bell technician, I have a day, and a window in which to expect his arrival.  In the meantime, I carry on my normal activities – but confined to the church building for the day.

As we await the return of the Lord Jesus, we ought likewise to carry on our normal activities – not confined to a building, but confined to the world in which we live, constrained by the will of God to wait with patience and endurance for our safe redemption, whatever that may look like.

Waiting can be hard.  But, as the apostle Paul reminds us, the fruit of the Spirit is patience (Galatians 5.22).  It’s good to wait expectantly for the Lord, because eternity in his presence is going to be amazing.  But it’s also good to wait patiently, because “No one knows about that day or hour” (Mark 13.32, NIV).

There will be no sure sign of the Bell technician’s arrival until I see that familiar blue and white van.  Likewise, there will be no sure sign of Jesus’ return until we see him face to face.  There are those who will claim to be him, but if I understand Scripture correctly, there will be no mistaking his return.  You won’t have to wait for Jesus to introduce himself, or to read about it in the newspaper.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.2, NIV).

Want a little inspiration for your day?  Listen to Sandi Patty sing what it will be like to meet the Lord.

That’ll be worth the wait.  Blessings for your weekend!

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LOVE ONE ANOTHER: 3. Remain Faithful

Posted by Jeff on November 9, 2014

1 John 2.18-27 gives the impression that John is a bit exasperated with the Gnostics who have infiltrated his community of faith.  His call to the church (then and now) is to remain faithful in spite of what they are facing.  A healthy church is fixed on truth.  Listen here:

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Pride goes before destruction

Posted by Jeff on November 7, 2014

I’ve been a recreational curler for about 16 years. While I don’t think I’d be God’s gift to any team going to the Brier, I think my skills have improved a bit over the years. It took me a long time to be able to deliver a stone in a satisfactory (to me) manner, but most of the time, I find I can now hit my groove and probably get a better “do what the skip asks for” average than many million-dollar baseball players can do in their game. I’d call myself a pretty confident, though humble, curler. What’s more, I hadn’t fallen on the ice in a long time.

Then came last Tuesday.

The coin had been tossed and our team got choice of colour (translation: we lost the toss). The lead went to throw his first stone, and I followed it diligently 8262059down the sheet. All of a sudden, about eight feet from the far hog line, I found myself flat out on the ice. It took less than a second for gravity to do its number on my whole body.

Thankfully, I didn’t hit my head, and I got up right away. But the first thing I noticed was that my left knee didn’t feel exactly right. I continued sweeping, and thought everything was okay. Then, when it was my turn to throw, I crouched down in the hack, and my left knee rather forcefully intimated that this was not a good idea.

I tried to ignore it. I kicked out of the hack and found myself leaning on the rock. (You’re not supposed to lean on the rock, especially when your gravitational pull is as, ahem, significant as mine.) Writhing in pain, I tossed the rock out of my hand and stood up as quickly as I could. I felt fine. I tried again with my second stone. Same result.

Last Tuesday, I learned how to be a “stick curler” – I used my brush to throw the stone so I didn’t have to crouch down. Who knew there was a learning curve to ice-bound shuffleboard?! While my injury may not have been the only contributing factor, we lost the game…the first game I’ve lost all season.

Oddly, I had just said to my wife, before I left for the rink, that I had not been on a team that lost a game yet this year. Some people would say that was “karma” at work, that I shouldn’t have “jinxed” my game by making such a comment. But I didn’t say it with great hubris – at least, I don’t think I did; it was just a remark on the stats. I’d like to think this was mere coincidence; I certainly don’t believe that God caused my collision with the ice, nor the resulting injury! Nevertheless, as I picked myself up off the ice and realized my (minor) injury, I found myself quoting Proverbs 16.18: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (NLT).

(In case you’re wondering, my physician poked and yanked around my knee and said it was just a strain, and I shouldn’t have to become a chronic stick curler for a few more years yet!)

Be careful out there!

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Love One Another: A New Commandment

Posted by Jeff on November 2, 2014

One of the challenges of the Christian faith is that we are called to love one another, yes, and to be obedient to the Lord.  Each, in its own right, is difficult.

As we looked at most of chapter 2 today of 1 John (2.1-17), we learned about the importance of obedience as a fruit of our faith, and a sign and witness to what the gospel has done to change us.  You can listen to the message here:

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Let your light shine…through a pumpkin?

Posted by Jeff on October 31, 2014

There are varying opinions among followers of Jesus regarding what to do about Hallowe’en. Some say we should steer clear of it because God’s people shouldn’t be celebrating the devil’s holiday. Others say we should engage, either because it’s just dressing up for fun or because it’s a way to witness to the community.

I have some sympathy with each side, I must admit.

Hallowe’en is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, the day marked in the liturgical calendar ahead of All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints’ Day, which is November 1. Its origins, my wife reminds me, are Christian: poor children would go door-to-door in search of food. Prayers would be said over homes. The needy would be cared for. God’s work would be done. Only later did a more sinister element come into the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve.

The devilish twist that has come to Hallowe’en is yet another mark of the depravity of humanity. The idea that anyone would throw eggs at the homes of those who do not give out candy is not part of the original plan. Rolling large pumpkins down hills and having them splat into whatever got in their way is not what the poor children of small English towns were seeking to have happen. Putting poison in apples or razor blades in candies is not what was intended for marking All Hallows’ Eve.

Can Hallowe’en be redeemed? For a while, one would see ‘alternative’ gatherings, where kids were asked to dress up as their favourite Bible character and come to the church. But it just wasn’t the same for anybody. There are still alternative activities that are offered, and they can be fun.

Taking your kids around to neighbours’ homes can be a way to build bridges with your neighbours, perhaps leading to relationships that could help you share God’s love. Opening your home to kids who come seeking goodies can be valuable, too. Carve a cross into your pumpkin (to ‘let your light shine’!). Don’t wear a scary costume. Engage the kids in real conversation. On top of that, opening your door to trick-or-treaters can be a way to get Scripture into their, and their parents’, hands and hearts. I especially recommend Scripture selections – little snippets from the Bible on pertinent topics – from the Canadian Bible Society. They aren’t doctrinal in nature – just offering pure Scripture in an easy-to-read translation that will give the kids who come to your door something to think about…something to chew on as they chew on the goodies you’ve given them!

But if you’re going to mark Hallowe’en as a form of Christian witness, make sure the candy you put in beside the Scripture selection is really good stuff. After all, the Bible tells us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34.8a, NIV)!

By the way, more important than Hallowe’en, today is Reformation Day. It was on this day in 1517 that Augustinian monk Martin Luther made public 95 ideas for reforming the church from the inside. In today’s terms, it “went viral”, and began the Protestant Reformation. Happy Reformation Day! May the Lord bless you in whatever way you celebrate.

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LOVE ONE ANOTHER: Don’t be a fool!

Posted by Jeff on October 26, 2014

There are better titles I could have chosen for this message, and you’ll learn why I didn’t choose one of them as you listen.  In this new series, we’re taking a journey through the first letter of John, near the end of the New Testament.  Written by the same John who penned the Gospel, the Apostle, the first letter of John is primarily a story about God’s love – and right thinking about the person of Jesus Christ.

Based on 1 John 1.1-10, you can listen to this message here:

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Do not fear

Posted by Jeff on October 24, 2014

For a long time, we assumed these sorts of things only happened in other places: Tel Aviv. Belfast. New York.

Now we know: Canada is not immune. The terrorist attacks in Ottawa on Wednesday morning have shaken our nation in ways not previously experienced. We are vulnerable. Those who would make Canadians “pay” for our desire to see freedom and democracy for all the world’s peoples are among us.

In other words, we now live as much of the world lives.

We cannot, however, live in fear, for that is what the terrorists want. They undertake their activities in an attempt to terrorize people into succumbing to the wishes of those doing the terrorizing.

Many people in the world live in fear because of terrorism, and it is in those places where the terrorists have the upper hand.

But not all those living under terrorism live in fear. Consider the Christians in Mosul, Iraq. It is they who live with the most visibleNun_arabic_Nazarene sign of terrorism these days. It is they who have the Arabic letter nun painted on their homes by ISIS insurgents who are intent on eradicating the Christian “infidels” from the land they believe is rightfully Islamic territory.

If some armed group were threatening to remove you from your home, what would you do? If your answer is “give in”, you’re not like the Iraqi Christians. Not only are they not giving in, there are reports that more people are coming forward to be baptized into the name of the Triune God of grace – even in the midst of overt persecution.

“Fear” is not in the vocabulary of these believers. Neither should it be in ours.

The days of Christendom, even in good old safe Canada, are gone. To live as an authentic follower of Jesus today is not mainstream. It is, as it always was in New Testament times, counter-cultural. But we serve the God who enabled the prophet Elijah single-handedly to put the prophets of a false god in their place. We serve the God who enabled little David to slay Goliath the giant. We serve the God who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ.

If that sounds a little bit triumphalistic, so be it. The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8.31, NIV). It is this belief that we serve the one true God that has encouraged Christians for over two thousand years.

The threat of terrorism – religious, political, or otherwise – is real for us. But we should not fear.

Take a few moments and slowly read – more than once, if you can – Psalm 46 (NLT). Allow it to soak through you and fill you with faith in the God who will protect you, who will protect all of his faithful, in the face of whatever may come before us. (When you see the word “interlude”, that’s right in the text; pause at those points and let the words sink in.) Believe what you read, and let that be an encouragement to you…and through you, to others.

God is our refuge and strength,

    always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear when earthquakes come

    and the mountains crumble into the sea.

Let the oceans roar and foam.

    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,

    the sacred home of the Most High.

God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.

    From the very break of day, God will protect it.

The nations are in chaos,

    and their kingdoms crumble!

God’s voice thunders,

    and the earth melts!

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:

    See how he brings destruction upon the world.

He causes wars to end throughout the earth.

    He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;

    he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God!

    I will be honored by every nation.

    I will be honored throughout the world.”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

    the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

 

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