Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

The desires of your heart

Posted by Jeff on November 27, 2015

We are only marking the beginning of the season of Advent this weekend, but the commercials advertising everything we should want for Christmas have been bombarding us for a few weeks now. I’m reminded of the reality of desire.

A verse I long ago committed to memory was Psalm 37.4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” It sounds kind of formulaic, doesn’t it? “If” I delight myself in the Lord, “the result” will be to gain the desires of my heart. But it’s not so simple, is it?

Context is everything. Consider what that verse looks like in context, in verses 3-6: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Considering the immediate context of the verse, and the wider context of the Bible as a whole, verse 4 doesn’t seem so formulaic, does it? We are called, in the context of delighting in the Lord, to trust in him and commit our way to him. And doesn’t it follow, then, that if we trust in, delight in, and commit our way to the Lord, that the desires of our hearts will begin to look a lot like the desires of God’s heart?

My prayer is always that my will will be so knit into the will of God that mine will be indistinguishable from his. It’s a daily discipline, but there is much peace, and much joy, in finding our desires resembling the Lord’s.

As the ads bombard your eyes, telling you what a truly loving person would give another (or oneself) for Christmas, keep in mind that the Lord will give us the desires of our hearts, when we truly delight in him.

Those desires won’t sell much advertising, but they’ll make a difference for eternity.

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Posted by Jeff on November 15, 2015

As we wrap up this series on what it takes to serve as a ruling elder, after looking at character and vision, we turn to commitment.  Based on 1 Peter 5.1-4 and James 5.13-18, you can listen to this final message in the series below.  At the end of the message, I show this video.

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Fear not!

Posted by Jeff on November 13, 2015

I have a calendar in my home study that has a strange trait: it has two November Fourteenths instead of one November 13th and one November 14th. I suspect it’s an error, and not intentional, since I get a calendar from the organization this came from each year, and this is the only time I’ve noticed two days labelled November 14.

But it does lead one to wonder about that fear of the number 13, and some people’s ‘issue’ with Friday the Thirteenth. “Triskaidekaphobia” is the fear of the number 13; “paraskevidekatriaphobia” is the scientific name for the fear of Friday the 13th. Some say this superstition stems from the notion that Judas was the 13th person at the Last Supper, on the night before Good Friday.

In other cultures, it’s a different number than 13 that is problematic. What they all hold in common is that the fear is irrational.

A common meme that finds its way around the internet now and again says that “Fear not” appears in the Bible 365 times, once for every day in the year. I haven’t stopped to count them all, but it seems about right. When we trust in the Lord, we have no reason to fear, no reason to worry.

Sadly, though, we find it easy to fear, easy to worry, but not so easy to trust in the One who created us, redeems us in Christ, and sustains us by the Holy Spirit. That will change as our relationship with the Lord grows deeper, as we know God’s character better, and are assured more of his love and kindness.

What do you fear irrationally? Think about that, and let it be an occasion to trust in the Lord more fully.

Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last.  I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1.17b-18, NLT).

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Posted by Jeff on November 8, 2015

Proverbs 29.18 says, “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.  But whoever obeys the law is joyful” (NLT).  The old King James Version says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Vision – divine guidance, at its root – is key to church life, and especially to the leaders of the church.  In this series, where we’re focusing on what it takes to be a ruling elder, we had a conversation with Donna Marchand, one of the elders on the Session, and looked at the story of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.1-21 over the course of this message:

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Remember, and work for peace

Posted by Jeff on November 6, 2015

Next week, Canadians will pause for a few moments to remember the sacrifices made in the wars in which our nation has fought for the cause of freedom. The wearing of a poppy, as a symbol of remembrance, has become a cultural norm for us; the challenge comes in keeping that cultural norm from becoming just another rote tradition.

While we remember, we do not glorify war. In fact, our act of remembrance should be a clarion call to peace – not peace at any price, but true peace, the shalom that only God can give us in this world.

Carl P. Daw, Jr., a contemporary American hymn writer, has penned these words which can serve as a prayer for us as we approach Remembrance Day, working for peace.

O day of peace that dimly shines

through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,

guide us to justice, truth, and love,

delivered from our selfish schemes.

May the swords of hate fall from our hands,

our hearts from envy find release,

till by God’s grace our warring world

shall see Christ’s promised reign of peace.


Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,

nor shall the fierce devour the small;

as beasts and cattle calmly graze,

a little child shall lead them all.

Then enemies shall learn to love,

all creatures find their true accord;

the hope of peace shall be fulfilled,

for all the earth shall know the Lord.

Let it be so.

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;

    the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.

The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,

    and a little child will lead them all. – Isaiah 11.6, NLT

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Posted by Jeff on November 1, 2015

In our congregation, we are electing new Session members (elders) in November.  To aid our process of discernment, we’re spending three Sundays looking at what it takes to be an elder, according to the Bible.  Along with looking at 1 Timothy 3.1-7, I invited John Mullings, our Clerk of Session, up for a conversation.  (I uncharacteristically stumbled over a few things, which I hope you don’t find as distracting as I did!)  Listen here:

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What does the Bible say?

Posted by Jeff on October 30, 2015

October 31 is an important day, but maybe not for the reason you think.

Yes, October 31 is also the day candy sellers and dentists everywhere look forward to each year, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

October 31 – tomorrow – marks a very important day in the history of Christianity. It was on October 31, 1517, that a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther decided to post 95 ideas he had derived, as a result of reading the New Testament, for reforming the church from within.

Now, when I say, “post”, I’m talking old school here: he did not post them on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. He literally nailed these notions to the big wooden door of the cathedral church in Wittenberg, Germany. It wasn’t all that odd; it was the normal way of disseminating information. It was the social media of the day. (Remember, even the printing press was a relatively new innovation at this point.)

The idea was that other scholars would read what Luther had written, and there would be dialogue and debate about how to make these ideas work for the benefit of the church.

However, some ordinary folks (read: not scholars) got hold of these ideas, because someone had taken them down and sent them to a printing press for wide dissemination. And when the ordinary folks got hold of these ideas, they ran with them, and went even further than Luther wanted to go.

Thus began the Protestant Reformation, on October 31, 1517.

Luther’s idea wasn’t to start a new church, but to make the Roman church better. And though Protestantism, and its many denominations, saw birth in the Reformation, there was good that came out of it for the Roman church, too, as it reformed from within.

It depends on one’s perspective, I suppose, but while some would see the Reformation as a celebration of the breakup of the church, others see it as a call to get back to the Scriptures. Much of what has been emphasized in Protestantism has been a call to ask, “What does the Bible say about this?”

As you mark Reformation day tomorrow (perhaps with copious amounts of candy), think about the many matters that go through your mind, and on which you must make decisions. Then ask yourself, “What does the Bible say about this?” That will be an apt celebration indeed.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119.105, NIV).

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Trusting Challenges

Posted by Jeff on October 23, 2015

We’ve just marked the first anniversary of the shooting that took place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. My friend, Hugh McGreechan, a subscriber to Encouragement From The Word, kindly allowed me to adapt an article he wrote for his church newsletter, reflecting on the event. Read on…

I lead the team of Special Constables at the Ontario Legislature, so needless to say, the tragic incident last October in Ottawa has greatly affected how we think, act, work and carry out our assigned responsibilities of protecting the Legislative Precinct. To this end, much time and effort has been committed to reviewing how we operate, to see if there is a different way to do business. As you may have read, one option was to introduce firearms for our team. This proposal has required countless long stressful hours of meetings, discussions, research, policy writing and training.

As part of the team, I have had the amazing (more now in reflection) opportunity to travel about the province and country for specialized training, but this was quite a step (no, a major leap) outside of my personal comfort zone. No matter how I tried to convince myself otherwise, I knew I was troubled, and unsure of what exactly was to occur. In typical Hughie fashion I have to get myself worked up into a ‘bit’ of a tizzy for such challenges, and this proved to be no different. These multiple courses left me feeling shaken, scared, alone and unsure; and only when I took a breath was I able to get my head back to where it needed to be. Make no mistake: this breath was not a simple pause to gather my thoughts and get it together; this is when I remembered that it could not be too rough, as God was there, too, and through him all things are possible. Through much prayer and conversation, and by his grace, I was able to complete the courses and do what was needed to successfully meet these challenges.

After I successfully got thought the multiple testing stages, I could not believe the feeling of overwhelming joy and enthusiasm. All stress and worries were completely gone, allowing me to see it for what it was and enjoy what I had experienced. During the qualifiers, although aware of the pressure and challenge ahead, a sense of calm was ever-present, assisting me to do what was required. When I looked back at what I went through, I could not believe the time, energy and health wasted worrying about what may be instead of enjoying what was. More importantly, I felt badly that I had not been stronger in my faith at the onset, to trust and seek God’s help sooner; thankfully he is there to help us and does not judge, condemn or disown us when we stray, slip or falter. Like an ever-watchful parent, he is there holding out his hand to support and remind us that there is no need to worry as he is always there every step of the way, even if we forget.

It was absolutely incredible to come to church on my first Sunday back, feeling the joy and security of what had occurred, to see that the hymns and message were all structured around trusting in God and knowing he is always there. It was as if the service had been set just for me. It always intrigues me how things all tie together as constant reminders of what has occurred and is possible. He truly works in mysterious and marvellous ways.

Perhaps if I (maybe we) would take on roles or challenges more often we would learn what is possible or just what we are actually capable of with his help. By staying safe and not taking the venture, we are not sure what to do when called upon to act, and being new it always seem much bigger than it is or has to be. This is one thing I am working on and hopefully one day will master (or at least improve upon) it.

I have often discussed with people how amazing it is to me that the actions of one person on that day in Ottawa could so change aspects of society but now just imagine what could be achieved if that energy was designed to help others.

What about each of us? What could we achieve if we stepped outside of our comfort zone and challenged ourselves to do more, help others and share the Lord’s message? If we seek and find other believers, it strengthens our resolve. If we introduce new people to his Kingdom we get to actually be the disciples he intended us to be. If we faced challenges head on, remembering God was there with us, all of our nervous wasted energy could be used to achieve an even greater result.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4.13, NIV).

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THE TALK: 4. Satan’s Sex Ed

Posted by Jeff on October 18, 2015

This may be the hardest sermon I’ve ever preached.

Some will say I pushed too hard, some will say I soft-pedalled it, but I believe this is what the Holy Spirit was leading me to say as we wrapped up our series called “The Talk”, on forming a biblical Christian sexual ethic.  In this message, we alluded to Psalm 51 and worked through 1 Corinthians 6.  Have a listen:

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God, keep our land

Posted by Jeff on October 16, 2015

On Monday, Canadians go to the polls to elect a new federal government. It has been a long campaign, and filled with more rhetoric and attack than visions and promises.

For followers of Jesus, it would be nice if there were one party with whose platform we completely agreed with, for that would make it easier to cast a vote. But we are not likely to find such a thing. And there are Christians in all parties (as well as people of other faiths, and no faith at all).

So what’s a believer to do?

Really, there are three things we are called to do around an election.

First, learn. We need to go through an election campaign prepared to learn what each party (and candidate) espouses in terms of platform, core values and promises. Try to wade through the propaganda, which is everywhere, and learn what each party and candidate stands for. Then ask yourself, How does this mesh with what I believe?

Second, pray. Once you have learned as much as you can, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you prepare to vote. Don’t just take sixty seconds to pray before you mark your ballot; pray as you learn, and ask the Lord to help you discern what is going to be best for Canada before you get to the polling station.

Third, vote. God appoints a government for a nation through the people who vote. It is both a civic and a Christian responsibility to participate in the democratic process that has the potential to shape the future of the country.

As we approach election day, join me in praying those familiar words of our national anthem: God, keep our land glorious and free!

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13.1, NLT).

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