Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

Communion FAQs

Posted by Jeff on July 24, 2016

We enjoy celebrating the Lord’s Supper once in the summer at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  But not often do we talk about some of the key assumptions about our celebration of God’s grace!  So this week, we remedied that – at least in part.

Last Monday, I had my gallbladder removed, but I decided that wouldn’t keep me from preaching this week, it being Communion Sunday and all.  And it didn’t, but you will probably be able to tell in listening to this message that I don’t have my usual energy and sometimes seem out of breath.  I should have taken the Sunday off, but I didn’t.  So you get to listen to a message highlighting answers to some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that I hear about the Lord’s Supper.  Based on 1 Corinthians 11.17-34, you can listen to the message here:

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Every. Little. Thing.

Posted by Jeff on July 22, 2016

Not long ago, I received word that my family physician is going to be retiring at the end of September.  I’m particularly sad about this, because he’s one of those “old school” doctors who takes the Hippocratic Oath very seriously, who still makes house calls when necessary, and who almost always has enough room in his daily schedule to fit in those last-minute needed appointments.  I will miss having him play a role in my life.

He has engaged a firm that will digitize his patients’ files so that all the records of my years of being seen by him will fit onto a CD that I can carry to my next doctor, whoever that may be.  Everything that he has seen me for in the past eight years will be available for the new physician to review.  Every.  Little.  Thing.  Yes, the important things, like my drug allergy (yikes) and my body mass index (ouch), but also the less affirming things, like the time I had to be treated for a boil on my bottom (let’s not go there).  Every.  Little.  Thing.

Of course, this is all for my good, right?  The new doctor will need to know my background fully in order to be able to treat me properly when I come for assistance.  The new doctor needs to see the big picture.

I like how God can see the big picture – the whole picture – but chooses not to.  The apostle John says of the Lord, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1.9, NLT).  And when does that happen?  The earlier part of the verse says it happens “if we confess our sins to him”. And when God receives our confession of sin and forgives us and cleanses us, he keeps no record of our sins.  They are gone like dust in the wind.

Let’s not kid ourselves:  God could remember every little thing if he wanted to.  But he chooses not to.  As the old saying goes, he throws the sins we confess to him into the lake of forgetfulness, and posts a ‘no fishing’ sign there.  While our medical records may have the good, the bad and the ugly in them, our divine records do not – when we live in relationship with God, believing that Jesus died to take away our sins and rose again to draw us to eternal life.  When we are in Christ, God looks upon us as if we have the righteousness of Christ.

Our challenge is to seek to live that way.  Growing in holiness, in righteousness – that’s the best response to realizing that God chooses not to remember every little thing.  I’m praying that God will give you the grace and strength to grow in holiness and righteousness!

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Resident Aliens

Posted by Jeff on July 17, 2016

I borrowed the title for this message from the book of the same name by Willimon and Hauerwas, two professors at Duke Divinity School, who wrote about the importance of the church being the church amid the culture around it.

As “resident aliens”, we need to understand and live our faith effectively if we want to have any hope of influencing culture.  But since all our little sub-cultures are different, each of us may need to handle that ‘living out’ differently.  Based on 1 Peter 2.4-12, you can listen to the message here:

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Why we do Camp

Posted by Jeff on July 15, 2016

This week, St. Paul’s, Nobleton has been holding its annual Vacation Bible Camp.  Each year, it is our privilege, and that of many other congregations, to welcome community children into our midst for a few days to teach them and model for them the way of Jesus.  It’s a sacred trust, and we take it seriously.

Think about it:  yes, we see some of our own home-grown kids, but we also welcome children who are not currently part of our fellowship.  Parents bring them to us, sign a form, and entrust their little loved ones to our care.  For parents, it’s not just about a few mornings when they can have some peace and quiet, or some unfettered time to get some work done; they are entrusting their kids to us and allowing us to build into the spiritual formation of these little ones.  We are helping to shape their lives for God’s Kingdom.

Volunteers, and sometimes staff, put countless hours into the planning, preparation and execution of these camps not because they want to babysit strangers’ children, but because they truly believe, in the words of Reggie Joiner, that in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what these kids did with Jesus.  As churches, we offer these ministries to families because we want them – parents and kids alike – to have a life-changing encounter with the Lord.

Kids memorize Bible verses that may stick with them and may not.  They also learn songs that definitely stick with them.  (I meet parents in the grocery store year after year who tell me – in the dead of winter – that their kids are still singing camp songs.  Children’s memories are amazing.)  Everything we do at camp is centred on knowing Jesus and loving him.  Because of our proximity to Canada’s Wonderland, these families could get season’s passes and go there every day.  Some parents tell us that their kids are more excited to come to Vacation Bible Camp than they are to go to Wonderland.

Why?  We don’t have rides (well, we have a cool waterslide…).  What we have is Jesus.  And he is compelling.

It’s not like Jesus shows up in body, looking like the Bible comics we used to get in Sunday school when we were kids.  No:  Jesus shows up in those who serve.  He comes in the form of caring leaders, teachers and helpers who carry a conviction that in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what we did with Jesus.

What we can accomplish in five mornings can be the equivalent of a whole year of Sunday morning kids’ ministry.  And the community lines up to bring their children.

It’s a sacred trust.  And we wouldn’t give it up for the world.

What are you doing to encourage kids to love Jesus?

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.  All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 111.10a, NLT).

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Engage the Culture

Posted by Jeff on July 10, 2016

Are Christians supposed to be like turtles, chameleons, or fish out of water?  We’re called to engage the culture as God’s people, without retreating from the world and without forsaking our principles and looking like the world around us.  What does that look like?  Jeremiah 29.1-14 gives us an idea.  This week looks more at theory, and next week will look more at practice.  Have a listen:

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It’s also about us

Posted by Jeff on July 8, 2016

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a Jewish Rabbi whose writing was and remains immensely popular.  Last week, I learned a paraphrase of something he said about the Scriptures:  the Bible is not a book that humanity wrote about God, but a book that God wrote about humanity.  Of course, Heschel was writing about the Bible he knew, which we call the Old Testament.  But I think it can be equally applied to both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, from our perspective.

It’s natural for us to turn to the Bible to learn something about God – and we can do just that!  There are two kinds of revelation known to followers of Jesus.  General revelation is the creation around us, the belief that just looking at a snow-capped mountain or a lake as still as glass should lead us to believe in the existence of a benevolent Creator.  Special revelation comes to us in the Word – the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, and the Word written, which testifies to him.  The Bible does tell us everything we can know about God the Holy Trinity.

But, as Heschel intimates, the Bible is also about us.

When you look in the mirror, you see an accurate reflection of your physical being.  When you read the Bible, you can see an accurate reflection of your spiritual being.  When we read the stories of the people of God in the time before Jesus, we see our own rebellion in theirs.  When we read the Psalms, we see our own emotions reflected in the ancient words.  When we read the New Testament, though, we see something more:  we see an image of what we are called to be.  In the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, we see a reflection of the ethics to which he calls us; in the words of Paul and the other New Testament writers, we see a picture of who we are invited to become as the people of God, individually and collectively as the church.

It may be challenging at times to carve out time to read the Bible, but I encourage you to do that every day.  There is no part of God’s Word on which we cannot reflect.  Every part of the Bible is equally inspired; of course, it is not all equally applied, but the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom, along with the tradition of the faith in which we find ourselves, to discern how best to grapple with any and every part of the Word.

When you read the Bible, look for God.  And look for yourself.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3.16, NLT).

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Pray for Canada

Posted by Jeff on July 1, 2016

On this Canada Day, I encourage you to pray for the nation we treasure. It was founded on strong Christian principles, not least demonstrated by our coat of arms, with the phrase a mari usque ad mare – from sea to sea. Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley came up with the idea of calling Canada a “dominion”, and while that terminology is no longer frequently used, and we have wavered significantly from our Christian roots, we can know most assuredly that God still has a plan for Canada.
I took a course this week in Vancouver on cultural discipleship in a secular age, and one of the things that struck me early on is what Jeremiah wrote to the exiled people of God. In chapter 29, we’re used to hearing the comforting words that God has plans for us. But earlier in the chapter, the prophet said this to God’s people who had been carted away from their beloved land: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare” (Jeremiah 29.4-7, NLT).
We might be inclined to say this world is not our home, but temporarily, it is. Pray for Canada this Canada Day, and ask the Lord to encourage his people to settle, and to be good neighbours to the many diverse people who inhabit our land, that they may catch a glimpse of Jesus in us.

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God, Keep Our Land

Posted by Jeff on June 26, 2016

When we sing Canada’s national anthem, we are praying; did you know that?  In this message, we look at where the inspiration for the Dominion of Canada came from, and how we can act as citizens of Canada who are also citizens of God’s Kingdom.  Like people, like ruler!  Based on Psalm 72.1-14 and Romans 13.1-7, you can listen to the message here:

 

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Being like John

Posted by Jeff on June 24, 2016

On the church calendar, today is known as the Feast of St. John the Baptist.  In Québec, it’s known as La Fête Nationale; it’s their version of Canada Day (which is generally considered moving day there).  I remember camping near the Québec border one year around this time, thinking, Why are there so many people here from Québec?  Then I looked at the calendar.

Most Christians pay less attention to June 24 than do our friends in la belle province.  But we do well to pay heed to the story of John the Baptist and to give God thanks for his ministry of preparation.  Read again part of what John said to introduce Jesus to the world:

“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!

    Clear the road for him!’”

 

“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  (Matthew 3.2-3, 11, NLT)

Here’s your question today:  what are you doing to introduce Jesus to the world?  Maybe you’re not walking around in a burlap sack and eating bugs while shouting to any who will listen, but what are you doing?

You can engage with your neighbours in helpful ways (last Sunday I suggested the example of cutting the lawn of an ill neighbour).  You can invite them to dinner.  You can clean up the trash in your neighbourhood.  There are all sorts of ways you can introduce Jesus to your community.  Take some time to pray, maybe right now, and ask the Lord what yours will be.

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Judge Not?

Posted by Jeff on June 19, 2016

Matthew 7.1, some say, has surpassed John 3.16 as the Bible’s best-remembered verse.  Trouble is, context is everything, and it often gets misused, if not abused.  What djudge-not-11oes Jesus mean when he tells us not to judge other people?  That’s what we explored today in looking at Matthew 7.1-6.  Have a listen:

 

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