Paul’s directives to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5.1-6.2a focus on widows, elders and slaves, but mostly on widows. What can this first-century letter teach us about caring for the needy? The big idea is that to do God’s work – to care intentionally – we need each other. You can watch it on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10210347413618861%2F&show_text=0&width=400“>here, or listen below:
Posted by Jeff on October 21, 2016
I was at a family ministry conference last weekend, and among the many things I learned was a song – a song easily taught to a congregation, and especially to children. It has a fantastic message:
Create in me a clean, clean heart.
Create in me a work of art.
Create in me a miracle:
Something good, something beautiful.
You’re not finished with me yet.
You’re not finished with me yet!
By your power, I can change, I can change,
‘Cause you’re not finished with me yet.
The song was written and performed by a group called Rend Collective Experiment, and you can listen to it here. Give it a listen, and you’ll find yourself singing along.
The message is clear, isn’t it? It’s a prayer, based in part on Psalm 51, in which we ask God to make of us something that only he can do: to have a clean heart free from sin, to be a work of art made in God’s image, to be a miracle (which our birth really is), and to be something beautiful – which we are to God, no matter how others (or we ourselves) feel.
Then we affirm two truths: God isn’t finished with us yet, and we can change by his power.
There are times when we feel pretty down about ourselves, or about the human race, but the good news is that if we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, he will make us into what he longs for us to be.
Don’t be satisfied with who you are right now, as good or bad as you think you may be; God isn’t finished with us yet. When Jesus died and rose again to save us from sin and bring us into eternal life, he knew we could be transformed – that we would be transformed. God loves us as we are, but he loves us way too much to leave us there.
Don’t settle for the status quo. Let the Lord work in you and make you new from within. You’ll be better off for it, and so will the world!
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalm 51.10, NLT).
Posted by Jeff on October 14, 2016
It’s one word that nearly everybody can identify with. For many people, it’s what fuels their lives. Hope is what makes people put one foot in front of the other, what makes people decide to get out of bed for the day.
I hope I will have a better day at work than I did yesterday.
I hope I will do well on this test.
I hope my spouse will not get cancer.
Sometimes, hope is misdirected, though, isn’t it? We can hope for something that we think might solve our problems.
I hope I will win the lottery.
I hope I will get a big inheritance so I’ll never have to work again.
I hope that nasty so-and-so falls into a pit and is never seen again.
Even hope can have its ugly side. But that’s not what God intended.
Hope is invariably tied to faith. What we hope for is often what we place our faith in. If you re-read those “I hope” statements, they can all seem pretty vapid, even when the best of intentions are behind them.
There is a lovely little gospel hymn that reminds us where to direct our hope:
My hope is in the Lord
Who gave himself for me,
And paid the price for all my sin
For me he died, for me he lives,
And everlasting life and light he freely gives.
Jesus is the one on whom we rightly place our hope, because it is in him that we rightly place our faith. Is your hope in Jesus?
“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11.1, NLT).
Posted by Jeff on October 7, 2016
There’s a lot of excitement among Toronto sports fans these days. By the miracles of good playing and better mathematics, the Blue Jays secured a one-game wild card playoff against the Baltimore Orioles earlier this week. The two teams were very evenly matched, as is evidenced by the fact that the game went to eleven innings.
The tension of the tie was broken in the bottom of the eleventh when Edwin Encarnación hit a walk-off home run, securing Toronto a shot at the American League Division Series, which the Jays are now playing against the Texas Rangers. (If last night’s game is any indication, Toronto could be moving on quickly!)
Interestingly, at least in the Toronto media, what has taken at least an equal place in the news with the team’s move into the post-season is the story of an individual who tossed a beer can onto the field during the wild card game, nearly hitting a Baltimore outfielder.
Shame has been heaped upon this individual from all sides. The Toronto Police Service believed they had footage of the individual, and recommended that he turn himself in or find his photo released to the public. (I’m not sure that someone who would seek to hit a baseball player with a beer can would respond to the threat of public shaming, but that’s another story.) Once the photo was released, the individual was identified and he has since retained counsel and contacted police.
Those who know the man say that it would be most uncharacteristic of him to do such a thing as toss a beer can onto the playing field. The photo that was released, interestingly, shows him drinking from a plastic glass. Ultimately, the evidence will be produced in court and the accused individual will be found guilty or not guilty. At this point, the evidence released to the public seems particularly sketchy.
When I learn of situations like this, I’m often reminded of our responsibility as followers of Jesus to live out our faith and to take the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations, seriously. Over the years, though, I’ve known enough Christians who have kept their faith completely private, save for Sunday morning, and found that even some of their friends were surprised to learn they were Christians.
Faith must be personal, yes – it’s the only way truly to experience the grace of God. But while it must be personal, faith must not be private. After all, someone else removed the veil of privacy from her or his faith in order that you could become a follower of Jesus.
If you were charged and tried with being a Christian, would there be enough public evidence to convict you?
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1.22, NLT).
Posted by Jeff on September 30, 2016
There are many churches in Canada that are in decline. That’s not news. In my own denomination, congregations are closing at a rate never before seen. I am grateful that there are some in my own, and in other denominations, that are growing and vibrant.
What do you suppose is the cause of this? It could be a long conversation to talk about decline, but there’s a story in Mark 2 that helps us understand vitality. In that story, four friends of a paralytic are so convinced that Jesus can heal their friend that, unable to navigate through the crowd, they dig a hole in the roof and lower him into the house where Jesus was teaching to get Jesus to heal him.
In the beginning of that story, though, Mark sets the scene this way: “When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door” (Mark 2.1-2a, NLT). I read that story to a friend recently, and those words stopped her in her tracks. Why? Because that’s the answer to what brings vitality to the church: “Soon the house…was so packed with visitors that there was no room, even outside the door.”
Jesus was in the house. And that made all the difference.
The instructive word for us in the church today is that if we want to see vitality, growth, vibrancy, we need to ensure Jesus is in the house.
That means setting aside our own biases, our own wishes, and praying heartily for the Lord’s presence to be in our worship, in our service, in every aspect of our churches.
Give it a try this week! God knows what amazing things could happen to the church in Canada if we invite the risen Lord Jesus Christ into our midst – not just in the church, but in our homes. Is Jesus in your house?
Posted by Jeff on September 25, 2016
In this new series on 1 Timothy, we are going to learn how the advice of the apostle Paul affected Timothy, whom he mentored, and how it can help us walk with the Lord in our time.
We are grateful that God is merciful, and gracious. Do we accept these? That’s Paul’s advice to Timothy, and to us. Based on 1 Timothy 1, you can listen to the message here:
Posted by Jeff on September 23, 2016
Yesterday marked the change of seasons in Canada. While the calendar said it was autumn, the weather certainly didn’t indicate any such change! But today shows signs of being cooler. Every time we see a change of seasons, I am reminded of these classic words from the Teacher, Qoheleth, who wrote Ecclesiastes. Linger for a few minutes over this passage. Read it a few times, and ask the Lord if he has a word for you in it. And rejoice in the changing of the seasons, by the plan of God.
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.