Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

REBUILDING A PEOPLE: 4. Gatekeepers

Posted by Jeff on March 29, 2015

Often, we think of gates as things used to keep people out, but they can also signify something significant within, and a gatekeeper can be a symbol of invitation.  Will you, Christ-follower, be a symbol of invitation (and of God’s love and grace) for people around you?

Based on Nehemiah 6.15-7.3, you can listen to this message here:

Posted in Biblical Messages | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Read on!

Posted by Jeff on March 27, 2015

Most of you reading this find that there is value – great value – in reading the Bible. It is, as the Psalmist put it, a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119.105). It is God’s revealed Word in writing, the library of books in which we find God’s will for the human race, in which we find everything that can profit us for salvation.

Reading the Bible is good for your soul.

Do you also read the writings of those who have read the Bible and found their lives enriched by it?

There is a whole category of Christian literature entitled, ‘Spiritual Classics’. There are varying opinions as to what gets classified as a classic piece of spiritual literature, but the writings of many of those who have contributed toward the church’s understanding of God and of itself generally qualify. Think of people like Athanasius, Augustine, Benedict, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley. Rarely is an author considered a spiritual classic while still living, though one might argue in favour of Eugene Peterson today, or even A.W. Tozer 50 years ago.

Many of these authors can be found online, whether in free books or for purchase. A few, like C.S. Lewis, can usually be found in big-box bookstores. To find many of the others, you have to find a really good quality bookstore. There are few Christian bookstores left, but the better ones will carry classics. Many better general, mom-and-pop bookstores will keep some of these classic writers in their religion section.

There is a whole world of learning to be had at the feet of these great thinkers and writers, but most Christians simply don’t know they exist. Now you do!

If you sometimes struggle for devotional reading that challenges your spirit, consider adding one of the great classic Christian writers to your routine. You will find blessing from their words, and perhaps even a certain affinity, when you realize that these great men and women of the Christian faith had struggles and doubts and difficulties alongside the joys of life in Christ – just like we do.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12.1, NLT).

Posted in Encouragement From The Word | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

REBUILDING A PEOPLE: 3. Taking Care of Each Other

Posted by Jeff on March 22, 2015

As Nehemiah and his people continued to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, economic issues were leaving people in a very needy position – and others, even fellow Jews, were taking advantage of the needy.  Nehemiah puts a stop to that, and in the process teaches us a lesson about how we can take care of each other as God’s people.  Based on Nehemiah 5.1-19, you can listen to the message here:

Posted in Biblical Messages | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Predicting the outcome

Posted by Jeff on March 20, 2015

I was pretty sure last Tuesday’s curling matchup was not going to be a good one. By the fifth end, it was 7-2 for the opposition. Our skip figured we’d play the sixth end, and call it a game.

But suddenly, there was a significant turnaround. We took three in the sixth, and stole four in the seventh. In the end, we won the game. Halfway through, that would not have been anything I’d have predicted; neither would anyone else on the team. But we held on, played our best, and won.

Forrest Gump famously said that life is like a box of chocolates, but I (much less famously) say that life can be like a curling game: you can’t predict the outcome based on what it’s like partway through.

For example, I know people who genuinely feel that God would never accept them because of sins they’ve committed in their lives. I can try to convince them otherwise, but ultimately, it needs to be the Holy Spirit who does that. God must be the one who shows them the way of grace and truth, a way that may surprise them, a way that they may not have predicted would be possible.

I know people who genuinely feel that they have no need of God, because they have it made; they’re living the dream. I can try to convince them otherwise, but ultimately, it needs to be the Holy Spirit who does that. God must be the one who shows them the way of salvation, a way that may surprise them, a way that they may not have predicted would be necessary.

And for followers of Christ, when we come to that place in life where all we really want is for God to do his work in and through us, that’s when the adventure really begins. We might get halfway through life and wonder what more could possibly go wrong – but the outcome will most assuredly be different. The trick is to hold on tight to the Lord and let him lead. It’s not ours to predict what it will be like; it’s ours to follow in obedience. We may not be able to predict what the final outcome will be like, but we do know that God will be with us, and that is enough for victory.

But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57, NRSV).

Posted in Encouragement From The Word | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

*Really* thinking about St. Patrick

Posted by Jeff on March 17, 2015

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to share here my newsletter article for March 2015 at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  It’s a different way of thinking about St. Patrick.  Read on…

MARCH IS A MONTH FILLED WITH POTENTIAL. It is, after all, the month in which spring arrives, at least on the calendar; given the frigidity of this winter, it takes a certain de- gree of hope to believe that spring will come later this month! (I imagine it will take even more hope for our friends in eastern Canada to believe that, with all the snow they’ve received!)

March also is the month that brings March Break. Students and teachers look forward to that time with great excitement, since it offers them a rest from learning, and teach- ing, and from each other! For some families and individuals, March Break affords the opportunity for some respite from the chill; for others, it’s a chance to make the most of the cold weather. For still others, it’s an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, irrespective of the weather.

The month of March is known for the feast day celebrated on the 17th. St. Patrick’s Day is marked not only by Christians, but by many others who simply use it as an ex- cuse for a party. And why not? While many people don’t realize it, Patrick is a saint worth celebrating. Why is that?

Patrick is best known as the patron saint of Ireland, and anyone with as little as a drop (or less!) of Irish blood within willingly makes the most of the opportunity to celebrate the heritage of the Emerald Isle with great merriment (and green-tinted libations, I un- derstand). But Patrick is worth celebrating for other reasons.

St. Patrick gives us reasons to celebrate good theology and evangelism.

We can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because Patrick was perhaps the most popular theo- logian to articulate a doctrine of the Trinity. A lot of folks assume it all has to do with the three-leaf clover, which might be more of a legend than an illustration of One God In Three Persons. Patrick lived not long after the doctrine of the Trinity was first ar- ticulated by the early Christians, and he helped popularize this important point of Christian belief among the people of Ireland, who had not been that well acquainted, because of distance if nothing else, with some of the basic doctrines of the church.

6

While the Trinity is a difficult theological tenet to explain – it remains a mystery which is clearly alluded to in Scripture but not completely spelled out – it is a hallmark state- ment of faith among followers of Jesus. The one true God, made known in the three Persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is beyond our complete comprehension. Yet by faith, we can apprehend this truth and experience communion in community with the God who is, in one sense, the very definition of community!

For a humorous yet accurate take on Patrick and the Trinity, check out this video.

Patrick also gives us reason to celebrate as Christians because he was a master at evan- gelism. He might better be remembered for driving snakes out of Ireland – also a tale of mythical proportions – but his greater feat was leading countless people to faith in Christ. Ireland, in those days, was primarily a land of religious people whose faith was druidic and pagan in nature.

He was a missionary. While this is debated hotly, many believe Patrick was born in Scotland, and that he believed God called him to bring Christ to the Irish. He was a master at understanding the culture he sought to transform. He learned what the cul- ture of druidism and paganism meant to the people, and he explained the gospel to them using terms from their own lexicon of faith. As a result, today, Ireland is a nation very faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. (There are many Anglicans and Presbyte- rians there, too, among other denominational groups.) The testaments to Patrick’s ef- forts may be seen in the numerous large and ancient church buildings which still stand from Cork to Dublin, from Londonderry to Belfast.

Patrick reminds us of the importance of good theology, and sharing our faith.

So March really is a month filled with potential, even for the church! Enjoy it and em- brace it, with God as your guide.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

REBUILDING A PEOPLE: 2. You Know You’re Doing Something Right

Posted by Jeff on March 15, 2015

Chances are, if you’ve got critics, you’re doing something right.  Last week, our intern introduced a series on the book of Nehemiah, which we are entitling, “Rebuilding A People”.  It is taking a brief look through this most interesting book of history and faith in the Old Testament.  Today, we looked at Nehemiah 4.1-23, a story of opposition to the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s response to his critics provides us with a vital lesson for ourselves and our churches today.  Have a listen here:

The photos referenced in the message were taken by my wife in Jerusalem in November 2013:

Neh wallis0902 Middle section - Nehemiah

Posted in Biblical Messages | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Let go of your concerns!

Posted by Jeff on March 13, 2015

Last night, my small group was talking about the disciplines of solitude and silence. For many Christ-followers, these can be really challenging – perhaps more so today than in any other era. Why? Because we have so much more to stimulate – and over-stimulate – us all the time. What might seem the easiest of spiritual disciplines can be the most difficult.

The thought of even a half-day silent retreat scares many of us half to death, because, if we’re honest, we have a certain addiction to our external stimuli. And, as with most addictions, we don’t really know it’s there until we are deprived.

As Ruth Haley Barton has written, “Silence deepens our experience of solitude, because in silence we choose to unplug not only from the constant stimulation of life in the company of others but also from our own addiction to noise, words, and activity. It creates a space for listening to the knowings that go beyond words…. The most essential question in solitude is: How have I been wanting to be with God, and how has God been wanting to be with me?” (Sacred Rhythms)

Today, instead of giving you more to read, I want to encourage you to take the next few minutes in silence, by yourself – just you and God. Sit comfortably, with your feet on the floor, palms up to indicate your openness to receive from the Lord. Pay attention to your breathing; slow it down. Close your eyes. Express your deepest longing to God. Take as long as you can, free from external visual or aural stimuli, in the presence of your Creator who loves you.

Let go of your concerns!

    Then you will know that I am God.

        I rule the nations.

        I rule the earth.” (Psalm 46.10, God’s Word Translation)

Posted in Encouragement From The Word | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Seize the day

Posted by Jeff on March 6, 2015

This is not a favourite weekend for a lot of folks. This is the weekend that we “spring ahead”, time-wise: the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. If it seems early, remember that the dates for DST were broadened a number of years ago; we don’t “fall back” until November.

Losing an hour’s sleep is not fun for any of us. Historically, it also tends to be a low-attendance Sunday for churches – let’s buck that trend this year!

Yet what we lose in March, we gain in November. What goes around, comes around. What saddens me, though, is that often, I hear people wishing their lives away.

“Oh, I wish it were summer so I could go to camp.”

“Oh, I wish it were fall so I could go back to school.”

“Oh, I wish I were older so I could retire.”

In our wistful desire for achievement, or delightful experience, we want to hit the fast-forward button on our lives.

There is much value in the old Latin phrase which was the motto of my high school, and surely many other institutions: carpe diem. Seize the day.

There are many sides to this, of course. It’s possible to be very hedonistic about seizing the day, living only for our own pleasure in the moment. It’s also possible to focus on this world when seizing the day, living solely for this life and not for eternity. But it is possible to seize the day and live for eternity, too.

One way to do that is to avoid worry. Many people are given to worry, even though they know it does not one iota of good. What about tomorrow? What about next week? What about next year? There is no need to worry; God has plans.

Another way to seize the day and live for eternity is to live in the moment for the sake of eternity. By that, I mean that we can live every moment of every day with great vigour, and live for Jesus while we do so. We can enjoy life while enjoying our faith. By wishing away our days, we wish away our opportunities to sow seeds for eternity in others’ gardens.

Why not seize the day today, and live each moment for God’s glory?

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6.33-34, NLT).

Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead an hour before bed on Saturday night!

Posted in Encouragement From The Word | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The value of questions

Posted by Jeff on February 27, 2015

If you’re part of a small group of some sort in your church, chances are, you cherish those times with those people. I know I do; my Thursday night LifeConnect Group, while small, is a fantastic group. One of the things I really like about our group is that nobody is afraid to ask questions. And these folks ask really good questions!

It was St. Anselm of Canterbury who adopted as his motto, fides quaerens intellectum – “Faith seeking understanding”. I think that could be the motto of my small group, too. It could be the motto of your small group as well!

We should never fear asking questions. Often, it’s when we ask questions that, for example, an employer knows we really want to learn something. It’s from asking questions that presumptions and presuppositions are challenged. It’s from asking questions that we get to know other people more deeply. It’s from asking questions that faith is developed.

Some people think that asking questions is the antithesis of faith, but I don’t think that’s true at all. By asking questions, we can find our faith deepened, not challenged. (Of course, our faith can be challenged, too, but by God’s grace, that can lead to deepened faith, too.)

Oh, there are some people who ask questions in an attempt to cast faith in a bad light, but those folks will always exist. But true seekers of God should never be afraid to ask questions – and those who answer them should rejoice that the question was asked, opening the door to further conversation.

Do you have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask. Do you have answers? Be sure to provide them in an edifying manner. The last thing we want to do is discourage a questioner simply by the way in which we answer the question.

Peter advised the early church that Christ-followers should “[a]lways be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3.15, NIV). Many assume that this verse applies to providing a testimony or being ready when someone asks you why you are a Christian, and that’s all true. But I think it can also apply to developing an understanding of the Christian faith in such a way that we are not afraid to ask more questions, and then to be able to provide answers for others.

Does your faith seek understanding? Do you ask questions?

Posted in Encouragement From The Word | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Communion and Community

Posted by Jeff on February 22, 2015

Often, Christians come to the Lord’s Table and think it’s a “you in your small corner and I in mine” kind of experience, where we meet with the Lord one-to-one, and there just happen to be other people around.  But that’s not what Communion is supposed to be at all!  It should be a gathering of God’s people – together – being in such a good relationship with each other that there is nothing separating us from each other, or from God.

Reality often shows us that human relationships are not always what they’re supposed to be, but Jesus envisioned better for us.  As we approached the Lord’s Table today, we heard a message based on Matthew 5.21-26, and Matthew 18.15-17.

During this message, I showed the video you can watch here.  Listen to the message and consider your relationships with fellow Christ-followers.

Posted in Biblical Messages | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers