Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

Songs in the Key of Life: 8. Rest

Posted by Jeff on May 22, 2016

One might think ‘rest’ would be a good topic for a holiday weekend, but this isn’t about

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See?  Compared with a Douglas Fir, I’m not that big after all.  (Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island, May 2015)

Sabbath rest – more like the eternal Sabbath rest!  Psalm 95 harkens back to the time when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness during the Exodus.  Conveniently, the writer to the Hebrews gives us a helpful exposition of that part of Psalm 95.  Have a listen!

 

 

 

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Grace and mercy

Posted by Jeff on May 20, 2016

Since my friend Matthew Ruttan wrote about grace this morning, I feel inspired to offer a word or two about mercy, grace’s companion in the Christian life.

Grace is getting what you don’t deserve – unmerited favour, like (as Matthew so brilliantly said) dissing a cashier, finding that your debit card was rejected, and then finding the cashier paying for your order.  That’s grace: getting what you don’t deserve.

Mercy, on the other hand, is not getting what you do deserve.  I’ll admit that it’s a little bit less popular (okay, a whole lot less popular) to talk about mercy than grace.  Grace is always framed in the positive, while mercy tends to be framed in the negative.  But each is equally important if we are to understand the Christian life.

Mercy is harder for us to swallow because, for the most part, we tend to think that we can’t possibly deserve something bad enough that it needs to be held back from us.  After all, we might think, we give to the church, we help little old ladies cross the road, we haven’t killed anybody (yet).  Surely that means we’ve ducked from punishment, right?

Honestly, that’s not how the Christian life works.

Put simply, a holy God requires perfection, apart from which perfect sacrifice is necessary.  This is what we see portrayed in the Old Testament.  Humanity has been in rebellion from God since our first parents disobeyed.  Yet only once did God flood the earth and effectively decide to start again.  How many time since must God have wanted to obliterate the human race and hit the reset button?!  But he has not done that.

No.  God has shown mercy.  He has not given us what we deserve.

The beautiful part of salvation is that grace becomes the icing on the cake.  When Jesus died for our sins and rose again to bring us eternal life, that was the greatest example of grace ever given:  we got what we didn’t deserve.  And we got it because we didn’t get what we did deserve.  We received mercy.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of this makes me fall on my knees in gratitude!  God has spared us when we deserved death.  God has saved us when we deserved nothing.  This idea isn’t intended to make us feel lower than a snake’s belly; it’s intended to remind us of the wonder of God and his kindness in extending both mercy and grace to us.  May you express your gratitude to God today!

Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy” (1 Peter 2.10, NLT).

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Songs in the Key of Life: Sage Advice

Posted by Jeff on May 15, 2016

On this Pentecost Sunday, we remembered the story in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers with tongues of fire, and the unity that brought to these first Christians.  In this message, we looked at the end of Acts 2 and Psalm 133 as we considered that unity is a fruit of community.  Have a listen:

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How majestic!

Posted by Jeff on May 13, 2016

Today, just take a few minutes and let the Word encourage you itself.  Read this a couple of times, slowly, letting the text wash over you.  Ask the Lord to highlight a word or phrase that may be pertinent to you.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

Your glory is higher than the heavens.

You have taught children and infants

to tell of your strength,

silencing your enemies

and all who oppose you.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—

the moon and the stars you set in place—

what are mere mortals that you should think about them,

human beings that you should care for them?

Yet you made them only a little lower than God

and crowned them with glory and honor.

You gave them charge of everything you made,

putting all things under their authority—

the flocks and the herds

and all the wild animals,

the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,

and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!  (Psalm 8, NLT)

So what word or phrase jumped out for you?  How will you bring that to life today?

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BOOK REVIEW: How Churches Became Cruise Ships

Posted by Jeff on May 8, 2016

The subtitle says a lot:  “A survival guide for the seasick Christian”. Many churches in the 21st century have lost their purpose, going from gatherings of people seeking communion with God to being institutions existing to promote the organization. Skye Jethani uses the cruise ship analogy to help us understand how that model doesn’t fit with God’s plan for the church. 

Ships were called liners because they moved people from one place to another. With jets being used for that purpose – and more efficiently – when they were invented, ships turned to the cruise experience instead. No longer modes of transportation, cruise ships became ends in themselves. Some churches, large and small, have made similar transitions, but Jethani suggests they have missed the mark in terms of being the church faithfully.

Jethani’s analogy of the cruise ship church helps the reader put into perspective what has happened – and happened again – to the church in recent times. This hour-long read will help church leaders hit the reset button if they have disengaged from God’s picture of the church. Well worth your time.

Skye Jethani, How Churches Became Cruise Ships: A survival guide for the seasick Christian. Available for Kindle and Kindle app at https://www.amazon.com/How-Churches-Became-Cruise-Ships-ebook/dp/B018RJHNZK?ie=UTF8&keywords=Jethani%20cruise%20ships&qid=1462736837&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

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Songs in the key of life: Whose Shepherd?

Posted by Jeff on May 8, 2016

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved Bible passages.  Yet, like so many things we memorize, we don’t always understand it completely.  In this message, we take a good look at this Psalm, with a challenge to make it personal.  Listen here:

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Just a few words

Posted by Jeff on May 6, 2016

Sometimes, just a few words is all it takes.

Have you ever thought, “I don’t know how to encourage people.”  Most of us have.  But in all likelihood, we have encouraged someone, and not even known it.  But there is value in being intentional about encouraging others.

On Wednesday night this week, our youth group had a different kind of scavenger hunt.  FullSizeRenderAmong the things on the list that they could choose to achieve in this hunt was to write a note of encouragement to the pastor.  And someone decided to take that seriously (see the photo).

I’ve been in a place lately where I might best describe myself as feeling like a dull blade in need of sharpening.  So you can imagine what this simple little note, written by a member of our congregation’s youth group, did for me when I came in on Thursday morning.  Sometimes, just a few words is all it takes.

What simple way, what few words, can you use to encourage someone else today?

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15.5-6, NIV).

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Songs in the Key of Life: 5. God Is Gone Up

Posted by Jeff on May 1, 2016

On this Ascension Sunday, we looked at 2 Samuel 6.1-15 and Psalm 47.  The Samuel passage gives the original-context background for the Psalm, and the Psalm is also one commonly associated with Jesus’ ascension.  (I’ve had this anthem by Gerald Finzi running through my head all week.)

Have a listen to the message (and my muted rant on political correctness therein!):

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The older you get…

Posted by Jeff on April 29, 2016

I used to hear people say this years ago when I was a child, and I never quite understood it.  Now, I think I do.

The older you get, the faster time seems to move.

I am astounded that tomorrow is the last day of April, 2016.  That will bring to completion the first third of the year.  Last Christmas seems like yesterday – but it wasn’t!  Perhaps it comes with busyness, perhaps with age, but either way, the clock seems to tick faster these days.

So I’m led to ask myself, and you:  What are you doing with this time?

We all know each day is a gift; this is especially true for those who have lost loved ones.  The value of keeping short accounts is magnified when we come to realize that the time we have with others may be limited.

Likewise, we do well to be good stewards of our time.  Often, when we think about stewardship as followers of Jesus, it’s in the context of the wise use of the material wealth with which the Lord has blessed us, or maybe the care and conservation of the environment, the world God made.

But time?  That’s a gift to be stewarded as well.  Think about the number of hours we have in each week:  168.  If we spend 56 of them sleeping, 10 of them eating, 7 of them in the Necessary Room, 45 of them working, and 10 of them driving to and from work, that leaves us with 40 waking hours to do other things.  How can we be good stewards of those 40 hours?  Here are a few ideas.

Build your spiritual life.  As has been famously said, in 100 years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus, so prioritize those 40 hours (and maybe some of the others, while you’re at it) building your spiritual life.  Make worship with the church and personal or family worship a priority.  Take time each Sunday to worship in community and spend time in fellowship with other followers of Jesus.  Be part of a small group of some sort that deepens that fellowship and involves some less formal study time.  Read Scripture, pray, and engage in other spiritual disciplines daily.  Use the time you’ve been given to enrich your relationship with the Giver of time.

Build your family life.  If you’re married and/or have children, prioritizing your spiritual life is the biggest favour you can do for your family, but the next thing you should do is deepen the relationships you share with those closest to you.  If you’re single, that can involve spending time with close friends.  Do things together.  Talk together, without competition from technology or television.

Rest.  In a world where the addiction to work (or even play) is not yet seen as a problem, rest is often frowned upon, but we all need it.  God set the example in creation where he looked at all he had made in 6 days, pronounced it good, and set aside the other day for rest.  Rest isn’t something we do just when we’re sleeping.  Remember, the word ‘recreation’ can be hyphenated to ‘re-creation’.  When we rest, we are re-created, rejuvenated, made ready for the week that is ahead of us; that’s why having a day of rest at the beginning of the week is so wise.  (Ever wonder why Sunday is on the left side of most calendars?)  Work from your rest, not toward it.

Of course, there can be overlap in all of these, can’t there?  We can build our spiritual lives and our family lives as part of our rest – but we should set aside some of that rest for personal renewal.  There’s no single formula for all this, so I encourage you pray about how the Lord would have you be a good steward of the time he has given you.  Hold your calendar before God as an offering.  Let the Lord speak to you as you seek to make priorities in your life.  After all, we think our time is our own, but in reality, time is in his hands.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3.1, NLT).

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Raw Anger

Posted by Jeff on April 24, 2016

Psalm 137, perhaps more pointedly than other laments in the Psalter, proves to us that expressing all our emotions before God is okay; the Lord can handle them!  Have a listen:

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