Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness

Dealing with my own irrational fear!

Posted by Jeff on January 13, 2017

Well, here it is, only the second Friday of the new year, and already it’s Friday the 13th.  I’m amazed that this still proves problematic for some people, even people who believe in God.  But I’d better not point fingers at anybody but myself.  Let me tell you why.

There were two particularly unfortunate incidents that occurred for me in 2016:  I had a gallbladder attack, and we were hauled in for a minor interrogation at the US border.  Thankfully, these did not both occur on the same day.

However, they had one thing in common:  on neither of those days did I shave my neck.  Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?  I mean, any guy who wears a beard will have occasional days (maybe more than occasional days) when he doesn’t shave his neck.  But I will admit, to my shame, that I have not failed to shave my neck once since the second of those two events occurred.  Not.  Once.

And I completely understand the irrationality of that…let’s name it for what it is…fear.

I’m no better than the person who wears the same sweater every time his favourite hockey team plays, or the person who refuses to walk under a ladder…or who is hung up on Friday the 13th.

Maybe, just this once, writing Encouragement From the Word will be therapeutic for me, because by admitting it for everyone to see, I know I need to break the trend.  One day of an unshaven neck is not that uncomfortable – though perhaps there is something in my genes, for I have never in my life seen my father unshaven!  (Of course, that didn’t keep me from growing a beard as soon as my hormones would allow!)

I can’t do it tomorrow, because I have a visit to make; I can’t do it Sunday, because it’s Sunday; but maybe on Monday, I will let the razor take a rest…just to prove the irrationality of this fear.

Why is it so irrational?  Because we serve the God of the universe, the one who flung stars into space and gave Bach the inspiration to write the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat major.  This God we serve is sovereign; it’s the only way he can be God.  And this God has told us, flat out, in his Word:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7, NLT).

If you see me next week, hold me to account.  I need to practise what I preach.  Hopefully, you will, too!

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CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: As with gladness

Posted by Jeff on January 1, 2017

This series is wrapped up with an Epiphany carol – one that tells the story of the visit of the Magi to Jesus, yes, but also calls for responses from us, the singers.  Based on Matthew 2.1-12, give a listen to this message below.  (Sorry, the Facebook Live connection didn’t work again today.)

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Looking back, looking ahead…with God

Posted by Jeff on December 30, 2016

One of the great spiritual practices of the ancients that is being revived in these days among Christians is the notion of the examination of conscience and consciousness.  Normally, this is a daily undertaking, whereby we consider the day that has passed, and ask the Lord to help us see both where we have sinned (that we may confess and be forgiven) and where we have seen God at work (that we may rejoice).

This can also be an annual practice, however.  As we sit at the end of 2016, let me encourage you to spend some time before God today or tomorrow, asking him to help you review your year, particularly to highlight areas where you have seen his hand at work in your life.  Take some time to sit with that and praise the Lord for his faithfulness.

There’s no formula for it; we can see God’s beauty in a flower growing by the roadside in summer, or in a snowdrift in winter; we can see God’s hand at work in a ministry we undertake or in the lives of our children as they grow in Christ.  God’s fingerprints are all over so much!  The challenge for us is to take time to notice them, and to praise the Lord for his activity in our lives.

At the same time, take time to ask God’s blessing on the year to come.  If it helps, use these words from hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal:

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.

Another year of progress, another year of praise,

Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

 

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,

Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;

Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;

Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

 

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,

Another year of training for holier work above.

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

 

May the Lord bless you with more grace as you look for where he has been active in 2016, and as you pray for him to be active in 2017!

Encouragement From the Word is taking a week off and will be back on January 13.

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CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Joy to the world!

Posted by Jeff on December 25, 2016

On this Christmas Day, we celebrate the joy that Jesus brings to us.  Isaac Watts’ familiar carol, “Joy to the world”, was never intended as a Christmas carol, but as a paraphrase of Psalm 98.  Either way, it extols the Lord Jesus, as we learned in today’s message, based on Titus 2.11-14.

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Christmas Eve 2016

Posted by Jeff on December 24, 2016

Our two services, as always, were completely different, and the messages for them are posted below, along with links to the Facebook video feeds.

“You can have my room”, from our 6:30 family service:

Facebook video:  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10210985150361881%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>here.

“His Shoulders”, based on Isaiah 9.2-7 and John 14.1-11, from our 8:00 service:

Facebook video:  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10210985810538385%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>here.

 

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Breathe and Pray

Posted by Jeff on December 23, 2016

When I talk to folks around this time of year, I discover one fairly common trait: stress.

Whether it’s preparing for guests at home, or preparing to go and be guests in someone’s home; whether it’s fearing poor driving conditions or flight delays; whether it’s trying to get all the work done or trying to make peace with the fact that it won’t be all done, people are stressed.

It’s a sad irony, really.

Jesus’ followers read Isaiah 9.6 as Messianic prophecy, and it says that he would be “the Prince of Peace” – yet even his followers struggle to find peace at this time of year.

What can be done?

I think the answer is to be intentional about honouring the Prince of Peace with our own sense of peace.  That can, sometimes, mean making difficult decisions.  At other times, it simply involves choosing to have peace.

A very basic way to make that happen is – and this may sound overly simplistic – to breathe.  Pay attention to your breathing.  Take deep breaths.  Decide that a challenging situation will not stress you out.

The latest update to the operating system for the Apple Watch includes a reminder to stop and breathe.  Some call it ‘mindfulness’, but you and I can call it prayerfulness.  Breathe in the grace of God; he’s got this, whatever it is.  Breathe out your stress.

So, amid the kitchen prep and the house cleaning, breathe and pray.  If you’re sitting in traffic or waiting on a late flight, breathe and pray.  While trying to get all your work done before the weekend, breathe and pray.  God’s got it.

And have a merrier Christmas.

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CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Hark! the herald angels sing

Posted by Jeff on December 18, 2016

The spat between Wesley and Whitfield over the lyrics to this much-beloved carol is a thing of legend (albeit true), but the theology in both the Whitefield-revised version and the Wesley-penned version is top shelf, and deserves our attention.  This message is based on Revelation 21.1-7 and Romans 6.1-11, and can be listened to here:

The video feed is available on Facebook, even without a membership, https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10210920220818683%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>here.

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Having everything “together”

Posted by Jeff on December 16, 2016

In the area where I live, a fair bit of snow fell yesterday.  The amount varied from place to place, but it was what Environment Canada would deem to be a significant snowfall.

And the roads were treacherous.

Mid-afternoon, a good friend called from his car.  He was trying to get home, but was sitting in dead-stopped traffic just a few kilometres from our house.  The snow was still falling vigorously.  Could he seek refuge at our place for a bit?  Of course!

Now, our house never looks like a museum.  It’s definitely lived in.  Sometimes it’s in worse condition than others; yesterday’s condition wasn’t bad, but I suppose that being ready for spur-of-the-moment company is not always Our Thing.  But a friend in need is a friend indeed, as the saying goes, so we didn’t hesitate to welcome him.

But while he crawled his way to our place, there was a bit of frantic tidying up done, including preparing the spare bedroom – just in case.

As it turns out, the weather and roads were sufficiently poor that the “just in case” spare bedroom was needed, and we were glad to offer it to him…along with a new toothbrush recently acquired from a trip to the dentist.  (After all, he had not planned on sleeping anywhere but his home!)

He crept out of the house at first light, and, I trust, made it home safely this morning.

For me, the moral of the story is that you don’t have to have everything “together” for unexpected company to feel welcome.

In the same way that you don’t have to have everything “together” to welcome guests in your home, you don’t have to have everything “together” to welcome Jesus into your heart.

So many people talk about how they’ll engage in a relationship with God, or go to church, or join a small group, when they have everything “together”.  Yet, how often that time never comes!  The great news is that you don’t have to have it all together to welcome Jesus into your life.  In fact, he wants to be in relationship with you before your Stuff is “together”.  It’s in living life with Jesus that our lives can be “together”.

Don’t wait.  You’ll never think you’re ready enough.  But Jesus is ready.

You, too, must keep watch!  For you don’t know when the master of the household will return – in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak.  Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning.  I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!” (Mark 13.35-37, NLT).

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CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: The first nowell

Posted by Jeff on December 11, 2016

The English love their carols expounding on the weather, even though it’s not likely that the Holy Land was under a snow squall watch at the time of the Nativity.  Based on Luke 2.8-20 and Philippians 2.5-11, you can listen to the meaning of “The first nowell” by clicking below.

Once again, video technology failed us, so there is no link to Facebook Live.  We’ll try again next week.

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Pedal point

Posted by Jeff on December 9, 2016

Yesterday morning, I was listening to a favourite piece of music.  It was J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Major, BWV 547, what I know as the 9/8 prelude and fugue, even though the fugue is in cut time.  (Okay, you baroque nerds, I know you’re out thereimg_3991:  calm down.)  There are several things that strike me about the piece, one of which is the conclusion of the fugue, which has a very long pedal point in it, extending the better part of the last 7 measures.

For those of you who are not baroque nerds (I’m guessing that’s the majority…), let me describe a pedal point from a layman’s/amateur organist’s perspective.  It’s a long note carried in the bass (lowest) line of the music, creating some tension while the higher parts do their ‘thing’, but you just know it’s going to be resolved before too awfully long.  Organists like pedal points, because it gives their feet a brief rest on one note!  Maybe Bach wrote so many pedal points because, as an organist, he knew his feet needed a break.

When I think of a pedal point, I think of something deeply foundational.  In music, any number of weird things can happen, but people’s ears will always assume the bass line is right.  So even though bass musicians (whether on a bass guitar, an upright bass, pedals on an organ, or even a bass singer) don’t usually have the melody, their part is foundational to the whole piece.

In the life of faith, foundations always matter, but at this time of year, foundational things are highlighted.  One of the experiences I remember very clearly from my trip to the Holy Land three years ago was a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  Walking through the old church, filled with scaffolding and Greek Orthodox lighting and candles, we moved to a place under the chancel, to a cavern where a spot is marked, believed to be the very place where Jesus was born.  What was there?  Bedrock.  Foundational stuff.

Amid the bells and whistles and shiny things of the season, remember the foundational matters – the bass line, the bedrock – of our faith:  “When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross….  [A]t the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.7b-8, 10-11, NLT).

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