Passionately His

Pursuing the Christian life in all its fullness


Posted by Jeff on April 17, 2015

As a musician, I have always found it important to pay attention to rest. Why? Because if I’m playing in an ensemble, and the Quarter-Restcomposer has given me a symbol for rest, there’s a good possibility that if I play something, it’s going to sound dissonant. Even if I’m itching to keep playing, rest symbols urge me not to, for the good of the ensemble (to say nothing of those listening).

Rest is also important in life generally. As a human being made in the image of God, I know that God designed me to have rest. My body requires sleep, and without aid of unnatural stimulants, my body will even tell me when it’s time to go to bed at night. But sleep is not all there is to rest.

God’s design for the rhythm of the earth is to have a day off in seven. God set this pattern out at creation, when the world was made in six days, and on the seventh, God rested. Fields were to go fallow one year in seven. Debts were to be forgiven after seven years. There is a rhythm of rest in all of creation.

Vacation time, no matter how much or how little our jobs allow us to have, is equally sacred time. I would argue that times for retreat, where it’s just you and God, are also very important in the rhythm of work and rest in life.

Yet we humans sometimes think that, by one means or another, we can go without rest. And do you know who can be some of the worst offenders in this area? Pastors. Because some pastors can be cursed with a people-pleasing gene, they have a hard time saying no, even at their own peril. Recently I found myself saying to a colleague, whom I love, that when we have perforated boundaries around vacation, we demonstrate to our congregations that rest is not an important part of Christian discipleship.

We – all of us – are human, not super-human. Each of us needs rest – weekly, annually. We should not deny it of ourselves, and we should not allow anyone else to attempt to deny it of us.

The writer to the Hebrews hints at an aspect of rest that we are inclined to miss, and that is that Sabbath is, in a real sense, a rehearsal for eternity. “So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.  So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today” (Hebrews 4.6-7a, NLT).

Do you take rest seriously?

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REBUILDING A PEOPLE: Read it and weep?

Posted by Jeff on April 12, 2015

Once the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt, it was time for dedication and worship.  Nehemiah had Ezra read the law of God, which the people had not heard in 70 years, since their exile.  How would they respond?  How can we apply this?  Based on Nehemiah 8, you can listen to the message here:

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Doing the Good News

Posted by Jeff on April 10, 2015

I read a most interesting piece through an online journal the other day that cast a different light on the apostle Thomas, who is best known for being a doubter.

Consider how John tells the story: “One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side” (John 20.24-25, NLT).

The story goes on to tell that Jesus appeared to Thomas and the apostle was able to see the wounds for himself, and believe.

The article I read suggests that there was a different reason for Thomas doubting what his colleagues had said about the resurrection. John recounts that when the Lord appeared to them in the Upper Room, “he said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven’” (John 20.21-23, NLT).

Perhaps, reasoned the author, Thomas doubted the resurrection not because he hadn’t seen for himself, but because the disciples failed to demonstrate what they said Jesus had done in and for them. They hadn’t gone out and forgiven folks. They hadn’t gone out and shared the good news with anybody. They had stayed in the Upper Room because they were afraid of what the authorities would do if they were found.

There is an instructive word for God’s people in this story. If we accept the plausibility that Thomas doubted because he saw no evidence in those to whom Jesus appeared, then we have some soul-searching to do. How can we expect others to believe that Jesus is raised from the dead if we are not living as those who believe it?

We can say that we believe Jesus rose from the dead, and we should. But what are we doing about it? Are we extending grace and forgiveness? Are we telling others what Jesus has done for us? Are we caring for those closest to the Lord’s heart? What are we doing with the good news that Jesus is alive?

Take a few moments to reflect on what you could do this coming week that would encourage others to believe with you that Jesus is alive. How will you ‘do’ the good news?

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Jesus is going ahead of you

Posted by Jeff on April 5, 2015

The message of Easter is the same, always:  Jesus is alive!  Because he lives, we also may live.  But what can that mean?  In the gospel of Mark, the angel tells the women that Jesus has gone ahead of them into Galilee.  What does it mean that Jesus has gone ahead of you?  Based on Mark 16.1-8, you can listen to this Easter message here:

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Three Questions

Posted by Jeff on April 3, 2015

One of the people who gets little attention anytime in the church, except perhaps on Good Friday, is Barabbas.  Who was Barabbas?  Why did he matter to the story?

In this Good Friday message, based on Mark 15.1-15, we answer three questions:

Why Barabbas?

Why Jesus?

Why me?

Listen here:

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It is finished!

Posted by Jeff on April 3, 2015

It is finished!” (John 19.30). Those were Jesus’ last words from the cross before he died. This is what we mark on Good Friday: not simply that Jesus died, that his human life was finished, but that Jesus’ atoning work that brings us salvation was finished right at the point when he breathed his last.

Because of this reality, I remain constantly amazed at how many people feel the need to deny that the work of salvation was finished on the cross. How do they deny it? By subscribing to the notion that they need to do good works to gain their salvation.

If you did a random survey on the street and asked people how they could get to heaven, a lot of people – even churched people – would reply by saying that you have to be good. You have to do nice things for people.

Unfortunately, these folks have put the cart before the horse. It’s important to do good, yes, but not so we can appease God; we do nice things to please God. Do you see the difference?

When we do good works as a way to thank God for his gift of salvation, we honour God with our actions, doing good in gratitude for having been set free from sin. But when we do good works in an attempt to curry God’s favour, it’s like saying that Jesus’ death wasn’t quite good enough to satisfy God.

Sounds crazy, put in those terms, doesn’t it? But it’s true: when we perform good works as a means of paying God back for sin, we’re telling God that his plan to have Jesus die in our place was insufficient.

What could be insufficient about taking the one who had no sin and placing our sin on him as a final sacrifice? How could any good deed I do come close to comparing with that?

On this Good Friday, let the words, “It is finished!” echo through your mind, and spill from your lips. Remember that on this day, our salvation was fully accomplished for us, and there’s nothing we can do to add to it.

But we can live for him, daily.

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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:

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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).

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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:

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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).

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