Biblical Messages

When You Talk To God…Know Who’s Working Against You

Satan doesn’t get much press anymore, even in the church.  He likes it that way, actually.  But evil is real and it’s a power to be reckoned with in the world.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  [In the contemporary version, we say, “Save us from the time of trial” instead of “And lead us not into temptation”, for reasons you can hear in the message.]  Whehn we say that, we are acknowledging the reality of evil in the world.  So when you talk to God, it’s good to know who’s working against you.

As I say in the message, this was a hard one to prepare for, because the devil doesn’t like it when we expose him.  He fought with me tooth-and-nail as I prepared to preach this message.  But God has the victory!

Based on James 1.12-18 and 1 Peter 5.6-11, this message can be listened to here.

Advertisements
Encouragement From The Word

Recharging Your Batteries

            While working on my model railroad layout on my day off last Monday, a death in the family occurred:  my cordless drill gave up the ghost.  Its two batteries were no longer accepting a charge that would give the drill sufficient power to countersink more than one or two screws.  The visitation and funeral took place immediately, with the sharing of fond memories of layouts past that had been built, when the drill was younger and stronger.

 

            As the cycle of life with tools comes and goes, I found myself later that day in a nearby home improvement store, respectfully and carefully seeking out a replacement for my deceased friend.   With its successor chosen, I paid the bill and returned home.  The greatest characteristic of this new drill is that it has more power than the old one:  18 volts versus 14.4 volts.  (Picture a “Tim the Tool Man Taylor” kind of growl coming out of my mouth as I wrote that…more power!)

 

            The problem with rechargeable batteries – at least the kind in the old drill – is that they cannot accept an infinite number of charges and still be expected to perform.  Eventually, what gives them the juice to keep working will fail.

 

            We humans have something to learn from the lowly nickel cadmium battery.

 

            We are like those batteries in the sense that we can’t keep going on and on and on without being recharged somehow.  Thankfully, we are unlike them in that we can be charged up again and again and again – though not infinitely.

 

            God designed us for work and rest.  There is a cycle, a rhythm to life:  7 being a very significant biblical number, and 7 being the number of days in a week according to the calendar we follow, there needs to be one of those seven days each week that steps aside from the daily routine.  In the days of the Old Testament, and to our Jewish friends, it’s called “sabbath”.  To us, it’s a day of rest.  Christ-followers usually call it “the Lord’s Day”. 

 

            When folks talk about coming to worship as “recharging their batteries”, there’s some truth to that:  in giving our praise to God and serving others, and in receiving spiritual nourishment from God, we find our batteries recharged – we find ourselves better equipped to take on the week that is before us.  But surely there should be more!

 

            There is.  The concept of ‘sabbath’ involves us taking a day away from the normal routines of the week.  Ideally, that day should include worship and community with God’s people, but it ought also to include activities that are so different from our day-to-day activities that we feel refreshed just in doing those activities.

 

            The Scriptures record that rest was valued by God:  By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2.2-3, NIV).  So if God rested on the seventh day – Saturday, on our calendar – why do we worship and rest on Sunday, the first day?  Because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week!

 

            For the Christ-follower, our cycle of work and rest is based on the victory of Jesus.  When we rest from our day-to-day work on Sunday, we honour his work in bringing us salvation.  Our time with the church on Sunday involves worship, but even our rest, the recharging of our batteries both spiritually and physically, honours God.

 

            In this world of rush-rush-rush and ‘get it done now’, my prayer for you is that you will be able to take time to rest, to recharge your batteries, and in so doing to honour God.

Biblical Messages

When You Talk To God…Use the REAL ‘F’ Word

Obviously, a title that uses the term “‘F’ Word” is going to attract some attention, and it appears to have done just that!  And when we say we want to use it at home, work, school *and* church, that gets even more attention!

But I want to encourage you to do just that:  use the real ‘F’ word in church, and everywhere else in your life.  But it may not be the ‘F’ word that you think.

Listen to this message, based on Matthew 18.21-35 and Ephesians 4.17-28, here.

The video that was shown in the service can be found here.

May God give you grace to use the real ‘F’ word in your life!

Encouragement From The Word

Seeing Jesus For Who He Is

Periodically, I read something that just makes my heart sink. This week, it was an opinion piece in one of our local newspapers.

I want to believe that the author intended something better than came across in his writing, but what I read just left me shaking my head. The author stated that he believes our reason for living is to “live each day creatively, co-operatively and with deep, heart-felt satisfaction.” Now, that doesn’t seem so bad, does it? So why is my heart so sunk?

I believe, with the Christ-followers who crafted the Westminster Confession of Faith, that our reason for living is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That’s what they called “Man’s chief end.” God made us for his pleasure, to praise him and enjoy the riches of his grace. It’s a significant part of what makes the Christian faith unique from other religious or non-religious traditions.

None of this makes sense, however, if we believe the author’s assertion about the nature of God. He refers to God as “our Divine Essence” and Jesus as “a superlative representation of God”. Hmmm…last time I checked, the Bible indicated to us that Jesus IS God! After all, in John 1.1, we read, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NLT). To say that Jesus is “a superlative representation of God” comes close, but it indicates that he’s merely a facsimile – not God in the flesh. And while it is true that Jesus represents God, and is the closest thing to God that we can wrap our finite minds around, to say that he is “a superlative representation” indicates that there might be other representations, and Scripture is pretty clear that Jesus was the only one: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1.15, NIV).

I believe that the church’s downfall won’t come over a moral issue. Churches won’t fall because of how they feel about abortion or same-sex marriage or euthanasia, important as those issues are. The make-or-break issue for the church will be our answer to the question Jesus posed to his followers: “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16.15, NIV). If we will not acknowledge Jesus as the unique Saviour of humanity – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16, 16, NIV) – then what distinguishes the church from any other organization? If it’s all about being satisfied and co-operating with other people, why bring God into it in the first place?

But Jesus wasn’t into religion. Jesus was about the kingdom of his Father. And we should be likewise. That means, first, seeing Jesus for who he is.

Book Reviews

The Way Is Made By Walking

the-way-is-made-by-walkingArthur Paul Boers describes himself as “Seminary professor, Author, Mennonite minister, Benedictine oblate.”  I prefer to describe him as “deep man of God.”  Arthur Boers taught one of my doctoral courses, a course on Christian spirituality.  It was one of the finest and most life-changing courses I ever took.  So anytime I can find a volume written by him, I pick it up and absorb it as soon as I can.

The Way Is Made By Walking is Boers’ theological reflection on a pilgrimage he took along the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  This five hundred mile journey, which he completed on foot in 31 days, had him  meet people of all walks of life – and not all people of faith.  Many were Roman Catholic pilgrims, some were Protestant, but others were of no particular faith persuasion at all.  Boers found his journey enriched by all whom he met.

The book was, to me, a helpful reminder that all of life is a journey, and that the destination is not everything there is to it.  This has been a difficult thing for me to grasp, but over the last few years, God has taught me that the journey matters, and shouldn’t be forsaken in favour of getting to the destination more quickly.

Don’t get me wrong:  I look forward to spending eternity in the presence of God, by faith, and am not afraid of what I will face when I breathe my last.  In fact, I am excited about standing before the throne of grace!  But in the past, I have tended to focus so much on that destination that the journey – this life – played second-fiddle.

I may never walk a five hundred mile pilgrimage.  As much as I enjoy a good walk, I’m not sure I’m built for that kind of pilgrimage.  But I am built, specifically, to fulfill the plans God has for me while I serve him in this life.  And I want to live out those plans to the fullest measure. 

The Way has encouraged me to that end, and I recommend the book for all believers.  Because of its narrative form, it reads fairly quickly, yet has a depth to it that speaks to the soul.  This was not a book in which I highlighted or underlined.  I just let the words speak.  I read it to learn, but not in a ‘how-to’ kind of sense.  And every practicioner of ministry needs a book like that, at least once in a while.

The Way Is Made By Walking is written by Arthur Paul Boers, and was published in 2007 by Inter-Varsity Press.  ISBN 978-0-8308-3507-2.