Encouragement From The Word

Thinking (and talking) ORANGE: people are listening!

 Yesterday, I went out for lunch with our church’s administrative assistant and communication coordinator.  While not really talking “shop”, we were sitting in our booth at that most Christian of chicken restaurants (otherwise known as “Swiss Chalet”) discussing the importance of ministry to families, and what that should look like.  It was relaxed, yet impassioned, discussion.

 There was a fellow sitting by himself who arrived after we did; he sat at the booth next to us.  When he got up after his meal was finished, he came to our booth, looked at me, and asked, “Where is your church?”

 I was a little dumbfounded that he had heard enough of our conversation even to know to ask me about a church.  I told him, gave him my card and introduced myself.  I told him the time worship begins, and then he said, “You might see me on Sunday.”  I said, “That’d be great!” and he carried on with his day.

 This experience taught me two lessons.  The first is that followers of Jesus should always be aware that their conversations are heard by others, who may be on the verge of considering Christian faith.  Despite the fact that many people consider themselves blessed with the gift of criticism, we all need to know that overheard criticism, even when well-intended, only drives people away, leaving them thinking (if they didn’t before) that church people are just a bunch of hypocrites.  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4.6, NIV). 

 Everything tastes better when seasoned with salt, right?  Well, maybe not everybody agrees with that, including my physician.  But what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote that was that our conversations should be attractive rather than detractive, that what we say should draw people to the Lord and not push them away.

 I wish that everything I said drew people to God, but clearly that conversation seemed encouraging to one man.

 The other less the conversation taught me is that constructive, positive talk about building families is attractive to people if for no other reason than the fact that it is so necessary in our culture.  If reading the newspaper doesn’t convince you of this, ask a 9-1-1 operator!  I learned (as part of our lunchtime chat yesterday) that many calls to 9-1-1 are from parents whose children rule their homes.  Families need practical and spiritual support from those who represent the One whose idea families were.

 I don’t know what my new acquaintance found interesting about our conversation, but I’m praying for him, and hoping to meet him on Sunday.

 St. Paul’s Church in Nobleton is celebrating its 51st anniversary on Sunday, with my friend Andrew Allison from St. Paul’s, Leaskdale sharing with us from God’s Word, and telling us about the exponential growth that his congregation has experienced over the past number of years.  I’m looking forward to his inspiring message.  Hope you can come to celebrate with us!

 God’s best for your weekend.

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Biblical Messages

MYTHBUSTERS: As long as my kid is baptized, everything will be fine (More ORANGE thinking!)

One of the biggest “religious” myths that is perpetuated is the idea that “As long as my kid is baptized, everything will be fine”, as if, somehow, baptism in and of itself can save a person from eternity separated from God.  How does that stand up to Scripture?

In Romans 10.5-15, the Bible is clear that salvation comes not from some religious act, but through profession of faith:  “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9, NIV). 

This message was preached following the celebration of a baptism in the church, where faith-filled parents brought their son forward to be welcomed into the church, and brought onto the path that leads toward profession of faith in Christ and the freedom from sin and eternal life that go with that profession of faith.

You can listen to the message by clicking here.

Encouragement From The Word

Thinking Orange Around The Font

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more excited I get at the time of a baptism in the church.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a baby, a young person or an adult, I get pumped.  Why?  Because I’m convinced that in the act of faith that takes place, whether on the part of the individual or the parents, God shows up.

 The God of Scripture is a covenant-making God.  He shows himself to be that from Genesis to Revelation.  From the creation, flood and rainbow to the cross, empty tomb and new heavens and new earth, God reaches out in love to his people.  Trouble is, if you read the Bible carefully, too often these covenants God makes end up being one-sided.

 This is particularly clear in the Old Testament, where God constantly says, “I’ll be your God, you be my people.  Shake?”  And the people agree, but then go wandering after other gods in other cultures.  Yet God kept welcoming back his people when they discovered that the ‘greener pastures’ weren’t really greener at all.

 In the New Testament, the greatest covenant of all came in the Lord Jesus, who died and rose again to make us right with God and bring eternal life to all who believe.  And that covenant continues to this day:  through the one, final, perfect sacrifice of Jesus, humanity’s relationship with God is restored.

 In the tradition in which I serve, that relationship begins with baptism.  I recognize that not everybody who reads Encouragement From The Word shares that tradition, but where I come from, baptism is the first step on the path that leads toward a public profession of Jesus as Lord and Saviour – the culmination of ‘our side’ of the covenant.

 We live in a world where Christian faith is no longer normative; if anything, mainstream society sees it as the reverse!  So when parents present their child in faith, and promise to do everything in their power to raise their child to be a follower of Jesus, this is as counter-cultural as life gets!  Or, when an individual who has had an experience of conversion from one way of life to the Way, the Truth and the Life, it’s the beginning of a radical life-change.  And that’s the business the church is in.

 The Bible says, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9, NIV).  It’s that simple.  Baptism itself doesn’t create the faith within one’s heart, but, with the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit, it can begin that walk.

 And that walk needs to be shared with and supported by the church.

 Despite its many and oft-publicized flaws, the church of Jesus Christ – his bride – is God’s means of strengthening families.  The church is the messenger of the covenant of grace, and the body responsible for supporting baptismal vows.  That’s why, when we make a confession of Jesus as Lord, it’s important to do so in the community of faith.  It becomes the built-in support network for making that faith grow stronger – whether in a child, a teen, or an adult – at whatever stage of life.  The church must support and equip her families.  The future depends on it.

 As my wife says (and I agree), that’s worth fighting for.

 See you around the font!

Biblical Messages

MYTHBUSTERS: There’s no rest for the wicked

We all know the old saying, “There’s no rest for the wicked.”  For most of us, it comes with a shoulder shrug that essentially means, “There’s just not enough time in the day.”  On this holiday weekend (it’s Victoria Day in Ontario, when we mark the birth of one of the British Empire’s more notable monarchs), I though it would be fun to toss around the ‘myth’ that there’s no rest for the wicked.

As you’ll hear in the message, though, the saying is actually true, even biblical…but we don’t normally use it in the biblical way.  I could have gone on a tangent with this message to talk about the fact that as those born with a predisposition toward sin, we are all wicked in some way, and that there may be no rest for us.  But in fact, for those who follow the Lord, there is a gift of rest.  God rested on the seventh day of creation, not because he needed the break, but to set us an example.

Based on Genesis 2.1-3 and Exodus 20.8-11, you can listen to this message by clicking this link.  Enjoy your day of rest!

Encouragement From The Word

Honouring God with rest

hammockWe’re on the cusp of a holiday weekend, and it was reported in the news on Wednesday that some 24% of employed Canadians don’t take all of their allotted vacation time in any given year.  Why do you suppose that is?

 

The report said that many people are too busy, or feel guilty leaving work.  Still others feel nervous taking time off in these trying economic times.

 

  1. 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).

 

In the Ten Commandments, the Lord gave the wandering Israelites a command to set aside the 7th day of the week as a holy day, where they wouldn’t gather any food (it had been provided the day before) and where they would honour the Lord.

 

The church moved its holy day of rest to the first day of the week so it could celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  And for a long time, in many countries, Sunday was a day of rest.  Shopping wasn’t an option.  You spent the time with your family, you went to worship, you learned your faith.  In our multicultural society, that’s just not the case anymore.  But just because stores and restaurants and entertainment facilities are open on Sundays, does that mean we can’t celebrate a day of rest?

 

Hardly.

 

Unlike the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who took God’s command for a day of rest to a ridiculous extreme (even limiting the distance a person could walk on the Sabbath), we can see the day of rest as a gift from God:  a day set aside for worship, for building family life, for growing in the Lord, and for doing things other than our day-to-day work.

 

You might wonder how a pastor deals with this, since Sunday is decidedly a work day for us!  For me, that’s why God gave me Monday.  Unless something of great importance comes up that can’t wait for another day (a funeral, or a special community outreach opportunity, for example), Monday is the day of the week when my wife and I celebrate God’s gift of rest.  While we celebrate community worship and developing our faith together on Sunday, we don’t do our day-to-day work on Monday.  Taking that one day each week to do something other than our regular work helps us strengthen our marriage, and gives us the energy and determination to spend the rest of the week doing that regular work.  And doing so honours God.

 

Are you honouring God each week with a day of rest?

Musings

Blessing a pastor’s heart

june windowsI had to take this picture.  What was going on when it was taken totally made my day.  And blessed my heart.

This is June, one of the greatest servants of God I know.  She and her husband, John, came in to the church building early this morning to clean some windows.  While they cleaned, John was whistling, and June was singing praise songs. 

It’s one of the great privileges of ministry, to be in the presence of people who love the Lord so much that even the simplest tasks bring joy to the heart.

John and June, thanks for cleaning my windows.  But more than that, thanks for blessing my heart with your love for the Lord and your service to his church!

Biblical Messages

MYTHBUSTERS: “It’s the church’s job to teach my kids the faith.” (Think ORANGE, part 2)

On Mother’s Day, or Christian family Sunday, it’s a great time to celebrate the family.  It’s the fabric of society and, consequently, the first place the devil tries to get a foothold.  If parents will be spiritual leaders to their kids, the devil can’t get his foothold.  So the church needs to go ORANGE to make that happen.

This message includes a video clip from Reggie Joiner’s DVD, “The Essence of Orange”, in which Reggie explains the basic foundation behind the concept.  If the church is yellow – a light to the world – and the family is red – love and acceptance, then the combination of yellow and red (orange) is a partnership between the church and the family.  Churches don’t need more children’s programs.  They need to equip parents to be spiritual leaders in their families so that the hours that the family has together can be leveraged to draw kids into a relationship with God.

In a hundred years, nothing’s going to matter except the child’s relationship with God.

The message is based on Deuteronomy 6.1-12 and Micah 6, and can be listened to by clicking this link.