Biblical Messages

TRUE[ISH]: “…As long as I’m sincere…”

A lot of people think that it doesn’t matter what we believe, as long as we’re sincere in our belief.  But does that really make sense?

Implicit in this notion is the idea that all religions are basically the same and all lead to God.  However, even a cursory study of the various religious traditions of the world will quickly demonstrate that all religions are not basically the same.  While most may have some truth about them, they cannot all be true.

In Acts 16.16-34, the passage on which this message is based, the Philippian jailer asks Paul and Silas a very important question:  “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  It’s one of the most important questions anyone can ask.  If all religions are the same, however, it’s an irrelevant question.

Listen to this message here.

As part of the message, two videos are used, and they can be viewed  here and here.

Encouragement From The Word

Learning from Kanye: taming the tongue

Even if you’re not a fan of his style of music, by now you have probably heard of Kanye West.  He’s a hip hop/rap musician in the United States, who, if you didn’t know about him through his music, has become popular of late because of his rather public “dis” of country singer Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 13 upon her receipt of the award for Best Female Video.

Kanye grabbed the microphone  from Taylor and said, “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you;  I’m going to let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time…one of the best of all time!”

Talk about stealing the spotlight!  Kanye was disappointed, to be sure, but in the process of expressing his disappointment, he devastated Taylor and lost a great deal of credibility as a result.  All sorts of mock-statements have been made in other contexts since then.  (If you haven’t seen any, they’re all over the Internet.  Use a search engine to check for them, as some of them are quite entertaining.)

Kanye West later apologized, both publicly and privately, to Taylor Swift, and she has accepted the apology.  When Beyoncé won an award later in the show, she invited Taylor Swift out to have another moment on stage, which was very kind of her.  Despite all this, the words were still said, the damage had been done.

It’s not surprising, then, that many years ago, James wrote in the New Testament:  “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue.  It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.   Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.   And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth.  Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3.7-10, NLT).  The tongue is a serious weapon.  It can be used to build up, and it can be used to tear down.

All of us, and especially we who belong to Jesus, should be careful in how we use our tongues.  We want to be known as those who edify, and who tell the truth – in love, and when the time – God’s time – is right.

Encouragement From The Word

Taking Jesus to work (or, Learning from U2)

Among my friends on Facebook, I felt like I was in the minority this week:  I did not attend the U2 concert on either Wednesday or Thursday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.  Other things got in the way.

U2 is seen as one of the most popular bands of our time, and (among many) as one of the best bands of all time.  This is a remarkable thing, when you think about it, because U2 is known for greater depth in its lyrics than its main rivals for “best band of all time”, like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.

In fact, there are both covert and overt biblical references in the songs of U2.  They wouldn’t call themselves a “Christian” band, but the depth that reaches into the hearts of their many fans has quite a lot of Scripture in its words.  I won’t furnish you with examples; if you type “U2 Christian lyrics” into a search engine, you’ll see what I mean.

This got me thinking:  there are far too many Christians in our world who think it’s the responsibility of the “religious professional” to exude God-honouring depth in life.  But that’s not what God intended for his people.  The Bible doesn’t advise the faithful, “Go, hire somebody, send him away for three years to get a master’s degree, and let him tell you all about what it means to be holy.”  No!  What does the Word say?  “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1.15-16, NLT, referring to Leviticus 19.2).

It is possible for a “secular” band to share God-honouring lyrics.  It is possible for someone in a “secular” job to live out God’s love to others.  In fact, it’s not just possible:  it’s expected.  I’m always encouraged, as I was this week, when I hear a story from someone who works in a completely irreligious (maybe even anti-religious!) workplace and is invited to have a faith-based conversation with a fellow worker.  This is awesome stuff!

Whatever you work at, you can leverage influence for Jesus in that context.  It starts with doing your job well, because you’re seeking to honour God.  Work as if you’re working for him (see Colossians 3.22-24).  When people see your consistent ethic, that will open doors for Jesus to come to work with you.

And that’s how the Kingdom grows.  One conversation at a time!

Biblical Messages

True [ish]: What Is Truth?

Most everybody is searching for truth.  After all, when we’re lied to, we feel cheated.  We want the truth – and, despite the famous movie line, in most cases we can handle the truth. 

But most of the time, we settle for things that are partly true, but mostly lies.  They are true [ish].

This message, the first in the series, is based on John 8.31-47 and the story of Jesus’ Good Friday encounter with Pontius Pilate in John 18.28-40. You can listen to the message by clicking here.

Encouragement From The Word

Defining Moments

Everyone’s life has defining moments.  They can take different forms.  For example, I remember where I was and what I was doing exactly 8 years ago at the moment I’m typing this:  I was sitting in a service centre waiting room having the brakes on my van repaired.

Why would I remember something as relatively insignificant as vehicle repairs, 8 years ago this moment?  Well, look at the calendar:  today is September 11th.  Aside from the fact that it’s the day before my wedding anniversary (another defining moment!), it was 8 years ago this morning that the face of terrorism in the western world took a new twist.  I sat in that waiting room, watching a small television on a news channel that followed, moment by moment, the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York.

Life has not been the same since that time; you’ve noticed this especially if you’ve travelled by air, but it’s noticeable in so many other ways, too.  Defining moments change our lives.  The magnitude of the defining moment can change much more.

Many followers of Christ are not able to define a “moment” when they made the most important decision of their lives.  I count myself among them.  I can say at what point I became convinced of the claims of Christ, and decided to follow him – but I am unable to state at what point God’s grace opened that door.  If I’m to believe the Scriptures, I can’t define that moment because it happened a long time before I was around:  “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8.29a, NIV); “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1.5a, NIV).  In other words, God chose me long before I chose him.  It was his grace alone that enabled me to choose him!

However, there are many followers of Christ who can define a “moment” when they decided to follow Jesus.  They know the exact hour at which they made a personal commitment to believe that Jesus died and rose again for them.

Each of these approaches to faith is good.  What matters is what follows.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if I can remember (or not) what I was doing on 9/11.  What matters is that airport security has been improved, and there is a greater vigilance when it comes to safety in the world. 

It’s not such a big deal whether or not I can remember exactly when I became a Christ-follower.  What matters is whether or not my lifestyle, my belief system, and my inner life reflect the reality that I made that decision.

If you’ve made a decision, at some point in your life, to follow Jesus, is that reflected in who you are today?  Ultimately, a defining moment is defined by what it leaves in its wake.

Encouragement From The Word

Faith – at Morant’s Curve

While away on our 10,000 km adventure in August, my wife and I made a pilgrimage that is not to be missed when in western Canada:  we stopped at Morant’s Curve.  To be more accurate, we stopped there twice:  once on the way to the Okanagan, and once on the way back. 

“What’s significant about Morant’s Curve?” you might ask.  Good question!  Any Canadian railfan worth his salt knows about Morant’s Curve; keeners have visited it at least once; and the real ‘foamers’ know that it is at mile post 113 on the Laggan Subdivision of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  (To The Rest Of Us, that’s just a few kilometres east of Lake Louise, Alberta,IMG_0511 visible from Highway 1A.)  It’s simply a curved section of the railway that follows the Bow River and is set at the foot of the mountains.  It’s a beautiful place to take pictures of trains.  It got its name from Nicholas Morant, who was the official photographer for the CPR for a large portion of the 20th century.  He set up many a publicity shot for the railway along that curve.

During this pilgrimage, I waited for an hour each time, and had some great conversations with fellow railfans; I even met one older fellow who knew Nick Morant personally (small world, eh?).  But one thing I did not see was a train.

I expected to see at least one train, especially on the way back, since we had seen a train climbing The Big Hill east of Field, BC, getting ready to enter the famed Spiral Tunnels near the entrance to Yoho National Park and the British Columbia-Alberta border.  We expected to get ahead of that train far enough to get to the Curve and set up for a shot.  But the train obviously was held in Lake Louise for some reason.  So we saw nothing except beautiful scenery and nice people.

Since we didn’t see a train, some folks would wonder, given the hype, if it was all a hoax:  that really, trains don’t go past Morant’s Curve, they bypass it by some route not known to us railfans.  Not true!  Why?  Because people I know have seen trains at Morant’s Curve (and, in fact, I saw three trains the last time I visited there).  There are witnesses that have confirmed the reality of trains at Morant’s Curve.

People likewise wonder if the Christian faith is just a hoax.  Because they have not seen Jesus alive, they assume that the resurrection never took place, and that the foundation for being his followers is bogus.  But there are witnesses that have confirmed the reality of Jesus, risen from the dead.  The whole story of the Gospel of John is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus from the perspective of the apostle John.  The apostle Paul, telling the story of his own journey to faith in Christ, recounted that he actually heard the risen Lord Jesus speak to him:  “And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do’” (Acts 22.10b, NLT).

We may not see what we are told is possible.  But others have, and they give us hope.  Next time, I will see trains at Morant’s Curve!  One day, I will see Jesus, crucified and risen, face to face.

Guess which one matters more?!