Memorial Service for The Rev. Ken Wild

On Saturday, February 27, 2010, I was honoured to have preached at the memorial service for a dear friend, The Rev. Ken Wild.  Ken was a servant of Christ whose humour always left one feeling better for having chatted with him.

The service opens with a welcome from The Rev. Dr. Creola Simpson, Minister of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Southampton; the service is led by The Rev. Peggy Kinsman, Minister of the Lucknow-South Kinloss pastoral charge, and another good friend of Ken.

A recording of the entire memorial service can be heard here.

Biblical Messages, LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions

Olympic Determination

Olympians are marked by their determination.  You can’t achieve the kind of results they seek without being determined!

The apostle Paul demonstrates in Philippians 3.12-4.1 that determination is part of the Christian life:  a determination to press on, to forget the past, and to make a difference in others’ lives by the power of the gospel.

You can listen to this message here.

The LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions can be downloaded here.

Encouragement From The Word

The Olympics haven’t been perfect…neither are we!

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are coming to a conclusion this weekend.  I can’t remember the last time I watched so many sporting events on television!  Most of them were events I’d normally never watch, but I was glued to the TV for them – because Canadians were participating.  And we have seen our athletes on the podium and heard our national anthem played and sung.   These are our games, we declared, and we will own the podium!

By the time all is said and done, it will be debatable as to whether we will have owned the podium.  After all, our American cousins – and there are ten times as many of them as there are Canadians! – have won more medals than we have.  But in many respects, we have been competing not against other countries, but against ourselves.  And to that extent, one might say we have owned the podium.

These games have not been without their glitches.  There was a Zamboni that peed on the speed-skating ice early on, causing a delay; the fence around the Olympic flame has caused outrage for tourists and photographers; and the weather – well, the weather hasn’t been the most wintery.  The weather was beyond anyone’s control; the fence was deemed necessary for public order; and accidents do happen.  All in all, however, I think Canada has put its best foot forward as it has welcomed the world into one of its most beautiful provinces.

The Olympics have been well hosted.  But the event hasn’t been perfect.

Perfectionism – an overriding philosophy that says everything must be ‘just so’, is an unfortunate plight espoused by many people, including followers of Jesus.  I was a perfectionist as a young person; failing two courses in my first year of university largely cured me of perfectionism!  But life – and that includes the Christian life – is not about being perfect.

Imprisoned for the faith he professed, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi to encourage them toward a discipleship goal – “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3.10a, NIV).  And then he offers this revelation:  “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3.12, NIV).

Even the great apostle to the Gentiles was not perfect!  He was still in the process of being made perfect by the grace of God in Jesus.  That’s why our spiritual formation is a process.  We are not made into fully-matured Christ-followers when we first say, “Jesus is Lord of my life.”  Profession of faith and church membership are not the end of the journey; they comprise another significant step on the journey.

If you don’t feel like you’ve reached perfection in your walk with God, take heart:  nobody else walking this earth has, either.  True, we’re all on the journey, and some folks are further along on the journey than others – that’s okay.  We all go at the pace God sets for us.  The key is that we be walking the path in the right direction – that we see ourselves as more mature in Christ today than we were a month or a year ago.

We will be perfect when we stand before the throne of God.  But until then, we seek to honour God by becoming more and more like Jesus every day.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will not have come off with perfection, but it will have been a life-changing experience for many people.  Likewise, our life on this earth will not have come off with perfection, but our lives will have changed as we pressed on toward the goal of becoming more and more like the One who is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12.2, NIV).  Keep on keeping on!

Biblical Messages, LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions

Olympic Sacrifice

When we think of the Olympics, we can’t help but think of sacrifice.  Think about everything that athletes have to give up in order to focus on their sport, and their desire to be the best in the world at it!

God calls the church to make Olympic Sacrifices.  If we are going to reach the community for Jesus, we need to step away from our comfort zones and be the church that has an irresistible environment in which people can encounter God and engage in a relationship with Jesus.

At St. Paul’s we seek to encourage people to connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community.  And to live that out, we need to sacrifice.

Based on Paul’s words to the church in Philippians 3.1-11, you can listen to the message here.

The video used in the message can be viewed (though not with great clarity or completely) here.

The LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions can be downloaded here.

Encouragement From The Word

How to increase your Bible knowledge and play video games at the same time…

Do you have kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or friends’ children who like to play video games?  It seems to be as much a part of growing up for kids today as street hockey was in my day.  Online gaming is a huge phenomenon for all ages – and not all of it has a positive impact.

 Likewise, do you have kids, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or friends’ children whom you’d love to see reading the Bible but aren’t really into it?  Of course you do.  As a follower of Jesus, you have an opportunity to invest in children, to help them become spiritually strong, so that as they grow up, they’ll also grow in the Lord.

 You’ve seen this passage before, but let me remind you of what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 6.4-8, right after God gives the Ten Commandments through Moses:  “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.   Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders”  (NLT).

 We have the responsibility before God to encourage our kids in faith.  And now, we can combine their love of video games with our desire to help them know Christ.  I want to tell you about something amazing that’s being rolled out that can have a huge impact on kids.  (I’m not involved in this; I’m only promoting it because I think it has great potential to help us draw children to the Lord.)

 A couple of years ago, the Canadian Bible Society was given the opportunity to create a unique ministry opportunity for children and young people, and the ground work began on what is now called Yahero.  Made with the creative genius of EyeseeTV, Yahero (short for Yahweh our Hero) is an online gaming experience that has been professionally designed and tested with children (so it’s cool…or is that phat?  Or sick?  I can’t keep track…).  It uses first-class animation and technology to allow kids an allegorical gaming experience that will encourage them to read the Bible.

 You can learn more about Yahero here.  That link will also let you explore the game, which is receiving add-ons weekly as it rolls out.

 Full engagement in the game will entail a minimal cost, but I think it would be worth it to get kids playing games that are going to build their spiritual lives.

 We tend to think that the spiritual development of our families is not about fun and games.  Well, now, maybe it is.  Check out Yahero today, and share the link with kids you know.

Biblical Messages, LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions

Olympic Love

With the Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver, I thought we’d spend a few weeks looking at “Olympic” characteristics for followers of Jesus.  This week, with it being Valentine’s Day, we started with “Olympic Love”.  What constitutes “Olympic Love”?

Based on 1 John 3.11-20 (with a bypath into Genesis 4.1-9), you can listen to “Olympic Love” here.

The LifeConnect Group discussion questions can be found here.

Encouragement From The Word

Real Love for Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air…or so the card companies would like us to believe!

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday.  It was named for one or more Christian martyrs, and established by the Pope in the latter part of the 5th century – so it’s been around for a long time.

When I was in elementary school, the tradition was that valentines were shared among classmates.  My parents encouraged me to prepare a valentine for each of my classmates, so that no one would feel left out.  Not every parent gave the same dictum, however, because I can remember the hurt I felt when I realized that some of my classmates had given other people valentines but had omitted me.  None of us likes to be excluded, perhaps especially when we are young and formative.

When people ask me why I don’t buy flowers for my wife on Valentine’s Day, I just say, with a wink and a smile, that Protestants don’t celebrate saints’ days.  But what I really mean is that I try to make every day a day to celebrate my love for my wife.  There are some days that I don’t likely do a very good job of that, but I endeavour to make sure that my wife knows I love her deeply and passionately each day.  I don’t need a special day to recognize that.

I read a saying the other day:  “Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love makes the ride worthwhile.”  Love, given and received, is not what makes life worth living, but it certainly enriches the life we live.

But how do we love?  How can we love?  That’s the deeper question.

John writes to his community about the sacrificial love of God in Christ and says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4.19, NIV).  We can only experience love among others – given or received – in its fullest sense when we have experienced the love of God for us.  No one can say that God does not love him or her, because God’s love is for all, as prevalent as the air we breathe.  Many people can, however, say that they do not love God.  When they have chosen not to accept, to apprehend for themselves, the love of God, they cannot experience love to its fullest.

When people choose not to receive the love of God, God feels the pain; like missing that valentine in elementary school caused me pain, God is pained by those people he created who spurn his love.  He wants our love, even though he doesn’t need our love to sustain his existence.  And God knows what is best for us; when we receive his love, that is what makes life worth living.  God’s love does make the world go round.

As you celebrate Valentine’s Day this weekend, in whatever way you prefer to mark it, let the love of God be what fuels your love.  You’ll never be the same!


Picturing God

My Spiritual Director gave me a wonderful but very challenging task last week. When I expressed to her that I had experienced a difficult time in my own walk with God at a particular time not long ago, she sent me home to draw a picture.

Any of you who know me well understand that I’m no artist. I can paint pretty convincing clouds on a model railroad backdrop with an airbrush, but beyond that, I’m reduced to stick figures. So this task was a challenge for me.

Yet if I am honest with myself, the challenge was not so much the art work – my Spiritual Director wasn’t looking for something that would hang in a gallery – the challenge was what to depict in the picture. You see, she asked me to draw a picture of what God looked like in that period of difficulty in my relationship with the Lord.

If you were asked to draw a picture of God as God seems to you in the relationship you share, what would that picture look like? It can be difficult, and might almost seem impossible, to make such a drawing, for our attempts to depict the infinite God in finite brushstrokes is not easy. But, in the same way that three blindfolded people might describe an elephant in three different ways just by touching different parts of the animal, each of us may have a different ‘picture’ of God based on how our relationship with him is at a given time. It’s a snapshot of a portion of God – not a comprehensive description. So go ahead: draw a picture of God, for you, now.

Then, do it again next week. What will have changed?

“Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity”, said Paul to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 13.12, NLT). I look forward to the day when my picture of God will be the real thing.