Biblical Messages, LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions

CHRISTIANITY 101: THE APOSTLES’ CREED – 10. Catholic? Of course!

In many cultures, there still is a lack of understanding between Roman Catholics and Protestants – to the point that many on each side don’t understand the meaning of the term “catholic”.  Yet in the Apostles’ Creed, we say, “I believe in…the holy catholic church.”  What does that mean?  (Further, we also say we believe in “the communion of saints”, which is what makes up the holy catholic church.)

Many Roman Catholics think it’s talking about them.  Many Protestants think it’s talking about Roman Catholics, too.  So why do Protestants say they believe in the holy catholic church?  Based on Ephesians 4.1-16, you can find out why by listening to this message.

Near the end of the message, a video is shown, which you can watch here.  (We stopped it at 6:16 when the story was finished!)

The LifeConnect Group discussion questions for this message can be found here.

Encouragement From The Word

It’s never too late to show gratitude

A few weeks ago, my parents came to visit.  Sometimes, they come just to visit, but this time, they had a bit of an agenda – or at least my Dad did.  Dad has created himself a little “bucket list” – some things he wants to accomplish before he dies.  We’re hopeful, of course, that his death is a long time off, but I can understand his desire to see and do some things while he still has good health.

There were two things Dad wanted to see during this trip.  One was a bridge he had built many, many years ago on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Belleville Subdivision, east of Agincourt yard in Scarborough, north of what is now the Metro Toronto Zoo.  At that time, the Canadian National was creating a new track that would lead from Pickering to Vaughan, and CN had to cut underneath the CP – thus the need for a bridge.  As Dad and I stood looking at that bridge, he told me stories so vivid that it was as if I were looking at the sight in front of me in black and white.  I could see the equipment cutting through the fields, down about fifty feet, so that the new bridge could be put in place.  It was neat to see my Dad so nostalgic.

The other thing Dad wanted to see on this trip was a grave marker in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.  It was not that of a family member, or anyone either Mom or I knew.  The grave we would seek out was that of Dad’s boss from his first ‘serious’ job.  The man had died in 1959 (quite prematurely, of cancer), but Dad had always spoken very warmly of the man, as if he had been a lifelong friend.  In fact, Dad had probably known him seven or at most eight years.  But his boss had believed in him, and had treated him with kindness and respect.  The man saw potential in this young 17-year-old, giving him challenge after challenge, and placing him in ever-more responsible positions.

Why did Dad want to visit his boss’ grave?  I never asked him, but I’m pretty sure his motive was gratitude.  He was grateful to the man who believed in him, who saw in him the potential for more than just a job, but a career.

I couldn’t help but brush away a tear as I watched my Dad dig, with his bare hands and a small stick, a hole deep enough to plant a small flowering plant in front of his boss’ grave marker.  Dad had gotten his hands dirty in the employ of this man when he was alive, and even after his death.

It’s never too late to show gratitude.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18, NIV).

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized


Pentecost is the birthday of the church, a feast that the Jews celebrate 50 days after the second day of Passover to rejoice over the Law; the church celebrates it 50 day after Easter as the time when the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus and manifested itself in tongues of fire and the people spoke in other languages.  See Acts 2.1-13.

What significance has this today?  Does the gift of tongues still apply today?  I believe it does.  Are there other gifts that God gave the church on the day of its birth?  There are.  Listen to the message here and find out more!

The LifeConnect Group discussion questions can be found here.

Encouragement From The Word

Happy birthday, Church!

Did you know that this Sunday is your birthday?  Well, maybe not your very own birthday; but this Sunday is your birthday, if you are part of the church of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, the day when the church celebrates its birthday.  Take a look in Acts 2.1-13.  Pentecost (which just means ‘fiftieth’, that is, the fiftieth day after Easter) is the feast at which the Holy Spirit fell on the believers gathered together for what was a long-honoured Jewish festival, the Feast of Weeks.  That festival gathered Jewish people from all over the known world to celebrate God’s gift of the Law.  All came together in Jerusalem, including Jews who had come to faith in Jesus.  So when the Holy Spirit fell on the believers in tongues of fire, and they spoke in languages unknown to them (but known to festival-goers from other lands), people took notice.

What was the purpose of the ‘flashiness’ of the gift of the Spirit?  It was to make the other people take notice.  God could have sent the promised Holy Spirit very quietly, perhaps ensuring each believer got a letter in the mail stating that he or she “could already be a winner”, such as the Publishers Clearing House does.  However, God wanted people to notice the coming of the Spirit, so he sent tongues of fire and made each follower of Christ gathered there speak in tongues – in this case, languages known to other people gathered around to watch the spectacle.

The Spirit came noticeably, with power, for the purpose of witness.  This is no less true today for believers who speak in tongues:  it’s not a gift given for the purpose of spiritual pride, but for witness – for evangelism.  When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians (who were totally messed up when it came to spiritual gifts), he told them, “Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers” (1 Corinthians 14.22a, NIV).   

As the church grew and developed, there were other gifts that God gave alongside the gift of tongues, all for the purpose of empowering the church to be all it can be in the Lord.  Yet so many churches do not take advantage of the power that is at hand.  That doesn’t mean that every believer has to speak in tongues anymore than it means that every believer needs to have any other spiritual gift.  There are many gifts, given by God’s grace (see Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4), but there is not one gift that each Christ-follower needs.  Each Christ-follower is, however, encouraged to discover what his or her gifts are, and use them – that’s the Spirit’s power at work in the life of the church, day by day, week by week, generation after generation.

Do you know your spiritual gifts?  Have other believers affirmed those gifts in you?  Are you using those gifts to serve the Lord and build up the church?  The great news is that if you are serving the way God wired you up to serve, you won’t find it a chore, but a joy.

Eric Liddle, the great missionary athlete, once said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.  And when I run I feel His pleasure.”  When you know and use your spiritual gifts, you will feel God’s pleasure, because you will be serving according to the purpose for which he made you.  And in that there is much power for you, and most importantly, for the church.

Not a bad birthday present God gave you, eh?


Knowing yourself: Important!

I am an introvert.  I’ve known this for a long time, but only in the past three or four years have I begun to grapple with what this means in any sort of significant way.  When I was in graduate school, one of the first orientation projects we were given was to undertake a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (R).  The MBTI was new to me then, but it’s old hat to me now.  I was trained a few years ago in how to administer it and became qualified to do so.

My ‘type’ has always been consistent each time I’ve taken the inventory:  ISTJ.  That means that I gain my energy from being alone, I take in information through my five senses, I process information by thinking, and I order my life in a predictable way.  Today, I have been reminded of my introversion most profoundly.

Today was my day off.  I always take Monday, because there’s always the best probability that I will get the day if I take it early in the week.  Not every pastor subscribes to this notion, but it has worked for me.  I am blessed inasmuch as my wife is also able to take this day off, so we normally get to spend it together as our Sabbath.  However, the reality of ministry is that, sometimes, one has to forsake one’s regular day off in order to undertake profoundly important matters of business.  In this case, it was a funeral, and a pre-marital counselling session with a couple I love dearly and with whom I have had much difficulty scheduling time together.  It was a good day, and I don’t have any misgivings about having given up my day off for these purposes.

But I am totally wiped out.

The reason is that I spent virtually the whole day engaged in conversation, surrounded by people.  And as an introvert, that drains my energy.  Does that mean I shouldn’t engage in conversation, or be surrounded by people?  I suppose one could take that route, but in my line of work, I wouldn’t last very long in the job!  No, the answer doesn’t come from avoiding those things which drain my energy.  The answer comes in compensating for the loss by spending a significant amount of time on my own – which I have done this evening.

Because it was my day off, however, this over-extraversion, as I might call it, also upset my weekly rhthym of rest.  Again, I am in no way regretting how I spent the day, but as the day comes to a close, my body and my spirit are making it abundantly clear that their normal patterns have been shaken.  I will need to compensate for this in some way – though I’m not sure what way that is just yet.

All this is to say that it is important that we know ourselves.  I can, of course, highly recommend the MBTI as a means of learning more about ourselves (email me if you’d like to take the inventory online, and walk through its meaning with me, for a small fee).  There are other tools, of course, but whatever you choose to do, please learn more about yourself.  You’ll be glad you did.  Like me, perhaps you’ll discover how and why you react to various things that happen in your life!

Biblical Messages, LifeConnect Group Discussion Questions


 “Judgment Day.”  When you hear those words, what do you think of?  Arnold Schwarzenegger or fire and bristone?  Peace and love?  Sheep and goats?  In the Apostles’ Creed, we state that Jesus, from the right hand of God, “will come to judge the living and the dead.”  What does this mean?

The Bible – Old and New Testaments – is replete with allusions to a coming judgment.  In the Old Testament, it was most often referred to as “the Day of the LORD” (as in Joel 2.31).  In the New Testament, Jesus’ return and judgment can be found in several places (check out the LifeConnect Group questions below for some references).

For this message, I chose the difficult passage from the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 25.31-46 to help us understand the reality of the coming judgment.  Many people read this and think that our ticket to heaven is all about how we help the needy, but a more careful reading suggests otherwise.  “These brothers (and sisters) of mine” actually refers to followers of Jesus!

You can listen to the message by clicking here.

You can review the LifeConnect Group discussion questions here.



St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, seeks a half-time Youth Pastor to work with current volunteer leaders to help the young people of our community connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community.

About the congregation.  St. Paul’s Church is a congregation of The Presbyterian Church in Canada located in the town of Nobleton, Ontario, in the heart of King Township.  With a population of 3,200 people, Nobleton is surrounded by rolling hills and horse farms near the ecologically sensitive Oak Ridges Moraine.  Located twenty minutes from both Pearson Airport and the town of Newmarket, and less than an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto, Nobleton still has a small-town feel,  though its population is expected to nearly double in the next five to ten years with new housing developments.

The congregation was begun in 1958 and became completely self-supporting in 1983.  Only five years later, a major building addition was undertaken, giving St. Paul’s a fully accessible and functional campus near the edge of town on the main east-west thoroughfare.  This church family is home to people young and old, and its youth ministry – the only one in the community – reaches far beyond the congregation itself.

St. Paul’s exists to encourage people to connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community.  This mission-purpose statement extends to all the ministries of the congregation, including the youth ministry.  With some 30 young people participating in the group – and nearly 20 on a weekly basis – the elders of St. Paul’s believe it is time to provide some additional leadership to complement that being given currently by two couples in the congregation.

About the position.  St. Paul’s seeks a half-time (20 hours per week) staff person with training in youth ministry to work alongside the Lead Pastor and the volunteer leaders and parents in the current youth program, with a view to expanding its outreach.  The position will include, but not be limited to:

  • Spiritually mentoring the young people through individual and group activities, including opportunities beyond the normal youth meeting(s);
  • Discipling the young people to go deeper in their faith;
  • Developing separate programs for junior and senior youth;
  • Drawing youth from the community into relationship with Christ through St. Paul’s Youth Ministry;
  • Helping parents of youth be spiritual leaders in their kids’ lives; and
  • Being involved in the life of the congregation, including Sunday worship.

Remuneration will be commensurate with experience.  A modest program budget will be provided.

About the candidate.  The successful candidate will be a passionate follower of Jesus Christ with a heart for the spiritual and emotional health of young people, and will possess:

  • The spiritual gift of encouragement, among other gifts;
  • Strong communication and organizational skills;
  • Keen listening and team-building skills;
  • Sound judgment and people-reading skills;
  • Flexibility, energy, courage, and a love of fun; and
  • At least an undergraduate degree in theology or its equivalent, with some courses in youth ministry.

The successful candidate will be knowledgeable in or willing to become knowledgeable in the spirituality and theology of the Reformed tradition and the Leading With Care policy of The Presbyterian Church in Canada (available at resources/online/275).   He or she will require a current police records check, and a valid Ontario driver’s licence.  Musical abilities and physical activity skills will be assets.

Reporting structure.  The Youth Pastor will be accountable directly to the Lead Pastor and will work with the Christian Education Team.  Regular meetings with the Lead Pastor and other youth leaders will be expected.  This position will be evaluated annually.

Qualified and interested candidates should send a current curriculum vitae along with at least three references ASAP:

By email:  jeff <at> stpaulsnobleton <dot> ca

(attachments welcomed in .doc, .docx or .pdf formats)

By regular mail:

St. Paul’s Search Team, c/o Dr. Jeff Loach

Box 264, Nobleton, Ontario  L0G 1N0

Encouragement From The Word

Little Things Mean A Lot

In Matthew 25.40, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (NIV).  In the context of that story – about the sheep and the goats – the righteous are surprised to learn that they had served the Lord in small ways, such as feeding, clothing and caring.  Acting on the grace of God at work in their lives through faith, they had ministered to others, and thereby ministered to Jesus himself.  What they were doing just flowed from them naturally, because of their faith in Christ.

Have you ever thought about the little encouragements you give, the little kindnesses you share?  Perhaps these are ministries both of and to Jesus.  Nobody gets too much encouragement.

For example, last night, having had some minor trouble with my smart phone, I called Bell Mobility tech support to try to get the problem solved.  The chap I spoke with, while not perfectly fluent in English, was extremely courteous, very patient, and gave me the impression that he really wanted to help me with the problem.  While the difficulty turned out to be simple to solve, the process of ‘getting there’ was a bit more complicated than either of us had anticipated.

Still, when it was all done – nearly an hour of trying things and waiting on hold while he talked with another expert – I did not feel exasperated (as I often do at the end of such calls).  I felt that I had been heard, and my concern had been taken seriously.  And he worked to solve the problem to my satisfaction!

When we were finished, I said to him, “I need to ask one more thing of you:  will you put me through to your supervisor, so I can tell that person what a good job you have done for me?”  I think he was a bit surprised that I asked, but glad that I had said why I wanted to talk with his supervisor, because all too often, when consumers ask to speak to the supervisor, it’s to complain.  But I wanted to commend, rather than complain.

I had to leave a voicemail for the supervisor, but at least I had the opportunity to speak some encouragement into the life of a faceless technical support person who could have been in another city or another country for all I knew.  But I was pleased with his work and I wanted his boss to know that.

Who have you thanked for doing a good job for you lately?  That may be one of the little things you do for Jesus.

Biblical Messages

CHRISTIANITY 101: THE APOSTLES’ CREED – To Infinity, and Beyond!

This Thursday is Ascension Day – the day when the church commemorates the time (noted in Acts 1.1-11) when Jesus went up into heaven.  In the Apostles’ Creed, we say that Jesus “ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”  What significance can this have for the church today?

Listen to this message to learn the relevance of Ascension for God’s people today.

Encouragement From The Word

Seeking a word from the Lord

When was the last time you heard a word from the Lord?

It might have been this morning, or last week; last month, or last year.  Or maybe you can’t remember when last you heard a word from God.  Admittedly, a lot of us just don’t think about it – or we think that “a word from God” is a concept for people in a different church than ours.

In reality, however, God has a word for you, as for me.  If you’re curious about this idea, try this:  open your Bible to a passage – one that you know or one that you don’t know, it doesn’t matter – and read it through, aloud, pensively and prayerfully.  Sit in a relaxed but poised posture.  Listen to the passage carefully.  Then, keep a couple of minutes’ silence.  In that time, ask God to highlight for you a particular word or phrase from that passage of Scripture that he wants to share with you.

Once you have a sense of that word or phrase, read the passage again, and again keep a brief silence.  Ask God to speak to your heart about the word or phrase that he gave you, in terms of what relevance it has in your life.  Then read the text a third time, and ask God what he wants you to do with the relevance of that word or phrase – how you should act on it.

I’ve been practising this method of Bible reading all week, and God is surprising me with some of the words he has spoken to me – words that have both challenged and encouraged, words that have had remarkable relevance for my life and ministry, despite the fact that the passages were not ones I chose, but were appointed for me.

This is definitely not a perfect method for hearing from God, nor is it the only method; there may be times when you come up ‘dry’ in this practice.  But you will have spent time in the Scriptures, which can never do any of us harm!

Consider these words from the longest-winded Psalmist of all, in Psalm 119.57-59:  “You are my portion, O Lord; I have promised to obey your words.  I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.  I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes” (NIV).

How do we seek God’s face, but through his Word?  When you read the Bible, don’t just do so out of custom or because you think you ‘should’.  Read it to hear from God.  Linger in the text.  Don’t be afraid to read it more than once.  Enjoy God as you read his Word, because he wants you to hear from him!