Biblical Messages

HUNGRY…for living water

I’ll acknowledge in this message that we’re probably more thirsty for living water than hungry, but it fits in the series this way!  🙂

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well may be found in John 4.4-30, and you can listen to this message about Jesus’ invitation to new life – extended even to those whom society deems unworthy – by clicking here.

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Encouragement From The Word

Entitlement?

“Surprise!”

If weather could speak, that’s what it would have said to us this past Wednesday morning where I live.  Only three days after spring’s official arrival, the brown-yellow-greenish landscape had turned white again.  And we all knew it was coming; every weather forecast proffered for a couple of days had warned of varying amounts of snow for Wednesday.  It should have come as no surprise – but judging by the number of car accidents, it did surprise many people.

I was less surprised than crestfallen by the change in the weather.  I’ve been a weather bug for most of my life, so I pay attention to meteorological trends.  I knew it was coming, but when I rose on Wednesday morning, it just disappointed me.  I thought I had put my winter boots away for a few months, but alas, I had to get them out of the closet yesterday.  And again today.

My own experience of the past few days may be like some others’.  Amid my disappointment, it was as if I were thinking, How dare it snow again!  It was all gone, and now it’s spring.  What’s with that?  And I think my feeling illustrates well the culture of entitlement we have developed.   

Many adults will look at the younger generation and cluck their collective tongues at the sense of entitlement felt by kids today – the idea that they feel like they have the right to have whatever they want whenever they want it.  (There’s a whole mess of reasons why this is more our fault than theirs, but exploring that is not my purpose here!)  The simple reality is that most people today have a feeling of entitlement.

That feeling of entitlement goes beyond the realm of Stuff.  It even extends to the spiritual realm.  

Too often, we tend to look at our faith, and even at God, as just another commodity – something from which we can Get What We Want.  And when we don’t get it, we become disenchanted.  But is that the way Scripture views our faith, or God?

Hardly.

No, it’s about relationship.  I realized, when preparing this Sunday’s message for St. Paul’s, Nobleton, that I talk a lot about the importance of a personal relationship with God through Jesus.  I realized that this is not something for which I feel obliged to apologize.  If anything, I see it as a divinely-inspired clarion call for those who are part of God’s church to reset their focus.  When our relationship with God is primary, other things curiously find their place in the pecking order of life – and none of them pecks higher than God.  What’s more, when we make that relationship primary, we find that it’s less about what we can get and more about what we can give.  Not much about entitlement there, is there?

When we are in a love relationship with another person, we don’t base that relationship on what we can get from it, but what we can give to it – and to the other person.  The same is true in our relationship with God.  When our relationship with God is vibrant and growing, we don’t think about what we can get from God, but about how we can honour God.

We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.  As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people” (1 Thessalonians 1.2-4, NLT).

May yours be a weekend of service to the God who served us by giving his Only Son, regardless of the weather!

Biblical Messages

HUNGRY…for the Bread of Life

Today at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, we celebrated the work done by the King Township Food Bank.  An appropriate occasion, then, to start a new preaching series called “Hungry…”.  Today, we looked at John 6.25-51, and learned about Jesus, the Bread of Life.

It’s great to serve the needy the physical sustenance they need, and God calls us to do that.  But we can’t stop there, because everyone’s spirit needs sustenance, too!  That’s where feeding on Jesus, the Bread of Life, comes in.

Listen to this message by clicking here.

Encouragement From The Word

What St. Patrick was really all about

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, a day when virtually everyone claims a drop or two of Irish blood, if for no other reason than to feel free to quaff a pint of green ale in honour of the day.  But, emerald-coloured beer and shamrocks and driving snakes away all set aside, what was it that Patrick really stood for?

He was an ardent defender of orthodox Christian belief.  He was committed to learning a new culture so that he could speak of Christ in a relevant way to a people not his own.  See, Patrick was born in Scotland, and it was the call of God that sent him to Ireland – a call he obeyed, even after a very bad early experience there.  He learned Celtic language and culture and brought a living faith in Jesus to the people there.

And while his day is mostly celebrated with funny green hats and jigs, what he really stood for is best summarized in what is now known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”.  Read it, and see if you are not moved by its truth and its depth:

I rise and bind to myself today
the strong virtues of the Trinity,
the Three in One and One in Three,
Creator of the universe.

I rise and bind to myself today
The strong virtues of Christ’s birth and baptism
his crucifixion and burial,
his rising and ascending,
his descending to judge at the last day.

I rise and bind to myself today
the strong virtues of the love of cherubim,
the obedience of angels,
service of archangels,
prayers of ancestors,
predictions of prophets,
preaching of apostles,
faith of confessors,
innocence of holy virgins,
and deeds of righteous souls.

I rise and bind to myself today
the power of heaven,
the sun’s brilliance,
the moon’s radiance,
the splendour of fire,
the flashing of lightning,
the speed of wind,
the depths of sea,
the immovable earth,
and solid rock.

I rise and bind to myself today
the power of God to hold me,
his hand to guide, his eye to guard,
his ear to hear me, his word to speak for me,
his shield to shelter me,
his army to deliver me
from the snares of demons,
from the seductions of vices,
from the temptations of nature,
and from all who wish me harm,
far or near, many or few.

These strong virtues I call to my side today,
against every cruel and merciless force
that would attack my body and soul,
against the incantations of false prophets,
the black laws of pagans,
the false laws of heretics,
the deceits of idolaters,
the spells of witches,
and all that corrupts and binds the human soul.

Christ protect me
against poison and burning,
against drowning and wounding,
that I may receive an abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ to my right, Christ to my left,
Christ in my lying, in my sitting, in my rising,
Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ in the mouth of all who speak of me,
Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

I rise and bind to myself today
the strong virtues of the Trinity,
the Three in One and One in Three,
Creator of the universe.

If you want to celebrate St. Patrick, you don’t have to wait until next March 17.  Just do what he did:  follow the Great Commission.  “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.  And be sure of this:  I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Jiving With Joel: Prosperity Amid Judgment

The concluding chapter of Joel contains a word of hope for God’s faithful people – but also contains an alarming promise for those who are unrepentant.  Reading Joel 3 with New Testament eyes is really helpful for followers of Christ to understand the text. 

With apologies for the quality of my voice – I preached this with a very bad cold – listen to “Prosperity Amid Judgment” by clicking here.

By the way, the reference to changing my watch has to do with the “spring ahead” to daylight saving time.

Encouragement From The Word

An Audience of One

Last night, at our weekly curling match in Nobleton, one of the sweepers on the next sheet turned, pointed to the stands and said to me, “Hey!  For the first time all season, we have spectators!”

“Yep,” said I.  “That’s my wife and my father.”

“Come for a little entertainment?” he asked.

“A good laugh, at least,” I replied.

With my mom in the hospital recovering from a replacement knee replacement (yes, this is number two), my wife and my dad decided to come and watch a little amateur curling.  (Why they did this when they could have sat at home and watched the Brier I’m not yet sure – other than the aforementioned ‘good laugh’!)

This got me thinking:  I’ve never curled for an audience before – at least, not an audience of loved ones.  But because I had an audience, I tried to play better.  I doubt I succeeded, given the final score of the game, but at least I tried, knowing that Diana and Dad were watching.

A lot of people assume that my ‘up front’ work, what people see on Sunday, is done for an audience of whoever shows up in the seats.  And while I’m grateful for each and every person who comes expecting a word from the Lord when they gather for worship, the reality is that I do what I do on Sunday – and every other day of the week, frankly – for an audience of One.

My preaching and worship leadership are done for an audience of One.  My studying and visiting and praying and Facebooking and eating and drinking and model railroading and everything else I do is done for an audience of One.  Knowing that this audience of One is always attentive, always listening, and always cheering me on, I seek to do better as a means of honouring the One who gave me every gift and every ability to do what I do.

This is true for you, too, no matter what you do on a daily basis.  You have an audience of One who is ‘in your corner’ and seeking to bring out the very best in you, for his own honour and glory.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ” (Colossians 3.23-24, NLT).

That audience of One loves you and wants his very best for you.  Serve well.