Biblical Messages

ALTAR EGO: Edging God Out

This week, in our series, we’re talking about control issues.  “Ego”, for me, has always been an acronym:  “Edging God Out”.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!  In this message, based on Genesis 16.1-16 and James 4.13-17, we will hear about control issues, take a few minutes in silence to be honest before God about things we try to control, and then look at some questions to help us assess control issues.  In the end, we learn that God is faithful, and we can trust him to be in control.  Listen to the message here:

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Encouragement From The Word

Afraid? Of what?

I shared a poem at a memorial service this week which I had used many years ago, but stumbled upon again. It was written by a missionary to China in response to a number of missionary martyrdoms, and has always, for me, been a powerful testament to what Jesus’ death and resurrection mean for Christians, a poignant illustration of the apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth when he quoted Isaiah: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15.54b, NIV).

 

Read this slowly and meditatively, and let its meaning wash over you today.

 

Afraid? Of What?

To feel the spirit’s glad release?

To pass from pain to perfect peace,

The strife and strain of life to cease?

Afraid – of that?

 

Afraid? Of What?

Afraid to see the Saviour’s face

To hear his welcome, and to trace

The glory gleam from wounds of grace?

Afraid – of that?

 

Afraid? Of What?

A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;

Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!

A wound of His a counterpart?

Afraid – of that?

 

Afraid? Of What?

To do by death what life could not –

Baptized with blood a stony plot,

Till souls shall blossom from the spot?

Afraid – of that?

 

Biblical Messages

God’s Masterpiece

Have you thought about your “altar ego”?  In this series, we’re going to look at four different aspects of how we can lay down who we think we are – or who others think we are – on the altar of God’s mercy and grace, and be the people God thinks we are.  This message, on feelings of inadequacy, is based on Judges 6.11-16.  You can listen to it here:

Encouragement From The Word

Pain as a gift

We may not like to think of it this way, but pain is a gift.

Most of us would rather not experience pain, and many people go to great lengths to avoid pain, and even to avoid feeling pain. Yet without pain, we cannot know that something is wrong; even if we don’t know what is wrong, pain tells us something isn’t right.

The much-publicized hospitalization of the mayor of Toronto this week serves as a reminder that pain is a gift. The diagnosis received by Mr. Ford is serious, but now that he has done something to address the pain, treatment can begin.

Yet many people – not just men, women too – will put off dealing with pain. And sometimes, they wait until it’s too late. The beauty of Canadian health care is that our taxes pay for a system that enables us to consult experts on pain without fear of the cost involved. Of course, that system can be abused, but its existence means that if I feel some pain inside that isn’t going away, I can get it attended to right away.

Spiritual pain is no different; we often think that spirituality is personal, and that we can’t consult a professional when we are feeling pain in our souls. But the truth is that we can talk to others about our spiritual pain. It doesn’t always have to be a ‘professional’, either! While pastors and spiritual directors and counsellors can be of immense help, we can share how we feel with trusted sisters and brothers in Christ, too. They may or may not be able to help us deal with the pain, but they can at least share the burden we feel, praying for us and helping us find someone who can help us.

If we feel physical pain, the problem of which the pain is a symptom can be treated. If we feel spiritual pain, the problem of which that pain is a symptom can be treated as well. Sometimes, medical professionals give us prescriptions to mask the pain, but that doesn’t do us any favours. The problem itself must be unearthed and treated. Spiritual professionals, and trusted Christian friends, can’t write us prescriptions, and that’s probably a good thing. Instead, they help us to dig beneath the surface and discern how this gift of pain can help us grow in faith, and what wound may need to be brought to light so that Jesus can bring healing.

Dr. Paul Brand, who worked tirelessly to bring relief to leprosy patients, remarked that one of the greatest difficulties they face is that they lack the gift of pain. As their disease takes away nerves, they no longer feel anything – including pain. Imagine touching a hot stove and not feeling it!

If we are not careful, we can end up being spiritually leprous, where we are so callused toward the pain we feel, covering it up in whatever ways we can find, that we no longer note it, and the real problem that the spiritual pain has brought us is left unattended.

Do you have spiritual pain? Is there something going on in your life that has left you wounded? Can you invite Jesus to heal that wound for you, and relieve you of that pain? Doing so will help you live your life in Christ to the fullest.

Share each others burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6.2, NLT).

Biblical Messages

“Through the Roof” Friendship

How much – really – do we care about our friends and loved ones?  Jesus encountered some friends who went to great lengths to see their paralyzed friend receive God’s healing.  Are you prepared to overcome necessary obstacles to bring a friend to Jesus?  You can read the story in Mark 2.1-12, and you can listen to the message here:

Encouragement From The Word

Displaying clarity

The telephone in my home office has a digital display. Lately, though, it’s been playing tricks on me, as you’ll see in the photo. Normally, it will tell me the time, IMG_1441the month and date, the number I’m dialing, and how many new calls I’ve had. (I suppose it would tell me who was calling, too, if I paid for that option.) But right now, if it’s displaying anything legible, it might as well be in Klingon, because I can’t read it at all. I’m not sure what it takes to fix it; sometimes, it has come back to ‘normal’ all by itself. But over the past few days, it has just been a backlit mess.

There are times that we can be that way, aren’t there? Just a backlit mess?

Walking as followers of Jesus is not an easy thing to do in our world today, because to live as disciples is to live counter-culturally: while society is going in one direction, we are travelling in the opposite direction. That makes it difficult to be vigilant all the time, and at times, people may look at us and not be sure what they’re seeing – just like my phone display.

Someone – I think it might have been the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody – said that the Christian is the only Bible some people will ever read. That places a heavy responsibility on us to live lives that are clear in their demonstration of following Jesus. We won’t live perfect lives, because we can’t, but when we live with greater clarity of faith than not, we become winsome beacons of light, drawing people out of darkness.

If we will live positive, godly, authentic and faithful Christian lives, making what we believe practical in day-to-day functioning, we might be amazed at the number of ‘yes’ responses we get when we say to a friend, “Hey, would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?”

Give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed. And the Holy Spirit, who lives within each believer, will give you the strength to do it.

You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5.14-16, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Of Teething Rings and Testaments

Perhaps you’ve received things from your loved ones that are significant memories of your childhood.  Is one of them faith in Jesus Christ?  Scripture calls us to share our faith with our kids.  Deuteronomy 6.1-12 illustrates this well.  (The negative results are shown for us in Judges 2.1-15, reminding us that the church is only ever one generation away from extinction.)  To whom will you pass the baton of faith?  Listen to this message and consider that question.