Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: How to tell the difference

Few topics are harder to preach about than the reality of evil in the world – not because it’s hard to find examples of it, but because evil does not want to be exposed for what it is.  Therefore, preparing to preach, and actually preaching, on evil spirits is very difficult, because those evil spirits work to try to keep you from exposing them for what they are.  Such was my challenge this week.

John, in writing his first letter, is dealing with false teachers who are denying Jesus’ incarnation.  John, then, out of love and care for his flock, writes to remind the church that believing Jesus is God-in-the-flesh is the litmus test for teaching.  He writes this in 1 John 4.1-6.

Listen to the message here:

Encouragement From The Word

Jesus is worth the wait

Though the radio stations are already playing Christmas music, and Wal-Mart has gifts and tinsel up for sale (heck, Costco had decorations up in October!), it’s not Christmas yet. That doesn’t start until December 25.

This Sunday, we begin the Christian year with the season of Advent. It’s a season of waiting, of anticipation. In years gone by, it has been a season of penitence, though that seems to have gone by the wayside. But I think there’s great value in celebrating Advent, in waiting for Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a household where, if you wanted something, you saved up for it until you could afford to buy it. Credit was unheard of in my parents’ home, unless you count the mortgage. And there was a certain satisfaction in that, wasn’t there? You saved up to buy something you wanted, and there was anticipation in it. If you really needed (or wanted) it, the anticipation only made the acquisition all the more sweet. If it was just an impulse, and you didn’t really want or need it, saving up for it saved you from buyer’s remorse, because the interest waned while you saved.

Nowadays, saving up for something seems like a quaint custom of a bygone era. And I think that has cost us – not only in terms of interest paid on credit cards and lines of credit, but also in terms of the value of waiting.

For many people, what the world calls the Christmas Season is a frenetic time. Celebrating Advent can actually slow us down a little bit. When we focus each Sunday, and perhaps the surrounding week, on hope, peace, joy and love (or whatever other themes your church might want to use beyond the traditional), we are able to savour all the more fully the amazing gift that is the birth of Jesus.

Followers of Jesus know that the birth of the Saviour was no ordinary birth. This was God’s entrance into history in a tangible way, unlike no other time before – a gift beyond measure…a gift worth waiting for.

Let me encourage you, this year, to celebrate Advent. Even if your church doesn’t mark it in any significant way, you can celebrate at home. There are Advent calendars (though most involve chocolate and only recognize the month of December, it can still be a useful tool); you can make and light an Advent wreath in your home; you can (and this is radical!) even consciously decide not to sing Christmas carols until Christmas! If you can’t handle that, you might consider saving one special Christmas carol for Christmas Eve. (I do this with “O come, all ye faithful”.)

Jesus is worth the wait!

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.   Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27.14, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Do unto others

I heard a story the other day about a woman who was in labour, preparing to give birth to her second child. Her husband got her and their young son packed up, so that the son could be delivered to his grandparents’, and so that the woman could be taken to the hospital to deliver their next child! But there was a problem: this happened earlier this week in Buffalo, New York.

In case you missed it, Buffalo, and other parts of New York state close to the Great Lakes, have been hammered with lake-effect snowfall; Buffalo alone had received more than a metre-and-a-half as of Wednesday, with the promise of more yesterday. The photos have been astounding.

So the trip for this young family to get to grandparents’ and hospital was not exactly routine. In fact, with mom in labour, they actually stopped to help a stranded motorist to get out of her car. They brought her into their vehicle and carried on toward the hospital – difficult though that was, with the roads clogged with snow and trapped vehicles.

Soon it became apparent that the baby wasn’t going to wait for the doctor. That child would make her arrival in the car. So the vehicle was stopped, and they prepared for the delivery – stranger and all!

What if they hadn’t stopped to help the stranded woman? Would they have made it to the hospital? In the end, they knew they did the right thing, because this stranded stranger turned out to be a paediatric nurse who specialized in labour and delivery! She was able to give guidance toward the safe arrival of the family’s newborn little girl. And eventually, they made it to the hospital. All are well.

The man had no idea that he was helping someone who would help him and his wife. He stopped to help because it was the right thing to do, irrespective of the outcome – even though he, if anybody, had a good excuse to avoid stopping.

How often are we “too busy” to stop to help someone in need? What could you do today that would make a difference in someone’s life, even though it might not benefit you in any way?

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7.12, NIV).

Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: God’s Children

One of the things John strongly affirms in his first letter is that we are children of God if we do what the Lord commands and live in him by faith.  What does that mean?  What has to change in us in order for us to be children of God?  Based on 1 John 2.28-3.10, you can listen to this message to find out:

Encouragement From The Word

Waiting, waiting…

Today is a day of waiting, for me.  Granted, it’s not as serious a form of waiting as, say, loved ones waiting for the results of surgery.  And it’s not as exciting a form of waiting as, say, anxious grandparents waiting to hear of the birth of their first grandchild.  No, this waiting is much more (if you’ll pardon the expression) peripheral.

Today, I’m waiting for the Bell technician to come to the church to install a new Internet connection.

I was told that the technician would arrive sometime between 8:00 a.m. and, well, next Thursday.  (Not really.  He’s supposed to arrive before 5:00 today.)  And it’s not like I don’t have plenty to keep me busy around the church.  But when you are waiting for someone to arrive, and you don’t know when it will occur, there is a certain impatience, a certain anxiety, that goes with that waiting.

God’s people have been in just that sort of waiting mode since the ascension of Jesus.  Time and again, the Lord Jesus told us that he would return to earth to consummate time as we know it and to receive his faithful, dead and living, to himself.

When we look at world events, it’s tempting to expect that Jesus is coming back soon.  Of course, he said as much, revealed to John, in the penultimate verse in the Bible:  “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22.20, NIV).  So if he has been coming “soon” since the end of the first century, when Revelation was penned, how long is “soon”?  Of course, Peter reminds us that for God, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day (2 Peter 3.8), so if that tells us anything, it’s that making predictions is a dangerous thing to do.  Even Jesus himself said that only the Father knows when that time will come (Mark 13.32).

At least with the Bell technician, I have a day, and a window in which to expect his arrival.  In the meantime, I carry on my normal activities – but confined to the church building for the day.

As we await the return of the Lord Jesus, we ought likewise to carry on our normal activities – not confined to a building, but confined to the world in which we live, constrained by the will of God to wait with patience and endurance for our safe redemption, whatever that may look like.

Waiting can be hard.  But, as the apostle Paul reminds us, the fruit of the Spirit is patience (Galatians 5.22).  It’s good to wait expectantly for the Lord, because eternity in his presence is going to be amazing.  But it’s also good to wait patiently, because “No one knows about that day or hour” (Mark 13.32, NIV).

There will be no sure sign of the Bell technician’s arrival until I see that familiar blue and white van.  Likewise, there will be no sure sign of Jesus’ return until we see him face to face.  There are those who will claim to be him, but if I understand Scripture correctly, there will be no mistaking his return.  You won’t have to wait for Jesus to introduce himself, or to read about it in the newspaper.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.2, NIV).

Want a little inspiration for your day?  Listen to Sandi Patty sing what it will be like to meet the Lord.

That’ll be worth the wait.  Blessings for your weekend!

Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: 3. Remain Faithful

1 John 2.18-27 gives the impression that John is a bit exasperated with the Gnostics who have infiltrated his community of faith.  His call to the church (then and now) is to remain faithful in spite of what they are facing.  A healthy church is fixed on truth.  Listen here:

Encouragement From The Word

Pride goes before destruction

I’ve been a recreational curler for about 16 years. While I don’t think I’d be God’s gift to any team going to the Brier, I think my skills have improved a bit over the years. It took me a long time to be able to deliver a stone in a satisfactory (to me) manner, but most of the time, I find I can now hit my groove and probably get a better “do what the skip asks for” average than many million-dollar baseball players can do in their game. I’d call myself a pretty confident, though humble, curler. What’s more, I hadn’t fallen on the ice in a long time.

Then came last Tuesday.

The coin had been tossed and our team got choice of colour (translation: we lost the toss). The lead went to throw his first stone, and I followed it diligently 8262059down the sheet. All of a sudden, about eight feet from the far hog line, I found myself flat out on the ice. It took less than a second for gravity to do its number on my whole body.

Thankfully, I didn’t hit my head, and I got up right away. But the first thing I noticed was that my left knee didn’t feel exactly right. I continued sweeping, and thought everything was okay. Then, when it was my turn to throw, I crouched down in the hack, and my left knee rather forcefully intimated that this was not a good idea.

I tried to ignore it. I kicked out of the hack and found myself leaning on the rock. (You’re not supposed to lean on the rock, especially when your gravitational pull is as, ahem, significant as mine.) Writhing in pain, I tossed the rock out of my hand and stood up as quickly as I could. I felt fine. I tried again with my second stone. Same result.

Last Tuesday, I learned how to be a “stick curler” – I used my brush to throw the stone so I didn’t have to crouch down. Who knew there was a learning curve to ice-bound shuffleboard?! While my injury may not have been the only contributing factor, we lost the game…the first game I’ve lost all season.

Oddly, I had just said to my wife, before I left for the rink, that I had not been on a team that lost a game yet this year. Some people would say that was “karma” at work, that I shouldn’t have “jinxed” my game by making such a comment. But I didn’t say it with great hubris – at least, I don’t think I did; it was just a remark on the stats. I’d like to think this was mere coincidence; I certainly don’t believe that God caused my collision with the ice, nor the resulting injury! Nevertheless, as I picked myself up off the ice and realized my (minor) injury, I found myself quoting Proverbs 16.18: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (NLT).

(In case you’re wondering, my physician poked and yanked around my knee and said it was just a strain, and I shouldn’t have to become a chronic stick curler for a few more years yet!)

Be careful out there!

Biblical Messages

Love One Another: A New Commandment

One of the challenges of the Christian faith is that we are called to love one another, yes, and to be obedient to the Lord.  Each, in its own right, is difficult.

As we looked at most of chapter 2 today of 1 John (2.1-17), we learned about the importance of obedience as a fruit of our faith, and a sign and witness to what the gospel has done to change us.  You can listen to the message here: