Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

From Judgment to Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary…and I will give you rest.”  Many are familiar with these words of Jesus, but do we realize what their context is?  The section right before Jesus utters these words unique to the Gospel of Matthew finds him condemning entire communities where he and his miracles were well known, but the response was underwhelming.  The key question in this message is, “How will you witness for Jesus?”

Based on Matthew 11.20-30 in The Message, you can listen to the message here:

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Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Beyond despondency and despair

It seems we learn every day of another tragedy taking place in the world.  That, combined with the state of morality, and the debacle that is the US election process – to which the whole world is subjected through the media – can leave us pretty despondent.  But Christ-followers are left with an alternative beyond despondency and despair.

There is an exclamatory remark that appears obviously only once in the New Testament, but is alluded to in a second place.  It is three simple words, and those three simple words give hope to the people of God around the world, no matter how trying the circumstances.  In 1 Corinthians 16.22, the apostle Paul writes to the church, “Come, O Lord!

In Revelation 22.20, John is told by Jesus, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  John replies, “Come, Lord Jesus.

The language of Jesus’ heart, Aramaic, has a term for this exclamatory remark:  Marana tha.  We sometimes make it one word and say, “Maranatha!”  By this we express a wish for Jesus to return, to consummate the world in his way.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been using that term quite a lot lately.  When I look at the world around me, I long for Jesus to bring his Kingdom.  Are we ready for that?

To be ready for Jesus to bring his Kingdom means to love and trust him by faith, to live to please him, and to bear witness among others to his saving work on the cross.  Why?  Because we want “Maranatha!” to be good news for everybody.

No matter what terror ISIS may leave in its wake; no matter which among the poor choices wins the US Presidential election; no matter what tragedy we learn about in the news – it will all pale in comparison to the second coming of Jesus, who will come to establish his Kingdom.

Marana tha.  Come, O Lord.  We can’t know when he will come.  We can only be ready.  May he come soon.

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Communion FAQs

We enjoy celebrating the Lord’s Supper once in the summer at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  But not often do we talk about some of the key assumptions about our celebration of God’s grace!  So this week, we remedied that – at least in part.

Last Monday, I had my gallbladder removed, but I decided that wouldn’t keep me from preaching this week, it being Communion Sunday and all.  And it didn’t, but you will probably be able to tell in listening to this message that I don’t have my usual energy and sometimes seem out of breath.  I should have taken the Sunday off, but I didn’t.  So you get to listen to a message highlighting answers to some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that I hear about the Lord’s Supper.  Based on 1 Corinthians 11.17-34, you can listen to the message here:

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Every. Little. Thing.

Not long ago, I received word that my family physician is going to be retiring at the end of September.  I’m particularly sad about this, because he’s one of those “old school” doctors who takes the Hippocratic Oath very seriously, who still makes house calls when necessary, and who almost always has enough room in his daily schedule to fit in those last-minute needed appointments.  I will miss having him play a role in my life.

He has engaged a firm that will digitize his patients’ files so that all the records of my years of being seen by him will fit onto a CD that I can carry to my next doctor, whoever that may be.  Everything that he has seen me for in the past eight years will be available for the new physician to review.  Every.  Little.  Thing.  Yes, the important things, like my drug allergy (yikes) and my body mass index (ouch), but also the less affirming things, like the time I had to be treated for a boil on my bottom (let’s not go there).  Every.  Little.  Thing.

Of course, this is all for my good, right?  The new doctor will need to know my background fully in order to be able to treat me properly when I come for assistance.  The new doctor needs to see the big picture.

I like how God can see the big picture – the whole picture – but chooses not to.  The apostle John says of the Lord, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1.9, NLT).  And when does that happen?  The earlier part of the verse says it happens “if we confess our sins to him”. And when God receives our confession of sin and forgives us and cleanses us, he keeps no record of our sins.  They are gone like dust in the wind.

Let’s not kid ourselves:  God could remember every little thing if he wanted to.  But he chooses not to.  As the old saying goes, he throws the sins we confess to him into the lake of forgetfulness, and posts a ‘no fishing’ sign there.  While our medical records may have the good, the bad and the ugly in them, our divine records do not – when we live in relationship with God, believing that Jesus died to take away our sins and rose again to draw us to eternal life.  When we are in Christ, God looks upon us as if we have the righteousness of Christ.

Our challenge is to seek to live that way.  Growing in holiness, in righteousness – that’s the best response to realizing that God chooses not to remember every little thing.  I’m praying that God will give you the grace and strength to grow in holiness and righteousness!

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Resident Aliens

I borrowed the title for this message from the book of the same name by Willimon and Hauerwas, two professors at Duke Divinity School, who wrote about the importance of the church being the church amid the culture around it.

As “resident aliens”, we need to understand and live our faith effectively if we want to have any hope of influencing culture.  But since all our little sub-cultures are different, each of us may need to handle that ‘living out’ differently.  Based on 1 Peter 2.4-12, you can listen to the message here:

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Why we do Camp

This week, St. Paul’s, Nobleton has been holding its annual Vacation Bible Camp.  Each year, it is our privilege, and that of many other congregations, to welcome community children into our midst for a few days to teach them and model for them the way of Jesus.  It’s a sacred trust, and we take it seriously.

Think about it:  yes, we see some of our own home-grown kids, but we also welcome children who are not currently part of our fellowship.  Parents bring them to us, sign a form, and entrust their little loved ones to our care.  For parents, it’s not just about a few mornings when they can have some peace and quiet, or some unfettered time to get some work done; they are entrusting their kids to us and allowing us to build into the spiritual formation of these little ones.  We are helping to shape their lives for God’s Kingdom.

Volunteers, and sometimes staff, put countless hours into the planning, preparation and execution of these camps not because they want to babysit strangers’ children, but because they truly believe, in the words of Reggie Joiner, that in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what these kids did with Jesus.  As churches, we offer these ministries to families because we want them – parents and kids alike – to have a life-changing encounter with the Lord.

Kids memorize Bible verses that may stick with them and may not.  They also learn songs that definitely stick with them.  (I meet parents in the grocery store year after year who tell me – in the dead of winter – that their kids are still singing camp songs.  Children’s memories are amazing.)  Everything we do at camp is centred on knowing Jesus and loving him.  Because of our proximity to Canada’s Wonderland, these families could get season’s passes and go there every day.  Some parents tell us that their kids are more excited to come to Vacation Bible Camp than they are to go to Wonderland.

Why?  We don’t have rides (well, we have a cool waterslide…).  What we have is Jesus.  And he is compelling.

It’s not like Jesus shows up in body, looking like the Bible comics we used to get in Sunday school when we were kids.  No:  Jesus shows up in those who serve.  He comes in the form of caring leaders, teachers and helpers who carry a conviction that in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what we did with Jesus.

What we can accomplish in five mornings can be the equivalent of a whole year of Sunday morning kids’ ministry.  And the community lines up to bring their children.

It’s a sacred trust.  And we wouldn’t give it up for the world.

What are you doing to encourage kids to love Jesus?

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.  All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 111.10a, NLT).

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Engage the Culture

Are Christians supposed to be like turtles, chameleons, or fish out of water?  We’re called to engage the culture as God’s people, without retreating from the world and without forsaking our principles and looking like the world around us.  What does that look like?  Jeremiah 29.1-14 gives us an idea.  This week looks more at theory, and next week will look more at practice.  Have a listen: