Encouragement From The Word

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

That’s the question the Lord asked Elijah in 1 Kings 19 – twice:  in verses 9 and 13.

The prophet had just defeated the prophets of Baal and brought rain to a land of drought, and for his trouble, the king’s wife, Jezebel, wanted his head on a platter. He was sick of the race.  So he ran away, and this was God’s response:  “What are you doing here?”

It’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves – perhaps not about the room we’re sitting in at this very moment, but about our stage in life.  And there are different ways we can ask it.

We can ask ourselves, “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

Notice the different emphasis each time the question is asked.  There is an ancient Christian practice called the examen, where typically at the end of the day, we review the day in God’s presence and examine our conscience and consciousness.  Perhaps God’s question to Elijah, with these different emphases, might be one way to frame a review of the day.

Besides asking important questions about life, this practice also forces us to pause, which is not easy for all of us.  Give it a try today.

Elijah was sick of the race, but he knew he needed more of God.  So the Lord revealed himself to Elijah – not in the windstorm, not in the earthquake, not in the fire – but with the sound of a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19.12).

Pause long enough to hear that gentle whisper, be renewed, and know what you are doing here!

Encouragement From The Word returns on September 2.

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Biblical Messages

Free*

The lowly asterisk often means a lot – especially when you see a deal that seems too good to be true.  The gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ can seem that way – and there is an asterisk on its “free”-ness – but it’s all good news.  Have a listen to this message, based on Romans 6.1-14.

Encouragement From The Word

Pay it forward

I’m not a big fan of drive-thrus, since, unless one drives a hybrid or an electric vehicle, they tend to be bad for the environment (and for physical fitness).  But there’s one thing I like about drive-thrus:  they’re the commonest places to find people “paying it forward”.

Do you know what I mean by that?  The whole “pay it forward” notion may well be quite old, but it has become more popular with the advent of drive-thrus.  Originally, it referred to repaying someone for their benevolence not by repaying the benefactor, but someone else in need.  Nowadays, it can be something as simple as paying for the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru.

What’s so neat about it is that if someone pays for your order, you can’t even thank the person, because she or he has already driven away.  It’s pure grace – undeserved favour.

As I’m going to discuss in my message this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, this is a great way to illustrate the grace of God in our salvation.  When we come to faith in Christ, we aren’t simply called to be good, moral people – as if to appease God’s wrath.  We’re called to live as those saved by grace, to please God.  Our salvation isn’t dependent on what we do; it is the motivator for what we do.

When we pay for another person’s order in the drive-thru, that person is powerless to pay us back.  The hope is that she or he will do the same for another person at some point.  Likewise, God in Christ has paid for our sins – atoned for them on the cross – and we are powerless to pay God back.  By living for him, and demonstrating his grace in different ways, we are ‘paying it forward’.

What creative ways can you demonstrate the grace of God to others, both in word and in deed?

You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6.19b-20a, NLT).

Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: “Deep Church” by Jim Belcher

A confession:  I’ve had this book on my ‘to read’ pile for a few years now, and I really wish I had read it sooner.  Deep Church, as the subtitle suggests, attempts to find “A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional”.

Depending on the circles you travel in, you may not know what the author means by “Emerging” or “Traditional”.  Within the realm of evangelicalism, a movement began some 20 years ago that became known as the Emerging (or Emergent) Church.  It isn’t a denomination and doesn’t have formal leadership (though there are informal leaders).  And, as this book, highlights, there is no theological or liturgical unity around the movement.  Some Emerging churches look like mainline liberalism in a new suit, while others look like typical evangelical congregations, but with candles and corporate prayers of confession.

What Belcher looks for is a “third way”, something that finds balance between traditional evangelical Christianity and this somewhat numinous Emerging movement.  What he comes up with is “Deep Church”, as he calls it, the model for ministry that he uses in his own congregation, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Newport Beach, California.

The big learning for me from this book was about the value of community.  I’ve been thinking a lot about community in the church in recent years, and this has helped me even more to pinpoint what needs to happen if the church is to be effective with the millennial generation.  Belcher writes about his congregation’s four core commitments:  gospel, community, mission and shalom (the latter defined as making or transforming culture, in a Kuyperian sense).

I found the stories he told reinforced the points he was making from his research and his interviews with key players in the Emergent-Traditional debate, and the book’s 207 pages (plus copious endnotes) read fairly quickly.  I wish I had read this sooner.

Deep Church:  A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher (foreword by Richard J. Mouw), published in 2009 by InterVarsity Press.  ISBN 978-0-8308-3716-8.