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BEING THE CHURCH: 2. Unfettered

“The Word of God cannot not chained” (2 Timothy 2.9).  These are some of the most profound and powerful words in all of Scripture.  As we look at what 2 Timothy has to say about being the church, we see today about the power of the Word of God, and how its unfettered nature sets us free in a few ways.  Based on 2 Timothy 2.1-14, have a listen here:

Also, you can review the video feed on Facebook (which, happily, worked today) https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10211325394507772%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>here.

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Encouragement From The Word

A Dog’s Purpose?

Never one to underestimate the potential of Hollywood to influence how we think, I’d like to have a word with you about a movie that’s just come out called “A Dog’s Purpose”.  It’s about a dog that teaches people how to laugh and love, and is reincarnated multiple times, making a special connection with one individual over the course of 50 years (or thereabouts).

Having pets can be a great way to help parents teach responsibility to kids (though I’m not sure it worked with me, despite my parents’ best efforts!).  Having pets can be a great way to learn any number of things, though I think it’s iffy that the pet actually teaches any of these things, even though it can be taught to model things like loyalty and obedience.

My greater concern with the movie is the promotion of the idea of reincarnation.  This is a philosophical and religious belief held today by many eastern religions.  It is not and has never been espoused by the Christian faith; rather than reincarnation, Christ followers believe in eternal life – a life spent in God’s eternal presence when we die.  In fact, while some of the eastern traditions base reincarnation on works (the more good you do, the better kind of creature you come back as), the Christian faith bases eternal life on grace.

Rather than having to look over your shoulder to ensure you’re “doing it right”, those who follow Jesus simply have to trust in his grace and love.  There’s no fear in following Jesus, no need to be concerned that, for whatever reason, you might “come back” as a mule or a Brahman.  No; in the Christian understanding of the world, the only “coming back” will be done by Jesus!

So if you want to enjoy a schmaltzy movie, just go and enjoy it – but don’t let it affect how you think or what you believe.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going” (John 14.3-4, NRSV).

Encouragement From The Word

Being aware

Where I serve, it’s annual meeting season, so a flurry of reports is being compiled in preparation for the one meeting the government mandates the church to have every year.  (This is true of most churches, except those that may be run by a board of directors instead of one of the more common forms of church polity.)  I don’t know many people who are big fans of meetings, but one thing the preparation for an annual congregational meeting does is cause one to pause and look back on the year that has passed.

The ancient practice of the examination of conscience and consciousness, made popular by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is normally seen as a daily spiritual discipline, but it can also be a monthly practice, or even an annual practice.  The process of compiling annual reports can be harnessed as a form of spiritual discipline, whereby we think back on the year and see where God has been at work, and how aware we have been of that activity.

Let me encourage you to take some time, maybe this weekend, to just sit quietly before God and think back on 2016.  It may have been the best year ever for you, or it may have been your version of the annus horribilis.  For most of us, it was probably somewhere in between.  But by sitting quietly and reviewing the year, we can look for those areas where God was noticeably present and obviously at work.  We can rejoice in those gifts of presence and activity.

Or, if we have not been able to see God at work, we can ask why we were not sufficiently attentive to God’s presence.  Thus, this examination becomes more than a “year in review”; it becomes a way of deepening our faith, of doing a gut check on our walk with the Lord.

Why not take time this weekend to take a look back?  Maybe you’ll see God’s fingerprints all over everything – such cause for rejoicing!  Or maybe you’ll be like Jacob at Bethel, who upon waking from his dream said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28.16b, NLT).

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Dealing with my own irrational fear!

Well, here it is, only the second Friday of the new year, and already it’s Friday the 13th.  I’m amazed that this still proves problematic for some people, even people who believe in God.  But I’d better not point fingers at anybody but myself.  Let me tell you why.

There were two particularly unfortunate incidents that occurred for me in 2016:  I had a gallbladder attack, and we were hauled in for a minor interrogation at the US border.  Thankfully, these did not both occur on the same day.

However, they had one thing in common:  on neither of those days did I shave my neck.  Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?  I mean, any guy who wears a beard will have occasional days (maybe more than occasional days) when he doesn’t shave his neck.  But I will admit, to my shame, that I have not failed to shave my neck once since the second of those two events occurred.  Not.  Once.

And I completely understand the irrationality of that…let’s name it for what it is…fear.

I’m no better than the person who wears the same sweater every time his favourite hockey team plays, or the person who refuses to walk under a ladder…or who is hung up on Friday the 13th.

Maybe, just this once, writing Encouragement From the Word will be therapeutic for me, because by admitting it for everyone to see, I know I need to break the trend.  One day of an unshaven neck is not that uncomfortable – though perhaps there is something in my genes, for I have never in my life seen my father unshaven!  (Of course, that didn’t keep me from growing a beard as soon as my hormones would allow!)

I can’t do it tomorrow, because I have a visit to make; I can’t do it Sunday, because it’s Sunday; but maybe on Monday, I will let the razor take a rest…just to prove the irrationality of this fear.

Why is it so irrational?  Because we serve the God of the universe, the one who flung stars into space and gave Bach the inspiration to write the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat major.  This God we serve is sovereign; it’s the only way he can be God.  And this God has told us, flat out, in his Word:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7, NLT).

If you see me next week, hold me to account.  I need to practise what I preach.  Hopefully, you will, too!

Biblical Messages

CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: As with gladness

This series is wrapped up with an Epiphany carol – one that tells the story of the visit of the Magi to Jesus, yes, but also calls for responses from us, the singers.  Based on Matthew 2.1-12, give a listen to this message below.  (Sorry, the Facebook Live connection didn’t work again today.)