Biblical Messages

A praying church is a growing church

What makes churches grow, and what keeps them from growing?  There’s lots to learn in this field.  Today, we looked at the one commonality among all churches that grow:  they pray.

Based on Acts 4.23-31, listen to the message here:

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Encouragement From The Word

The judge steps down

My wife and I have taken to enjoying the half-hour reality show called Border Security.  It chronicles the stories of people who have been “hauled into secondary” at either an airport or at the Canada-US land border, to be examined more carefully by the border protection agents of either country.  The show is a good reminder to be honest about everything, because these guards are smart people:  they are trained to be able to discern if you’re telling the truth or not.

There was one episode recently where a traveller was returning to the US from Thailand, and had not declared a banana in her luggage.  When the banana was discovered, she was assessed a fine for failing to declare that she had any quantity at all of fruits or vegetables.  Angrily, she paid the fine and was released.  Similar story lines get repeated, with different characters involved: tell the truth or pay the price.  Since telling the truth doesn’t make for particularly compelling television, we get to watch the ones who pay the price most often.

The great 20th century preacher, Donald Grey Barnhouse, told a story, surrounded by an enrapt group of students with whom he was speaking about the Christian faith.  It was about a judge, whose son came before him, accused of reckless driving.  The charge was easily proven, and the judge fined the young man the highest fine permitted by law.

Then the judge adjourned the court, stepped down from the bench, and paid his son’s fine.

One of the students interjected and said, “But God cannot get down off the bench.”

Barnhouse replied, “You have given me one of the best illustrations of the incarnation that I will ever have.  For Jesus Christ was no more or less than God, come down off the bench to pay the fine which he had imposed upon us.”

Jesus paid your fine.  How will you respond?

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).

Biblical Messages

A Snapshot of the Prototype

What is the church supposed to be like today?  A cursory glance at the book of Acts gives us an idea.  A deeper study of that book gives us a clear picture.  Today, we looked at a snapshot of the prototype – a few verses, Acts 2.42-47, that show us God’s plan for how his people should function as the body of Christ.  Have a listen here:

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spiritual formation

Fear Not: Spiritual Direction For Protestants

Here’s a talk I gave at a gathering of The Renewal Fellowship Within The Presbyterian Church in Canada about understanding spiritual direction, something that is new to many contemporary Protestants.  It’s a half-hour talk that hopefully will help you understand it better.  Feel free to comment with any questions you may have.

Biblical Messages

Spiritual heartburn in the afterglow of Easter

Lent creates a buildup to Good Friday, and the anticipation of the resurrection.  In the afterglow of Easter, we often find ourselves wondering, “What’s next?” Well, of course, forty days after Easter comes the ascension, and another ten days after that comes Pentecost – but until then, what’s next?

The story in Luke’s gospel that follows the resurrection is the journey to Emmaus trod by two friends.  The risen Lord Jesus joins them, but they don’t recognize him.  They remain baffled by all that has happened, for they were hopeful that Jesus, who was crucified, would be the Messiah.  Those hopes were dashed when Jesus was crucified, but then they heard the remarkable rumour that the tomb was empty and he had risen from the dead.

These faithful people, like most of their fellow citizens, did not think this was how the story of the Messiah was supposed to go.  But Jesus, at this point a stranger to them, explains the Scriptures to them to help them see that indeed, their faith tradition did call for the events that had transpired in recent days – even if their cultural tradition did not see it that way.

The story of the walk to Emmaus has many lessons in it for God’s people, and perhaps this one flies under the radar too often:  when we make assumptions about our faith that are cultural and not biblical, Jesus may surprise us.

The Jewish people of the first century expected a political Messiah, one who would ride in on a white horse and send the Romans packing.  While there are occasionally allusions to such a hope in the Old Testament, there is much more that points to the Messiah who would suffer and die, and be raised from the dead.

Though Jesus does not walk alongside us physically as we journey through life, he does live in and through us by the Holy Spirit, who helps us understand the Scriptures as we read them.  The Holy Spirit wants to work in us; the trick is to position ourselves for that to happen, and it starts by reading the Scriptures.  For as we read the Bible under the promised illumination of the Holy Spirit, we will find, as those journeying disciples did, that our hearts will “burn within us”.  That’s a kind of heartburn no antacid will take away!  And that reading of Scripture will help us see what’s cultural and what’s biblical about who we are and how we live.

They said to each other, ‘Didn’t our hearrts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24.32, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Victory!

This Easter Day, we celebrate the victory that’s ours over sin and death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  What’s the impact?  What’s the relevance?  Based on 1 Corinthians 15.50-58, you can listen here:

 

 

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