Encouragement From The Word

We will not fear

The suicide bomb attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, has stunned many people.  When we think of “suicide bomber”, we don’t generally think of a civilized country.  When such an attack comes in a developed, western nation, it might be understandable to think that nowhere is safe anymore.

Investigators will get to the bottom of this.  I have my ideas about the root of this attack, which may be unpopular, but my purpose here is not to deal with the why.  I want us to think for a moment about what we do about it.

Many people live in fear.  For some, it’s irrational; they watch a newscast, and think there’s a terrorist hiding around every street corner.  For most, though, it’s a slow-burning fear, a fear that the world in which we live is very different from the world in which some of us who are older grew up.

That is true, of course, and has always been true.  Each generation comes with changes to society – we just know more about them in this wired world we live in.  This time, though, it just seems overwhelming to some.

What’s a Christian to do?

Someone with too much time on her or his hands apparently counted the number of times in the Bible the phrase “fear not” appears, and that number is 365:  one for each day of the year.  I think God wants us to get the message.

Psalm 46.1-2 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea” (NLT).

So we’re not to fear.  As followers of Jesus, we understand that God is sovereign, that he is in charge.  It won’t always look like it, and we can’t comprehend the mind of God.  But he’s got all matters in hand.

That’s easier said than done, of course.  It involves deep faith.  It also involves an understanding that as Christians, we are not of this world.  Our home is with the Lord; all this around us is temporal.  While we should want to enjoy as much of this life as we can, we should not be afraid of what lies ahead if we name Jesus Lord and Saviour.

You may wish for your children or grandchildren that they didn’t have to face such evils as what we heard about on Monday evening in England.  But that is all the more reason for you to impart your trust in the Lord Jesus to them.  Some call it ‘shoving religion down their throats’.  We call it fulfilling our baptismal vows.  When we present our children for baptism, we are promising before God that our kids are going to be so immersed in the love of Jesus that their own profession of faith will be as natural as breathing.  When that happens, they will not fear, either, just as we do not fear.

There’s probably a sermon in here somewhere, but these are a few thoughts about dealing with fear in light of the world in which we live.  Trust Jesus, and you have no need to fear.

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Biblical Messages

A Life Turned Around

Saul the Pharisee was a nasty guy, as far as the early Christians were concerned.  But he had an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, and his life was turned around.  How does this apply to us?  Listen to this message based on Acts 9.1-31, or catch the public Facebook feed below.

 

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Caught and taught

Recently, I received a bunch of papers from one of my favourite subscribers to Encouragement From The Word:  my mother.  Slowly but surely, she is starting to get rid of unnecessary things.  She has a difficult time throwing them away, so she gives to me things that she thinks might be of interest, because she knows that when I’m done with them, I can throw them away.

This bunch of papers came from my grandmother; they were notes in her handwriting.FullSizeRender 2

There were some that cited Bible verses, some were prayers, some were notions.

One of them was some advice from my grandmother on how to pray, particularly for me.  (Apparently, at that time, I wasn’t the easiest person in the world to deal with.)

I will throw out those papers, but having read them, the memory, which takes up no room in a box, will stay with me.  My grandmother’s legacy of faith remains in some of these little notes, simple means by which she could impart the wisdom of years of faith and faithfulness to my mother, and to me.

If you are a seasoned follower of Jesus, how are you leaving your legacy of faith?  And if you are a newer believer, are you inviting wiser Christians to build into your life?  Many don’t want to inflict themselves on you, but they are just waiting to be asked.

After all, faith is as much caught as it is taught.  Whose faith are you catching?

I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice.  And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Timothy 1.5, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Sharing is caring

The story of Ananias and Sapphira often shakes us to our core because of its bluntness.  Two people conspired to lie to the apostles (thus to the Holy Spirit), and fell down dead as a result.  Sometimes we forget the earlier example, a better one, of Barnabas, who sold a field and gave the entire proceeds to the church.  What can these examples teach us as followers of Jesus today?  Based on Acts 4.32-5.11, you can listen to the message here, or watch the Facebook video (with or without an account) at the link below that.

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Grieving and fasting

Most of us don’t think of ourselves as having enemies.  After all, just the word enemy sounds violent coming out of our mouths.  But if we stop to think about it, most of us struggle with one or another person in our lives, at least from time to time.

We live in an era where grudges are powerful and forgiveness is scant.  It takes being The Bigger Person to be able to forgive someone who has wronged us.  But honestly, those who hold grudges carry the heavier burden.  As someone has said, carrying a grudge is like letting someone live in your head rent-free.  You’re the one who suffers when you hold a grudge, not the other person.

The Psalms say a lot about enemies, because in Old Testament culture, enemies were a reality of the political climate.  Most disputes were over land, which is a sacred thing in middle eastern culture.  King David, as the ‘head politician’ over the land God had given to his people, had to pay attention to his territory, and therefore, to his enemies.

A friend of mine pointed out to me this week that in Psalm 35, King David says something pretty radical about his enemies.  In Psalm 35.13 (NLT), he says, “…when they were ill, I grieved for them.  I denied myself by fasting for them….”

Let that sink in for a minute.

David grieved for his enemies when they were sick.  He fasted for them.

Usually, when we deny ourselves something, we hope to be the beneficiaries of it.  David, the man after God’s own heart, denied himself for the benefit of others.  And not just others, his enemies – the people whose heart’s desires were for the ruin of God’s people and the desolation of their land.

We might not have what we’d call enemies.  But we might have people we don’t like very much.  Can we grieve for them when they are sick?  Can we fast for their benefit?

It seems radical, and it is.  It seems counter-cultural, and it definitely is.  But imagine how the world would change if all of us did it.

Biblical Messages

Tangled Vines

Today, we received three young people into membership as they made their first public profession of faith.  I aimed this message not solely at them, but I did see it as an opportunity to remind everyone of what we’re getting into when we sign on with Jesus.  Based on John 15.1-17, you can listen to the message here, or click the link below it to watch the video on Facebook (member or not).

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Encouragement From The Word

Force or Person?

Yesterday was the fourth day of the fifth month, and many people nowadays refer to “May the fourth” as “Star Wars Day”, as in, “May the fourth be with you” – blatantly borrowed from the great tag line from the movie franchise Star Wars, “May the force belandscape-1449498579-darth-vader-star-wars with you.”

It’s a fun way to mark the day, and every year, it reminds me of something very important about God:  God is not a force.

Many people talk about various forces in the universe, or even about certain forces that may hold divine power.  But let’s not be mistaken:  the God of the Bible – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – is not a force.  God is one, yet three persons.

That gets confusing for some folks, because when we think of a person we think of someone with flesh and bones who walks the earth like we do.  In that sense, we can wrap our heads around the idea that Jesus is, or was, a person, but God the Father?  Not so much.

To make it more confusing, because the Holy Spirit is invisible, many people – even well-meaning followers of Christ – will refer to the Holy Spirit as a force.  But the Holy Spirit is not a force.  The Holy Spirit is a person.

The dictionary generally defines a person in human terms, but the best dictionaries will acknowledge that in Christian theology, a person is defined as one of the three members of the Godhead, i.e., the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Each is a person.  Not a force, a person.

While this can get into deep philosophy and theology, for the purposes of a brief devotional, let’s understand this:  the fact that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are persons means that God is personal, and we can be in personal relationship with God.

Lots of folks think of God as very far off, unreachable, even unknowable.  But the fact that God is not a force, but is personal, means that God is near, reachable, and knowable.  God showed his great love for us in sending Jesus as the incarnation – God with skin on, literally.  As an old song says, “He’s as close as the mention of his name.”

Forces are impersonal.  God is personal.  Let’s get personal with the God who made us, who loves us with an everlasting love, and who longs to live his life in and through us.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him” (1 John 4.9, NLT).