Biblical Messages

The Mission of the Reformation

Luther never set out to start a new church; he just wanted the old one put back on track with the Scriptures.  As time went on, the church of the Reformation coined several phrases that became hallmarks of the Reformation.  We get a bird’s-eye overview of them in this message today.  Click below to listen, or further down to watch the Facebook Live video feed.

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Back on Track

This Sunday, many churches around the world will mark an important event:  it was on October 31, 1517 – 500 years ago – that Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk from Germany, nailed papers containing 95 theses for the reformation of the church to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg.  Thus began what we know from history as the Protestant Reformation.

Luther never intended to start a “new” church.  He wanted to help the “old” church return to her roots.  The pre-Reformation church had become a little too full of itself, spending more time, effort and money on propping up the institution (with all its bells and whistles) than on its true mission, to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching” (Matthew 28.19b-20a, NRSV).

Luther’s mission was not to start from scratch, but to help the church he loved to be true to its biblical roots, particularly in five areas:

  • People are justified before God by faith alone;
  • People are saved from sin by grace alone;
  • Jesus Christ alone is Saviour and Lord;
  • The Bible alone is our authority for faith and life; and
  • God alone gets the glory.

It wasn’t that the pre-Reformation church had no concept of these things; it’s just that so much had been added on top of them that these basic principles had been obliterated.  Luther’s mission was to help put the church back on track with Scripture.

While what we call the Reformation took place in the 16th century, to be fair, the church has gone through a number of reformations since; in fact, the church – we! – do well to experience daily reformation, where we are put back on track with the Word of God.

How about you?  Is it your church’s mission to make disciples?  Is it yours?  Those are questions worth asking as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Encouragement From The Word

Examine it!

The responses to the passing this week of Canadian musician Gord Downey, and of Leonard Cohen earlier this year, remind us of just how influential music is in the lives of Canadians, and of western societies generally.  So attached are Canadians to their music legends that the official and unofficial condolences rival (or even exceed) those offered in memory of world leaders.  After all, how often does the flag get put at half-staff on Parliament Hill?

In light of this, I want to encourage you to examine the music you listen to.  Yes, examine it.  You might say that would take all the fun out of it, but anything worth having fun at is also worth thinking about.

You can ask yourself, How does this music make me feel inside?  Does it soothe your soul?  Does it make you angry?  Does it raise your pulse or lower it?  Does it motivate you?  Does it calm you?  How does the music you listen to make you feel?

For example, some people use loud music with a heavy beat to get them going in the morning; it stimulates them from head to toe.  (I think that’s why I never did well in fitness classes; loud music with a heavy beat just makes me want to walk away!)  Alternatively, some people use quiet music with a floating ambience to help them chill out.  The ease with which we can access recorded music of our own choosing today has made music a universal tool at our disposal pretty well anytime.

So, how does what you listen to make you feel?

You can also ask yourself, What do the lyrics I listen to really say?  This is a kicker for some, who may listen to the music for the beat but don’t realize until they examine the lyrics that what they listen to degrades women, or glorifies sex, just to state two common examples.

Or, you can ask yourself, What does the music I listen to say about me – intentionally or not?  As a follower of Jesus, you are being watched by your friends, family and acquaintances.  People notice if there are inconsistencies in your witness.  Does the music you listen to complement your faith or contradict it?

Some might say that, in response, we should listen only to Christian music.  While I certainly encourage you to listen to Christian music – and there is all sorts of it – I wouldn’t counsel you to limit yourself.  I do encourage you, though, to have a music “filter” that’s always engaged.  Music is a gift from God, something most musicians know innately.  So we can celebrate the gift of music of all sorts, asking the Lord for the wisdom to “filter out” what is blatantly unedifying.

I am reminded of the words of theologian A.W. Tozer:  “What goes into a mind comes out in a life.”  Remember that when you’re examining the music you listen to, and especially when you hear what your kids are listening to.

Take the advice of the apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Philippi:  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4.8b, 9b, NLT).

 

Biblical Messages

Parenthood: Now What?

We conclude the series on parenthood with a few thoughts on how to deal with the strays – the children (or adult children) in our lives who wander.  This message is based on Luke 15.11-32, and (updated!) you can listen to the audio recording, or watch the Facebook video feed below.

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Encouragement From The Word

As far as the east is from the west

Simply spend some time meditating on these words today.  Let them wash over you as you read them several times.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
  (Psalm 103.8-12, NLT)

How will you respond to the Lord in light of this?

Biblical Messages

Parenthood: Discipline

Parents aren’t always popular when they discipline their kids, but as we hear in this message, based on Hebrews 12.4-11 and several verses from Proverbs, discipline is an important part of parenting.  Have a listen below, or click the link below that to watch the message on Facebook (no account required).

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Encouragement From The Word

We can ‘be’ change

The mass shooting in Las Vegas last weekend is a terrible tragedy.  Many lives were lost, many more people were injured, and emotionally, a lot of people are going to need help to resume some semblance of normality – not just the injured and the families of those who died, but also the bystanders and the people who work at the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shooting took place.  Long after the news stops talking about it (news channels always find something new and shiny on which to focus), people will still be struggling.

Of course, in this era of social media where everyone seeks to share an opinion, lots of folks are talking about the need for greater gun control, tighter immigration policies, or tougher screening to weed out terrorists.  But there is something else that can be done.

Parents can raise their children.

That might sound like an incongruous non sequitur, but think about it:  if parents raise their children – not just give birth to them, not just feed them, not just provide for their wants and needs, but raise them – we will have a generation of people who become adults who don’t have a hankering to kill people.  That sounds simplistic, but I know too many moms and dads who have engaged in the hard work of raising their kids whose children turn out to be kind, loving adults to believe it can’t be done.

To be sure, there are countless outside influences that work against what conscientious parents are doing, but that only raises the level of the challenge.

It seems like an insurmountable job, and it is.  Parents can’t do it on their own.

Parents need God’s help, and they need God’s agents to help them: the church.

When parents acknowledge that the job is too difficult for them to do alone, and they submit themselves to the Lord who knew their children before they were formed in the womb (Psalm 139.16), they give their children to God, recognizing that even parenthood is a form of stewardship; children are ours to raise on God’s behalf.

Then, the community of faith can partner with the parents to help kids grow up to be good, law-abiding citizens, yes, but also to love and serve the Lord.  When we introduce God into the lives of children, the Holy Spirit becomes an invisible player in the game of child-rearing – that unpredictable, love-engendering, tongues-of-fire-giving Spirit supports the work of diligent parents and churches.  And the result is a generation of adults who in turn raise their children the same way.

Will this work perfectly?  Undoubtedly not; because of sin, there will always be challenges to God’s plan for families.  But while we pray for those affected, while we work to bring change where change is needed in society, let’s start with our own families.  We can bring change; we can be change.

If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (Jesus, John 15.16, NLT).