Encouragement From The Word

I heard the watch ticking

Donald Grey Barnhouse once told the story of a man who operated an ice house and lost his watch in the sawdust.  (You know it’s an old story when it’s talking about keeping ice cool with sawdust!)  He wanted his watch back badly, and offered a reward to anyone who could find it.  Many people went through the sawdust, by hand and with rakes, but to no avail.

A young boy went into the ice house after all the searching was done, and he came back out with the watch.

How did he find it?

“I just lay down in the sawdust and listened, and finally I heard the watch ticking.”

You may not have lost your watch, but in the busyness of life, you may be missing something else:  your body and soul may be out of sync.  Your relationship with God may be off the rails.  Your spiritual disciplines may be not all you wish they were.

With kids out of school and summer finally here, perhaps this is your opportunity to lay down in the sawdust and hear the watch ticking.  Maybe now is the time to let your body and soul catch up with each other, to re-rail your relationship with God, to beef up your spiritual disciplines.  You have the chance to gain some rest…in the Lord.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11.28, NLT).

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Biblical Messages

Word of Mouth

If we don’t tell people about Jesus, how will they know?  That’s the thrust of this message, in which we look at why we don’t share our faith, and why we should.  You can watch or listen below to this message, based on John 4.39-42.  (The video shown near the beginning of the message can be viewed separately here.)

 

Encouragement From The Word

If you don’t tell them, how will they know?

If you walked by someone’s home and saw flames shooting up through the roof, what would be the first thing you’d do? You’d call 911, and pound on the door until you made sure that people inside knew about the fire and could get out safely.

If you’re a follower of Jesus and you meet someone who is not, what’s your normal reaction? Most people’s response would be to be polite and say nothing.

Theologian Michael Green said, many years ago, that too often, Christians are like people going through customs at the airport: nothing to declare.

You and I have something to declare – something of eternal importance.

If you’re a follower of Jesus who believes the Bible is true, then every person you know who is not a follower of Jesus is the equivalent of a house on fire. We have a responsibility to find creative ways to encourage them to follow Jesus, because eternity rests in the balance. We’ve got the best news in the world to share.

If you don’t tell them, how will they know?

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son” (John 3.16-18, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Who wants a 50s kitchen?

I’m attending the Canadian Church Leaders Conference in Barrie today (and last night, and tomorrow).  It’s the second year in a row that Connexus Church has offered this conference, aimed at leaders in Canadian congregations (since so many church leader conferences are held in the US and aimed at the American culture, which is different from ours).  Even after hearing just two short talks, I’m encouraged to keep going in the work of change.

Change is a hard word for most people, but perhaps especially for those who have been invested in the life of a local church for a long time.  We all remember what the church used to belike.  Some will remember when there were 500 kids in the Sunday school – a number that seems to go up every time the person recounts the story of what life in the church was like 60 or more years ago.

Trouble is, the world looks a lot different today than it did in the 1950s.  In those days, the post-war baby boom and the optimism that came with a rejuvenated economy meant churches were full most Sundays, without much effort on the part of the leaders.  Today, we have generations of people for whom the church has never been a factor in their lives.

One of the key learnings, so far, has been this: if the church is to be strong, we have to be set free from the idea that we just need to survive, so we can dream again. And that means change.  And while change will be uncomfortable, we need to continue to focus on the people who are not among us yet.

That means ‘doing church’ in such a manner that it attracts those who are not yet part of the church and being more concerned for those who are far from God than those who are unwilling to change.  It’s a tough sacrifice, and it can even seem a bit cold.  But if we focus on who we already have, making sure we keep them happy, we are unlikely to see measurable growth in our churches.

I remember in one church I served, someone got up at a congregational meeting and complained about the changes that were happening.  After the meeting, a dear old soul came up to me and said, “I wonder if his kitchen looks like it did in 1950.”

Of course, few of us have kitchens that look like they did in 1950, even if the house is older than that.  Kitchens are among the first rooms in a house to be renovated, because we want to have the most up-to-date cooking and eating spaces money can buy!  We want granite countertops instead of laminate; we want dishwashers, water-serving and ice-making refrigerators, and efficient ranges – all in stainless steel, bien sûr!

Few kitchens today lack a microwave oven, but in 1950, there was no such appliance.

Yet too often, our churches look not much different than they did in 1950.  In some cases, the order of service might not have changed since then!  But if we’re going to reach a new generation, that change has to be made.

I am fortunate to serve a congregation that has adapted to change very well.  There’s more that needs to be done, for sure, but none of it is simply for the sake of change: we change howwe present the timeless gospel of Jesus, because that’s what’s going to reach a new generation.

Marshall McLuhan famously said that the medium is the message, and he had a point: the way we present truth attracts people, perhaps more than the truth itself. And that’s okay!  While we don’t change the message, we do change the medium, because the method of presenting the timeless truths of Scripture inherently makes the timeless truths of Scripture more appealing, thus increasing the potential audience.

Is that always what we old-timers prefer?  Probably not.  But we already know and love and serve Jesus.  What we want is to engage our neighbours so that they will know and love and serve Jesus.  So we set aside what we prefer in favour of what they prefer.  And the Lord does the rest.

When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9.22, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Give all your worries to God

A friend of mine is moving a long distance.  She had quite a lot of stuff she chose not to take with her in the move. Wondering how best to find a home for it, she had been talking about it with some others, but in the end, with little hope of finding a way to get rid of it, she gave the situation to God.

That same day, she had a knock at her office door; two young women were standing there.  “We overheard you telling some people that you were trying to get rid of some things before you move, “ one of them said.

“Yes I am,” my friend replied.

“We decided to take an apartment together, along with another friend,” the woman continued, “and we need furniture.  We could take your stuff for you.”

My friend could hardly believe her ears.  But the story gets better.

“Yes, we’re moving to an apartment on X Avenue,” said the other woman, naming the street they were moving to.

“That’s interesting,” said my friend.  “That’s where I live now.”  There are several apartment buildings clustered together on that street, though, so it could have been one of many apartments in any of those buildings the women were moving to.

As the conversation continued, my friend realized that they were moving into the same building as she is currently living.  Imagine the amazement on all of their faces when they discovered that the women had rented the very same apartment my friend was vacating!

My friend committed the situation to the Lord, and not only was he faithful in answering my friend’s prayer generally, he was faithful in answering it very, very specifically.

The movers-in will not need to find a moving truck, or a group of friends, to get my friend’s furniture; it can stay exactly where it is.  And my friend is now deeply relieved that the belongings she elected not to move will be going to a good home…in the very same square footage that my friend had enjoyed as her home for several year.

Does God work this way all the time?  No. But the Lord can surprise us with graces like this when we fully commit our worrisome situations to his care.

What do you need to let go of in order to see God take care of your needs?

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5.7, NLT).