Encouragement From The Word

Drop everything…

In branches of the church that mark saints’ days, today is known as St. Andrew’s Day. 2000px-Flag_of_Scotland.svg(Even some Presbyterians, not necessarily known for their veneration of saints, will celebrate November 30 because Andrew is the patron saint of, among other things, Scotland.  Because of this, there are hundreds of Presbyterian churches in Canada called “St. Andrew’s.”)

While I’m not one for giving any one Christ-follower a higher ranking than another (the Bible says that all followers of Jesus are saints, by grace), I’ve long believed that recognizing saints’ days gives us the opportunity to learn about great men and women of faith and how they served God devotedly, often in very hard times.  So let’s take a look at Andrew.

Andrew was not, contrary to some assumptions, born in Scotland!  He was a Galilean Jew, the very first disciple Jesus called (along with his brother, Simon Peter).  He was a common fisherman, likely coming from Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  (By the way, you can visit that, and many other sites in the Holy Land, this coming February with my wife and me – click hereto learn more about our Israel pilgrimage.  We’d love to have you come!)

When Jesus called Andrew and Peter to follow him, he said, “I will show you how to fish for people” (Matthew 4.19b, NLT).  And how did they respond?  Matthew records that “they left their nets at once and followed him” (Matthew 4.20, NLT).

Andrew was called by Jesus, and he immediately walked away from his livelihood to follow.

That doesn’t mean, when Jesus calls out to you, that he’s necessarily calling you into vocational ministry (though that may be true for some).  But Andrew’s model for us is to attune our hearts to listen for the voice of Jesus, and to follow what he says.  In our time, of course, this primarily happens through our reading of Scripture, wherein God speaks to his people.  It can also happen through prayer, which, after all, is not just talking to God, but listening to God as well.

So on this St. Andrew’s Day, let me encourage you to emulate that first disciple, and respond to the call of Jesus, whatever you’re doing.

Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land…” (Deuteronomy 5.33, NLT).

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Biblical Messages

Caught!

When the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, they were expecting a judgment.  What they got was quite different!  But there’s a twist to the way many people read this beloved story.  Watch or listen below to “Caught!”, based on John 8.1-11.

The LifeConnect Group discussion questions can be found here: 2018 11 18 lcg questions

Encouragement From The Word

Two-way mentoring

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of spending part of my day with a young man from our congregation.  It was “take your kid to work day”, and since this particular young man understood his parents’ work, he asked them if he could spend some time with me.

Of course, I readily agreed!

Since no two days of my ministry are alike, I wasn’t sure exactly what we would do, but I invited him to help me with a number of regular activities in the study, and we made a ‘road trip’ to the Canadian Bible Society to pick up a Bible my wife and I want to give to an acquaintance.  So I showed him the vast range of English and non-English Bibles available for purchase and distribution.  We had lunch, and on the way home we stopped at Tyndale University College & Seminary to see the chapel and the bookstore, where my wife works.

Amid all the activities we undertook from the time I picked him up until I took him home, we chatted about a vast array of matters, including how faith impacts his life as a Grade 9 student.  He may have learned a little from me, but I learned a lot from him.

While I may have spent the day mentoring my young friend, he also spoke into my life as a Christian leader.

It leads me to ask you:  are you engaged in relationships with people younger than you including (but by no means limited to) your own children?

There is mutual learning that can come from that. The young person understands that you care, in a tangible way, because you are giving him or her the gift of time and wisdom.  And you learn from the young person because you get to view life and faith from a very different perspective.

You might think to yourself that you were young once, and that’s certainly true; but the cultural context in which you and I were young is vastly different from the culture in which today’s youth live.  And if you’re like me, you don’t often immerse yourself in youth culture today. We need to learn from our young people what life is like for them if we’re going to help equip them, and their parents, for effective Christian living in the current cultural context.

So spend some time praying about whom you might come alongside.  Offer that young person your faith and wisdom.  And listen to that young person’s story to learn what contemporary culture is really like.

It doesn’t mean that you or the younger person have to change your views on matters of theology, but the dialogue will enrich you both.

The dialogue I shared with my young friend certainly enriched me.  Give it a try!

We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12.5, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word will return on November 30.

Biblical Messages

Led Astray?

In John 7.37-53, Jesus makes an astonishing statement about himself that is easy to miss without doing some background work.  It’s a good reminder to us to ensure that we realize we have the living Lord Jesus right in our midst – so going through the motions isn’t what it’s about.  Jesus makes our religion reality.  Have a listen, or watch below.

Encouragement From The Word

No Greater Love

This Sunday marks the 100thanniversary since the declaration of the armistice, ending poppythe First World War.  It was deemed “the war to end all wars”, yet it certainly did not turn out to be so.  Along with one other significant global conflict, there have been regional, local, and various civil wars that have taken place around the world since that celebratory day in Compiègne, France, on November 11, 1918.

Remembrance Day, as we call it in Canada, is one of those days in the year where church and state comingle in an interesting yet often awkward way.  As Canada has grown more pluralistic, the presence of Christian clergy has been augmented by the presence of other religious leaders, and has often been diminished by restrictions placed on how pastors can speak at some Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The Scripture most often cited around Remembrance Day comes from Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15.13:  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NLT).  Unfortunately, when it’s not given context, one can conclude that this was a passage about the valiance of war.  And while it is true that the valiant sacrifices made by those who laid down their lives in the cause of world peace and democracy are significant and not to be forgotten, this was not the context in which Jesus said those words.

Jesus was not talking about brave soldiers.  He was talking about himself.

John 15.13 isn’t about a war between nations; it’s about a war between humanity and God.

Sin separates us from God, and puts us at war with our Creator.  But Jesus came to pay the price for our sin, and make us right with God once again.  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul said, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (Ephesians 2.14-15a, NIV).

There will always be wars on earth, until Jesus comes again, or until the whole world knows his peace.  So let’s all commit to sharing Jesus’ peace with others, humbly and winsomely, so that war will be a thing of the past – between people and people, yes, and between people and God.

Let Remembrance Day be a reminder of our need for peace of all sorts, especially “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4.7a, NLT).