We had some technical glitches with the recording of this morning’s service, but the message is so important, I wanted to find a way to make it work anyway, so you can try watching it from here. I’d be interested to know from you if you found it worked. Make sure the sound is turned on. You *shouldn’t* need a Facebook account to watch this, but I’d be curious to know if you can. Apologies for the challenge. The Scripture focus is from James 4.1-17, and the video I show early in the message can be viewed here.
As we round out 2019, I thought I’d reprise an Encouragement from a few years ago at this time. Happy new year!
One of the great spiritual practices of the ancients that is being revived in these days among Christians is the notion of the examination of conscience and consciousness. Normally, this is a daily undertaking, whereby we consider the day that has passed, and ask the Lord to help us see both where we have sinned (that we may confess and be forgiven) and where we have seen God at work (that we may rejoice).
This can also be an annual practice, however. As we sit at the end of the year, let me encourage you to spend some time before God today or tomorrow, asking him to help you review your year, particularly to highlight areas where you have seen his hand at work in your life. Take some time to sit with that and praise the Lord for his faithfulness.
There’s no formula for it; we can see God’s beauty in a flower growing by the roadside in summer, or in a snowdrift in winter; we can see God’s hand at work in a ministry we undertake or in the lives of our children as they grow in Christ. God’s fingerprints are all over so much! The challenge for us is to take time to notice them, and to praise the Lord for his activity in our lives.
At the same time, take time to ask God’s blessing on the year to come. If it helps, use these words from hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal:
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.
May the Lord bless you with more grace as you look for where he has been active this year, and as you pray for him to be active in the year to come!
The kids will be finished school today.
Maybe, you’ll be finished work today.
Christmas is coming. Are you ready?
Well, I still have baking to do, and a turkey to buy, and presents to pick up for…
No, are you ready?
Despite what the culture teaches us, being ready for Christmas has less to do with making sure the tree is decorated and the table is set for dinner than with making sure your heart is prepared. That’s what the season of Advent has been all about.
This coming week, we will celebrate the birth of the Son of God in a hewn-out cave behind a Bethlehem motel. But it’s not just about an historical commemoration.
The nod to the newborn Jesus lying in a manger is vested with its deepest meaning when his birth in Bethlehem is replicated in our lives. As we plead in one of the old Christmas carols:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.
When Jesus is born in us, that’s when his birth in Bethlehem’s stall becomes most meaningful, and when we are truly ready.
Let Christmas be significant for you this year. You still have a few days to get ready! Invite Jesus to be born in you. It’ll be like being born again.
Wait a minute, I’ve heard that somewhere before…oh, right:
“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3, NLT).
Christmas has the most meaning when Jesus is alive in our hearts.
If you’re looking for a place to worship the newborn King this Christmas, I invite you to join me at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton. It would be awesome to see you.
Last week, I ordered a feather-style flag sign for our church, something that could be used to catch people’s attention and welcome them to our gatherings. I made the design myself, but paid for a bit of help to make it into the shape of the flag. That all worked well, and the flag and pole arrived yesterday – about a week sooner than promised. Everything was working out well.
I put the pole together (with big help from our office administrator, who managed to be able to get two pieces attached that I wasn’t able to do, no matter how I tried), and then unfolded the flag and fed it onto the pole. I stood it up in front of me, and took a look.
I wasn’t happy.
If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see a lot of pixellation – places where the letters look decidedly jagged. That’s not what my prototype looked like.
I called the company that made it, and their representative was very apologetic and agreed to remake the flag and send it as quickly as possible. From a business standpoint, they handled the matter well.
It would have been easy to overlook this, though; after all, if you stand back even 10 feet from the flag (or 5 for me, if I take off my glasses), the pixellation disappears. Everything looks smooth, perfect.
But up close, it’s obvious that not everything is smooth or perfect.
The old saying reminds us that sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. And it’s good to see the forest. But there are times when we need to pay attention to the trees.
The big picture matters, but so do the details. Most of us are hard-wired with preferences for one or the other, but it can be of great value to prefer both. I want our flag to look great for the people driving toward the church on the road, but I also want it to look great for the people walking past on the sidewalk.
When we are making decisions, discerning God’s will for our lives, we need to take a step back, and we also need to take a step forward. It’s wise to examine all aspects of what we may decide to do, because a decision can have a significant impact on ourselves, our families, our church communities, and even our world.
Details matter. A pixellated life, a pixellated church, a pixellated theology – these are not what God wants for us. Step forward, and step back, in whatever your discernment process may be.
“People may be pure in their own eyes,
but the Lord examines their motives” (Proverbs 16.2, NLT).
In western Christianity, today is the commonly-celebrated day for the feast of St. Nicholas – the guy who brought you Santa Claus.
Well, sort of. The Santa Claus we know today, visually at least, is said to be a creation of the Coca-Cola Company. But the notion of a benevolent figure who brings gifts certainly conjures notions of Nicholas of Myra, a bishop whose fourth-century dealings with poor women’s dowries is the stuff of legend.
Believe it or not, though, that’s not what Nicholas was most famous for.
He lived through the time of the early church’s Council of Nicaea, which in AD 325 formulated the doctrine of the Trinity: One God, Three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Nicholas is said to have played a role in articulating a truth Christians hold dear today: that God the Father and God the Son are of one substance. (This same application was made to the role of the Holy Spirit later on.)
That might seem like a bunch of tiny theologians dancing on the head of a pin, but it’s actually really important for the historic Christian faith. For if Jesus or the Holy Spirit were merely of a similar substance to the Father, Jesus could not be God, and could therefore not have been the final, perfect sacrifice for our sins.
In fact, without being of one substance with the Father, Jesus would just be another dude…a righteous dude, to be sure, but just another dude.
On St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6, some cultures celebrate their gift-giving in honour of St. Nick himself. There’s nothing wrong with that. But let me encourage you likewise to remember the gift of St. Nicholas as a theologian, who helped shape the church’s understanding of the mystery of the Triune God, upholding Jesus as of one substance with the Father.
Small though it may seem, it makes a big difference. For if Jesus were not God, there would be no reason for the season.
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it. – John 1.1-3, NLT