The Protestant Reformation began on this day, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther proposed some ideas to reform the church from within. In today’s message, we look at Ephesians 2.1-10, a pivotal passage that helps us understand why the Reformation was needed to help redirect the church back to God’s Word. You can watch the message alone below, or the whole worship gathering just below that.
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: …patience…” (Galatians 5.22, NLT).
I often end the Encouragement with the Scripture, but I decided to start with it this time, because, as of the time of writing, it is at the fore of my mind in a big way.
Let me tell you a story.
On Wednesday, late in the afternoon, I received an email from one of our national airlines, with whom we had booked a January holiday, indicating that a change to our itinerary had been made, and that I should call the airline about it.
So, after supper, I settled in for what I expected would be a bit of a wait.
Boy, did I underestimate that “bit”!
I was on hold with the airline for four and a half hours.
Did I speak with someone? Nope. I hung up, because, according to the website, their customer service line closed at that time.
So I tried again on Thursday morning. Another four hour wait. Never spoke with a soul.
(Thankfully, I used my cell phone’s speaker mode, so I could accomplish important tasks while I waited, and waited, and waited!)
Yes, I signed up for a call-back, but the matter is a bit time sensitive, and the call-back is scheduled for nextWednesday.
I will keep trying, but even if I have to wait until next Wednesday’s call-back, I will do my best to be kind.
I will need to be kind, because I’m sure the problem is not the agent’s fault. (Given my experience, I suspect there is but one agent taking calls!)
That verse I cited earlier, along with saying that the fruit of the Spirit is patience, also says the fruit of the Spirit is “kindness”.
Not coincidentally, I think, they are cheek-by-jowl. We need to be patient and kind, because, well, these are characteristics of followers of Jesus who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Patience and kindness do well to be together, because even when we manage to muster up enough patience in a situation like this, it sometimes takes all the energy we have and leaves little room for kindness. But they are both important as part of our witness to the good news of Jesus.
Is this experience testing my patience and kindness? Oh yeah. But the power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life is greater than any issue with a vacation. It has to be.
And I need to be attentive to that power…even when I’m on hold for a cumulative eight-and-a-half hours…so far.
Where could you exercise more patience and kindness, two of the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Some view Thanksgiving weekend as the last gasp of summer, the time to escape to some place other than home and chill. Others see it as a time to gather family around a big dinner table (you might want to be careful about that one this year!). Still others see it as a time for, well, giving thanks. (And then there are those who view the weekend in all three ways!)
The apostle Paul told the church in Thessalonica, and the Lord tells us through him, to “be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5.18, NLT). So for the Christ follower, Thanksgiving isn’t the second Monday in October; it’s every day.
Still, on Thanksgiving weekend, our minds may be drawn to common Thanksgiving songs. A common Thanksgiving hymn, coming from the 19th century, is “Come, ye thankful people, come”. I enjoy singing it on Thanksgiving Sunday…or, honestly, any other Sunday. Why?
It’s not because it reminds me to give thanks, as important as that is.
It’s because the author, Henry Alford, related the idea of giving thanks for the harvest to nothing less than the second coming of Jesus.
The verses tell one story, but consider this verse in particular:
For the Lord our God shall come and shall take his harvest home;
from the field shall in that day all offences purge away,
give the angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast,
but the fruitful ears to store in God’s storehouse evermore.
What if we gave thanks to God this weekend with an understanding that Jesus is coming again…soon?
Ponder that while you gnaw on your turkey, and be thankful.
Real friendship, true friendship – this is not as common as it once was. The pandemic hasn’t helped that one bit. I know that I haven’t been as good a friend as I could have/should have been over the past couple of years. And that bothers me.
So an interest in friendship, along with my widely-known passion for bacon, means that a new book caught my attention right away. It’s called Smells Like Bacon: The Skit Guys’ Guide to Lifelong Friendships (Rocklin, CA: K-LOVE Books, 2021).
Yup. You read that right: The Skit Guys. Eddie James and Tommy Woodard. The zany men best known (at least to me) for their humorous sermon illustration videos. You know this had to be an interesting, if not funny, read.
And it was…even though, admittedly, bacon played merely an illustrative role. (That part was a little disappointing.)
In this book, James and Woodard chronicle the thirty-plus years of friendship they have kindled, and offer some suggestions on how we can be better friends.
Their friendship started in high school. Tommy was instrumental in seeing Eddie come to faith in Christ through a simple invitation to an evangelistic meeting. They have seen each other through the ups and downs of life. Even though they live in different states, and often work together, they still make time for each other and cultivate their relationship with intentionality.
Frankly, though the book is unapologetically and unsurprisingly Christian, even people of another faith or of no faith would find this book inspiring in their relationship building. Some might even be inspired to place their trust in Jesus!
Three things made my highlight reel of principles in this fairly quick read.
First, being open with your friend. One might think it goes without saying, but many friendships, depending on the ‘tier’, are very surface-oriented. And they note, “Openness becomes easier the more open you are with God” (p. 52), citing Psalm 139.23-24.
Second, vulnerability. In the chapter entitled, “Why Don’t You Hug Me?”, they note, “Remember this: If someone is taking the time to say a hard thing to you and has mustered up the courage to say it while bracing themselves for the impact it might have, don’t you think that person must find you valuable?” (p. 83).
Third, the value of interruptions. Using Jesus as an example, the authors note, “He was willing to be interrupted for the sake of connection, of relationship. Jesus didn’t mind people or the constant interruptions…. Jesus knows the secret – that every interruption has the power to be an encounter of eternal significance. But it all begins with a yes. In much the same way, keeping our agenda on a loose leash will allow relational interruptions into our lives. This approach allows us to prioritize people over agendas” (p. 171).
The book is written in a narrative style with the typical interjections one would expect from The Skit Guys. These interjections are in the form of dialogue that usually brings a snicker, and help keep the reader engaged.
This is not an academic book, nor was it intended to be one. It is for ordinary people who want to be better friends. And in these days of physical distancing and ‘screen friends’, anything that promotes real friendship, with deeper bonds, is altogether welcome.
It’s available in hard copy, audio book, or on Kindle. Pick it up and be encouraged.
Perhaps the most famous Canadian pastor’s wife was the late Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), though she was not known for her marriage to The Rev. Ewen Macdonald (1870-1943) quite so well as she was for her literature.
Montgomery led a very sullen personal life, though one would never know it by reading her Anne of Green Gables stories. (Some suggest she lived vicariously through her writing.)
Lest today’s Encouragement take a hard turn for the morose, let me say that it was a quotation from the original Anne of Green Gables story that came to mind as we mark the turning of the calendar today:
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
Thus said Anne Shirley, the namesake heroine of Montgomery’s most famous book.
One of the great blessings of living in Canada is that we experience four very different and distinct seasons. The shoulder seasons – spring and fall – are perhaps more stunning for their beauty than their solstitial siblings. The beauty of deciduous trees coming into leaf, and the splendor of their changing colour, are unparalleled.
If I had to choose, though, I would always choose fall. The crisp air, the russet maple leaves falling to the ground – though they are harbingers of the coming cold and snow, they are perhaps the most delightful harbingers God could have created. Anne Shirley was right: I, too, am so glad that I live in a world where there are Octobers. That quotation could almost be right from the Bible.
In reality, though, this sentiment appears in Scripture – though differently worded, to be sure.
One of the ways God reveals himself to the world is through creation. Theologians call it “general revelation” – the notion that seeing the beauty of the world ought to point us to the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Depending on where you live, you might experience autumn differently than I do, living in southern Ontario. And, of course, the colours of the falling leaves vary with temperature variations from year to year. But, unless you live in the desert or in the arctic, there is no denying that fall is a beautiful time of year.
Take some time in the coming days and weeks to pause and soak in the beauty of the world around you. And praise the Lord, who made it all to point to his glory.
Then, respond by giving him glory!
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship” (Psalm 19.1, NLT).