In this worship gathering, we hear a message on the importance of sharing our faith as followers of Jesus, recognizing that there are many anxieties that build up in us as we think about the process. This message helps us overcome those anxieties and gives us suggestions on how to share our walk with the Lord. The message is based on John 1.29-42. You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.
Month: August 2022
Worth the effort
This week, our congregation has hosted Bible Fun Camp, our annual outreach to community children. It’s been great to be back after a pandemic hiatus.
The amount of work involved, and the number of volunteers needed, to pull off a vacation Bible school is massive. Even with a solid and user-friendly curriculum, the effort required is still significant.
But when it’s all said and done, we may be weary, but we will always say it was worth the work. Why? Because we have had the privilege of influencing children’s lives for Jesus.
I put an ad on Facebook for Bible Fun Camp about a month ago. The first comment to come on our ad – which circulated to users in a radius of only about 20 kilometres around Nobleton – was from someone who was accusing us of brainwashing children.
While it saddened me to read, I replied to the comment, leaving both the comment and the reply visible for a short time before deleting both. In my reply, I simply said that yes, we would be ‘brainwashing’ children, in one sense. Parents, in leaving their children with us for five mornings, were giving us permission to influence their kids for the gospel of Christ. But in reality, parents have a choice: they can brainwash their kids with Jesus and his love, or they can leave it to popular culture to influence them instead.
I often say to parents at a baptism that when they take vows to raise their children to follow Jesus, they are making the choice to brainwash their children, instead of letting Beyoncé do it. (You can name your favourite popular culture figure instead; I wasn’t just picking on Beyoncé.) It sounds a bit rough, maybe even offensive, but the fact is that parents have a responsibility to shape their children’s values. If they fail to do so with intent, the world around them will pick up the slack, and the parents may not be happy with the result.
Churches are called to equip parents to ensure their children’s values are shaped according to the gospel. And sometimes, it starts with a five-morning adventure for the kids in the summer. That’s often how the relationships start.
It’s worth all the work!
“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).
The wildest thing in the world
Last week, my wife forwarded a tweet to me that really resonated. It was written by a writer and speaker named Kaitlyn Schiess. She wrote:
A few days ago someone who is not a Christian said to me,
“If Jesus Christ really was raised from the dead, that is the wildest thing in the world
and I don’t know how you’d ever be able to get over that.”
She’s right, and I cannot stop thinking about how clearly she saw it.
Do you ever wonder what your friends who do not follow Jesus think about the claims he made, or the claims we make on his behalf? In many cases, we simply view them as facts we have held dear for a long time, but in our holding dear, do you suppose we sometimes take these claims for granted?
The resurrection of Jesus – if it is true, as we believe it to be – is the most amazing thing ever! It’s more amazing than flying to the moon, more amazing than a seaside sunset, more amazing than tiger tail ice cream (okay, that last one is a personal bias). It is the most remarkable phenomenon that has ever occurred. Ever.
It’s so remarkable that it affected time itself: the world measures time based on the person of Jesus. (A.D., after all, stands for anno domini – the year of our Lord – and even though many people choose to use C.E. nowadays, standing for ‘common era’, it still hearkens back to the fact that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection affected how we tell time.)
We are invited to live as a people of the resurrection, this world-altering phenomenon that so many of us simply take for granted. It really is, as the writer’s friend said, “the wildest thing in the world.”
Yet many followers of Jesus seem to live as if they have gotten over it. That’s a mistake.
We should live as the beneficiaries of the resurrection: we are invited, not only to look forward to the eternal life that it bought us, but to live out the life and joy it brings us today.
When your friends look at you, do they see the joy of the victory of resurrection life in you?
Let’s live out the truth of what Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” (John 11.25-26a, NLT).
I have known a number of people who used the early period of the pandemic to take up a new hobby. My wife, for example, took up paper flower making, and what she has created is one of the best examples of art imitating life that I’ve ever seen! (You can see for yourself if you like.)
People made the best of a difficult situation by stretching themselves to try something new. It’s a healthy part of human existence: it’s growth.
Like plants – the real ones, not the ones my wife makes – we have two choices: we can grow, or we can die. There is no in-between. True, our skeletons stop growing when we are young, but our skin never stops (if you’re not sure about that, consider how dusty your house gets!). And our minds never stop growing either.
The same should be true of our faith-walk with God. When we make a public profession of faith in Jesus, that is not the end of the journey; it’s just the beginning.
Challenge yourself to grow in Christ, while there’s still some time this summer! Borrow a book from your church library. Watch a video series on RightNowMedia (hit me up if you need an invitation). Read your Bible daily. Talk to God in prayer. These are all ways you can grow your faith.
Doing this will increase your faith, increase your discernment skills, and strengthen your witness for the gospel. It’s worth the investment.
“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ” (Colossians 1.28, NLT).
I’ve been reading a book this week, while on retreat, about the importance of boundaries. (The book, not surprisingly, is called Boundaries! It’s a classic, written 30 years ago and updated more recently by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.)
All healthy people have boundaries in their lives, among them the ability to be able to say ‘no’ when needed. There are some folks who can’t do that, even for the best of reasons. Some people think that it would be unchristian of them to say ‘no’.
But there are times when it is wholly appropriate. I’ll let you read the book to learn more about that.
One key application, though, comes in this manner: we do well to say ‘no’ to something good, in order that we may say ‘yes’ to something better.
For instance, it is wise to deprive ourselves of some purchase in order that we may save to make a better purchase. That’s an unpopular approach these days, given the ease with which we may go into debt! But it’s wise stewardship.
Or we may not get involved in a relationship with a potential spouse when we know it would be ‘settling’; better that we wait for a better match.
Even church leaders have to make these kinds of decisions, don’t they? If a person or group in the congregation proposes to the leadership that they undertake a particular ministry, sometimes the leadership needs to say ‘no’, in order to allocate human and financial resources toward something that better fits the mission and vision of the church.
Boundaries matter. Even Jesus had boundaries, whether it was in being in the temple, about his Father’s business, at age 12 (while his parents went looking for him), or walking away from a crowd demanding miracles so that he could spend alone time with the Father.
This isn’t a book review, but I commend the book to your interest. You can find it here if you’d like to read it. (For St. Paul’s readers, let me know if you’d like to be involved in a study of this book…there are some copies available.)
“Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray” (Matthew 14.22b-23a, NLT).