Biblical Messages

Surrender as an Act of Bravery

In this “Bring A Friend” Sunday worship gathering, we hear a message about the importance of surrendering to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and how, in this culture, it is a very brave act to surrender! Based on Matthew 16.21-26, you can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.

Encouragement From The Word

Be a spiritual prepper

With so many other shiny things in the news lately, we haven’t heard much about hurricane season.  But Fiona, the most recently-named storm, has pummeled Puerto Rico and has its sights set on Atlantic Canada, and though it will likely not be rated as a hurricane, it has the potential to do some serious damage.

Residents are being encouraged to ensure they have sufficient supplies for a hold-and-secure period of not less than 72 hours, and that their sump pumps are working.  This is the time when the “prepper” community – those whose hobby (or obsession) is emergency preparedness – has its opportunity to shine!

Often, it is experience that teaches us to be prepared for trouble, whether it is something large and uncontrollable like a weather phenomenon (remember the big ice storm of ’98?) or something localized and preventable (like a car accident that knocks out a transformer).  Until we are prepared, we end up scrambling.  And in reality, it may not be possible to be prepared for every eventuality, unless your commitment to emergency preparedness truly is an obsession that gobbles up your entire life.

Whether it’s having a good supply of potable water or a generator or a pantry full of canned goods or dehydrated food – to say nothing of fully-charged electronic devices and backup battery packs – it’s difficult to be ready for everything, but there’s one thing that many of even the most prepared people neglect, and that’s eternity.

You can be ready for a power outage so that your freezer’s contents aren’t destroyed, but that doesn’t make you ready for the second coming of Jesus; you’re not going to need your freezer when he returns.

The challenge for eternal preparedness is that it’s not a matter of buying More Stuff.  It’s about readying your heart and your soul, and quite frankly, that’s harder work, because God’s holy standard is perfection, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t measure up to that standard.

However, there is good news:  the bulk of that harder work has been done for you by Jesus.  The Bible tells us that “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.21, NLT).  When Jesus died on the cross, he became our sin.  He was perfect, and he bore the weight of our sin – even yours and mine – so that we could be brought back into a right relationship with God.

And the benefit of this comes to us simply by faith.  When we can truly say in our hearts that Jesus is Lord – that he is Master of our lives – the benefits of Jesus’ work on the cross become ours, and our hearts and souls are made ready, fully prepared for eternity.

So, whatever befalls you, ensure your emergency preparedness kit includes faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  Then, and only then, will you really be ready.

Encouragement From The Word

You Want A King

Many around the world are mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is an emotionally difficult time, particularly for residents of the UK, because at the same time they are mourning the death of one monarch, they are rejoicing at the accession of another.  Imagine the strain on the emotions of King Charles III right now!

A television interview I watched yesterday highlighted the role that Camilla will play as Queen Consort; her biographer noted that many Britons are dropping the “Consort” part and simply calling her Queen Camilla.

Whether or not you are a monarchist, whether or not you live in a Commonwealth nation, we all face the same reality, a reality that is as old as time itself:  we want a ruler, a leader we can look up to.

For some, it is a monarch; for others, it is a president or a prime minister; for still others, it might be a leader of a different sort.  And in one sense this is as good thing:  good leaders help to provide structure and order to society.

At the same time, though, we are quick to put a leader in a place that belongs to God alone.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites bellyached until the Lord gave them a king.  They wanted to be like the other nations; they had forgotten that their place as a chosen people meant they had the Lord as their king!  But they wanted an earthly king, so they could fit in with all the cool countries.

God granted their request, and for the most part, things went downhill from there.

Looking up to someone in leadership is well and good, but make sure that the One to whom you most look up is the Lord himself, our one true King.

Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance.“Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods’ (1 Samuel 8.5b-8a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Grunt Work

Our nation is in mourning after a number of people on the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan were stabbed to death this past weekend.  The whole matter came to a tragic end with the arrest, and subsequent death, of the alleged perpetrator, Myles Sanderson.

It’s a heartbreaking story with many, many facets.  Mr. Sanderson was a young man in his 30s with a long rap sheet.  What could have made him a career criminal?  Again, there are many facets even to this aspect of the story, and I want us to consider just one of them.

I know nothing of his childhood and nothing of his family, so I won’t speculate.  But something we can learn from this tragedy is the value of raising children with intentionality and care.

Parenting is hard; it’s the hardest job known to the human race.  It has not been my privilege to parent.  I have served parents, though, throughout my many years of ministry, and those who have done well have parented intentionally and carefully.

It’s one of those tasks that never seems to end, at least when one is in the thick of it.  It’s especially challenging for Christian parents, because they are constantly fighting against a world (with much media in its arsenal) that seeks to suck children into its vortex.  Christian parents are always having to hold their kids by the ankles to keep them from being taken in by the world and its ways.

Some might say the answer is to shelter them completely, but I suspect that does them few favours as they grow up and see what’s going on around them.

Parents must talk to their kids, and equip them for the world they will face.  They need to help their kids develop profound discernment skills so they can make decisions well – not just how to cook and clean and buy a car, but how to have a strong sexual ethic, a deep value for life, a profound respect for all people – and countless other skills.  

And it’s the church’s job to help parents with this.

Traditional models for Christian education largely assumed that parents had all the tools they needed to raise their kids not only to be good citizens, but to know and follow Jesus.  Those traditional models – still employed in some churches today – worked in the Christendom age, when most western nations were still considered Christian countries, but they don’t work today.

That’s why it’s important for churches to stand by parents, and to equip them, so that children are ready to face the world.  Most of the work parents need to do cannot be farmed out to others, the way we employ someone to teach our kids how to play the piano.  Parents must do this work themselves.  And some feel ill-equipped to do it.

The church exists to make disciples of Jesus; that’s our mission.  And it’s not just about getting more professions of faith, as important as that is; it’s also about equipping God’s people for life’s most basic and most profound tasks.

Perhaps your church, like ours, invests in family ministry for that purpose.  If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?  It’s an investment that pays off not only in the Kingdom of God as we envision it in the future; it’s an investment that affects the world we live in for today and tomorrow.

It’s grunt work.  It can be painful.  It can be heart-wrenching.  But when it is done well, I also understand it is very satisfying, not only for parents, but for everybody else.

Direct your children onto the right path,
    and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

He will carry you through

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer; though the meteorologists tend to think of it this way, astronomical summer doesn’t end, of course, until much later this month!  There are traditional celebrations of labour, but mostly, it’s either a scramble to get ready for back-to-school, or it’s that one final excuse to take it easy before the fall season ramps up.

Back-to-school has a lot more gravitas to it this year, doesn’t it?  There’s controversy over potential job action, over vaccinations, over masking policies, over safety…it’s a lot to take in, and a lot to manage for those who are most affected.

In the midst of the craziness, the weight, even the fear, let me encourage you to renew your trust in the Lord.  Just as yesterday was no surprise to him, neither is today, or tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day.  We serve the Lord of all time and space.  He wants to guide you through whatever this next week (or weeks) will bring.

Let me offer you a guided prayer; you can use this as a jump-start to your own prayer for the day, the weekend, and the weeks to come:

Lord, you know my situation (you can describe it to God here).  Thank you for having been with me through all I’ve dealt with, good or bad, in the past.  You have been trustworthy; help me to renew my trust in you today, knowing with confidence that whatever I face, you will be with me.  Pour out your Holy Spirit upon me, that I will be able to discern well what is your will for my life.  Help me to accept Jesus’ invitation, to come to him with my weariness and my burdens, so that he can give me rest.  Enable me to unload my own burden and to take his yoke upon me, which is easy…or, at least, easier, because of your grace at work in my life.  I ask this in Jesus’ name…

Consider the chorus of an old hymn by Horatio Palmer.  It calls God’s people to avoid temptation, but I think the words of the chorus apply even to those who are dealing with craziness, weight, and fear of what the new season will bring:

Ask the Saviour to help you,

Comfort, strengthen, and keep you;

He is willing to aid you,

He will carry you through.

Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light’” (Matthew 11.28-30, NLT).