In this worship gathering, we hear about a recent mission trip to Guatemala, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and begin the season of Advent with a message (inspired by Craig Groeschel) about how God is with us even through the valleys of life. Based on Psalm 84, you can watch the message below, or the entire worship gathering below that.
Customarily, I take a week off before the season of Advent begins, and I did so this year – but I spent it in a different way than I have before.
Like most couples, my wife and I have accumulated a lot of Stuff over the 30 years of our marriage, and while we have no plans to move, we found that the volume of Stuff around which we were living was getting a bit overwhelming.
So, inspired by having just cleared out my mother’s house – my childhood home – following her move to a retirement facility, I was ready to do a little decluttering and purging of my own.
The adventure began in the basement, where many things go to die from ignorance. We were able to donate many things that we had been saving for a yard sale we were going to have after the pandemic hit. Items we had been saving, thinking, “That’s going to be handy someday” were let go to enable them to be handy for someone else. We had our share of thoughts of, Why on earth did I save THAT? as they were boxed up for donation.
There was a reasonable volume of trash. And a mountain of recycling. I even had a full carload of Stuff to take to the hazardous waste depot!
In the end, the basement is much better organized, and several shelves upstairs are bereft of long-ignored books and trinkets. While there is more that could be done, I am deeply satisfied with what was accomplished.
Why am I telling you this? Well, the day before my decluttering week began, I met with my spiritual director, and together we explored the commonalities between decluttering the home and decluttering the heart.
When I live surrounded by clutter, my senses make it hard for me to focus on the Lord. So there were times when I was saying to myself, I need to deal with all this Stuff when I should have been in conversation with the Lord.
Decluttering isn’t a panacea by any stretch of the imagination, spiritual or otherwise. But it has helped me be at peace more than I was before the events of last week. In one sense, to borrow from the title of a popular book by the late Dallas Willard, not only did I declutter my home last week, I undertook a renovation of the heart.
What decluttering needs to happen in your life in order for your relationship with God to flourish? It might have to do with Stuff, or it might have to do with toxic relationships, or other challenges you face. Whatever it is, get to purging it.
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own” (Luke 12.15b, NLT).
In a conversation yesterday, a friend pointed me to the State of Theology report, prepared by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research. From time to time, it surveys Americans generally, and those who identify themselves as “evangelicals”. What is most notable is the trend that is seen as the years go by: the United States is becoming more secular.
As Canadians, we already know what that’s like.
In the US, though, it takes on a different meaning, because of the common conflation of conservative Christianity and conservative politics. (For example, while it is not universally true, many Americans who vote Republican would also classify themselves as evangelicals, even if their core beliefs do not reflect the theological tenets of evangelicalism.)
If you review the survey results cited in the link above, you will find that the surveyors ask questions about both theology and ethics. It is interesting that as our understanding of the authority of the Bible changes, so too do our ethics.
Of greatest concern to followers of Jesus should not be the changing views on abortion or human sexuality or any number of other ‘hot button’ issues of our time, as important as these are. What should be most concerning is the drift that is noticeable on what constitutes authoritative truth.
If we no longer believe the Bible to be God’s authoritative Word, then our views on social issues will not be as likely to reflect the position of the Lord as outlined in Scripture.
This is true, no matter what country or culture we live in.
As people of the Lord, we need to be committed to the basics of our faith. In one sense, we could say that if we take care of the basics, the basics will take care of us.
So when you read your Bible, take it seriously, and let God’s Word affect all aspects of your life.
“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55.10-11, NLT).
It’s a different world today.
I probably don’t need to tell you that in this post-pandemic-but-still-kind-of-COVIDy time. (Yes, I just made up that word.) But the 2021 census data on religious diversity is out, and that just confirms that we live in a different world than even 10 years ago.
A helpful chart based on these census figures has been prepared by Waybase. It notes that while 53% of Canadians still identify as Christian, that figure is down 14% since 2011. And, other than Quebec, the steepest decline in Christian identification among Canadian cities appears to be taking place in what was once a bastion of traditional values, the Maritimes.
It would be easy to read statistics like this and throw up our arms in defeat (or maybe just throw up!). But that’s not an option for followers of Jesus, because we believe that Jesus is not finished with Canada, nor with any other part of the world.
Here’s the deal: there may be churches closing in Canada at an unprecedented rate (which is true); there may be fewer and fewer Canadians identifying as Christian (which is also true). But the Lord will preserve his church!
If you’ve read the book of Revelation (and you should), you’ll see that what was going on in the first century among the seven churches of the province of Asia to which Revelation was first written looks eerily similar to what’s going on today in our neck of the woods. And if you read to the end of the book, guess who wins?
The Roman empire was a great threat to the early Christians, but it was no threat to God’s agenda for his church. And while the Roman empire faded into history almost 1600 years ago, the church has continued, and even flourished, in the many centuries since. What evidence is there to lead any of us to believe that’s going to change?
That doesn’t mean we should sit back and let history take its course. No: God has a plan for his church, and it includes all faithful followers of Jesus! The Lord has entrusted us with the important task of building a strong, biblically faithful, Christ-centred church for a new time – for a different world…the one in which we live.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit, and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to serve.
“[T]he Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3.3, NLT).