Encouragement From The Word

Hate

This Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’m going to talk about hate.  It’s a pertinent subject, since there’s a lot of it going around these days – but not all of it gets publicized in the same way.

Jesus tells his disciples the blatant truth in John 15.18-19 (NLT):  “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

That seems like pretty bad news.  How do we survive, let alone thrive, in a society where we are surrounded by hate? (You’ll have to stay tuned for the answer to that.  You can join us at 10:00 a.m. for worship on Sunday, or tune in to our live-stream on Facebook, or later on YouTube or on the church website.)  Hatred toward followers of Jesus is not widely talked about, perhaps because the church has been a dominant force in society for so long…but it isn’t anymore.

But the good news is that there is help.  We aren’t consigned to live the Christian life alone.  We have the Holy Spirit, and each other.  Each is important!

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, given to us by the Father and the Son to live in and through us when we come to him in faith.  Living the Christian life without the Holy Spirit is like trying to breathe without oxygen: it can’t be done.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Advocate in the midst of the hate the world offers.

There are a lot of “one another” phrases in the New Testament, and these underscore how important Christian community is.  We need each other if we are going to make a difference in a world of adversity. We need each other in both a macro and a micro sense, sharing corporate worship as well as a deeper intimacy with the Lord and each other through small groups.

The world will hate us for following Jesus, because it hates Jesus.  But the good news is that the church of Jesus has been historically proven to thrive under persecution.  Think of the Christians in China, forced underground to continue their devotion to the Lord.  Imagine how much community means to them!  Imagine how much they rely on the Holy Spirit!

We don’t know much about persecution here in the west…yet.  But we can be ready for it by relying on the Holy Spirit and each other.

See you on Sunday.

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Biblical Messages

You’ve Got A Friend

The song many of us remember, popularized by James Taylor, reminds us of what a friend can be.  Jesus talks about this in John 15.9-17.  How are we friends with Jesus?  And how do we demonstrate our friendship with him?  We answer these questions in the message, which starts at 13:15.  The service includes the Lord’s Supper.  Our substitute musician called in sick today, so I was left to accompany all the singing.  Sorry about that!

Encouragement From The Word

Be alert

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, my phone, quietly charging on my dresser at the other end of our bedroom, started buzzing.  Funny, thought I as it awakened me, I have my phone on ‘do not disturb’.

Apparently, “amber alert” notifications trump the ‘do not disturb’ function.  I learned that at 3:00 a.m. on Thursday. Oddly, these late-night alerts have happened before, and I was not awakened; I suppose there must have been some sort of conflagration of nocturnal events that roused me from my slumber.

Amber Alerts can be broadcast at any hour of the day or night as the need arises. After all, it’s possible that an Amber Alert could contribute to saving a child’s life.  That’s why the majority of people don’t mind this intrusion into their privacy.

There is a time coming – we don’t know when, so there’s no point in predicting – when the most important “alert” you’ll ever get will happen.  Will it be broadcast to everybody’s cell phone?  I have my doubts, but when it occurs, none of us will have any difficulty knowing about it.

It’s the second coming of Jesus.

Lots of time is spent and plenty of ink is spilled over trying to deduce or discern the day and time of Jesus’ return, but that is all wasted.  Even the Lord Jesus himself said, “no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24.36, NLT).

What can we do?  Be ready.  Be alert. Be prepared.  Trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  The rest will fall into place, irrespective of various theological constructs that may exist (and which any of us may hold dear).  He will come, and we won’t need an Amber Alert to tell us about it.

Find strength in the words of the apostle Paul:

 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.  So encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18, NLT).

Don’t wait for your phone to start buzzing in the middle of the night. Trust Jesus today, and his return will be pure joy.

Encouragement From The Word

Holy Gazing

Along with the somewhat more common spiritual practice called lectio divina, or holy reading, whereby we read a passage of Scripture a few times in order to hear from the Lord, there is also a less common spiritual practice called visio divina, or holy watching.  In this practice, we spend a protracted time gazing upon an image, likewise in order to hear from the Lord.

When we look upon an image, we may see something that prompts a memory, something that might encourage us to have a conversation with God.  The idea is certainly not to use the image as an object of worship, but to allow God to use it to speak into our lives in some way that will build our relationship with him.

Today, I’m encouraging you to spend a few minutes – as long as it takes – looking at this image.  Ask yourself these questions:

What stands out to me the most?

Is there a colour that quickens me in some way?

What emotions am I feeling as I look at this?

Then, pause, and offer your answers to these questions to the Lord.  Perhaps he wants to speak to you.  Even if you get no clear message, spend some time praising him, inspired by the image.

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“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  This is a large mural on the wall of the lower chapel at Magdala in Israel.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to him” (Psalm 24.1, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Divine Advocacy

Jesus introduces the coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples in John 14.15-31 by referring to the “Advocate”, a translation of the Greek term transliterated ‘paraclete’, which means ‘one who comes alongside’, usually in a legal sense.  What’s involved in all this?  Why does it matter?  That’s what I address in this Sunday’s worship gathering, which you can watch below.  The message itself begins at 29:17.

Encouragement From The Word

Investing in eternity

Each morning this week at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we’ve welcomed some 50 children to our vacation Bible camp, ‘Camp WannaKnowGod’.  As we come to our last morning, everybody’s a bit tired out, but we’ve done this work with joy.  Why?

Because we’ve been investing.

In one sense, these five mornings have been like a whole year of Sunday kids’ ministry crammed into 15 hours.  No wonder everybody’s tired!  But we carry on because we are investing…in the spiritual lives of 50 kids.

All the time, money, creativity, and effort that have gone into making this week possible have had but one motive: to help this group of children entrusted to us have a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.

These kids could be at soccer camp or at the cottage or at Canada’s Wonderland, but they are with us.  And we express our gratitude by investing in them.

Because, after all, in 100 years, it won’t matter how good they are at soccer.  It won’t matter how much time they spent at the cottage.  And it definitely won’t matter how many roller coasters they’ve ridden.  The only thing that will matter in 100 years is what they did with Jesus.

Some of my earliest Christian memories are of a vacation Bible school, which was done in the form of a musical called “A 100% Chance of Rain”, about Noah and the flood. I was probably around 5 or 6 years old. While that was not a “give my heart to Jesus” time, I’m sure the Lord used it to prepare my heart for the time when I would trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

This week, our prayer is that these children would know Jesus.  And if not through us this week, then in the future, when someone else’s ministry leads them to faith, and our investment will pay eternal dividends for the children.

We also hope to invest in the parents, equipping them with resources that will help them nurture faith in Jesus.  After all, they have a lot more hours to invest in their kids than the church does!

How are you investing in children – either as a parent, or as a part of the church?  It’s an investment in eternity where others reap the benefits, and God gets the glory.

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