Biblical Messages

Arrive Alive

“Arrive Alive” has been used as a tagline to discourage impaired driving for many years, but it’s a good word for God’s people to proclaim to the world, too!  This message starts at 30:37, and is based on 1 Corinthians 15.21-25.  I chose this message title because it was Civic Services Appreciation Sunday, when we welcomed Police, Fire, EMS and politicians from the area who serve our community to come and be recognized and thanked for their work.

The video from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – the audio for which did not work for us in this gathering – can be found here.

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

St. Nick’s more famous accomplishment

In western Christianity, today is the commonly-celebrated day for the feast of St. Nicholas – the guy who brought you Santa Claus.

Well, sort of.  The Santa Claus we know today, visually at least, is said to be a creation of the Coca-Cola Company.  But the notion of a benevolent figure who brings gifts certainly conjures notions of Nicholas of Myra, a bishop whose fourth-century dealings with poor women’s dowries is the stuff of legend.

Believe it or not, though, that’s not what Nicholas was most famous for.

He lived through the time of the early church’s Council of Nicaea, which in AD 325 formulated the doctrine of the Trinity:  One God, Three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And Nicholas is said to have played a role in articulating a truth Christians hold dear today:  that God the Father and God the Son are of one substance.  (This same application was made to the role of the Holy Spirit later on.)

That might seem like a bunch of tiny theologians dancing on the head of a pin, but it’s actually really important for the historic Christian faith.  For if Jesus or the Holy Spirit were merely of a similar substance to the Father, Jesus could not be God, and could therefore not have been the final, perfect sacrifice for our sins.

In fact, without being of one substance with the Father, Jesus would just be another dude…a righteous dude, to be sure, but just another dude.

On St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6, some cultures celebrate their gift-giving in honour of St. Nick himself.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But let me encourage you likewise to remember the gift of St. Nicholas as a theologian, who helped shape the church’s understanding of the mystery of the Triune God, upholding Jesus as of one substance with the Father.

Small though it may seem, it makes a big difference.  For if Jesus were not God, there would be no reason for the season.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
– John 1.1-3, NLT

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Anticipation…

It’s great to be back in the saddle!  Thanks to all who prayed for me while I was on Inter-Mission/Sabbatical.  It means so much!  I will be talking this Sunday about one important aspect of my experience that is applicable to all of us (you can join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton or catch the service on YouTube later), and bits of my experience will trickle out over the course of the next while, including through Encouragement.  Stay tuned!

This week begins the season of Advent, which many Christians mark as a time of anticipation for the birth of Jesus.  Outside certain churches, it’s not widely practised in western society.  Why?

I think it’s because we have learned to expect everything according to our timetable.

Waiting is not our strong suit.

Yet anticipation, if we stop to think about it, actually heightens our excitement over what we wait for.  If you don’t believe me, let me ask you how much time you spent deciding what you were going to buy today…Black Friday.  (Many of you probably won’t buy anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but sales statistics suggest that not all of us will resist.)

The fact that we are not good at waiting is noticeable even in the church, where there are overt suggestions (if there is no overt pressure) to sing Christmas carols well ahead of Christmas Eve.  I get this; they’ve been played on the radio and in the malls since the day after Remembrance Day (or sooner); let’s enjoy them while we can.

But if we wait, it heightens our anticipation of what is to come.

True, the scenario ends the same way each year: Jesus is born!  But this rhythm of time centred around the salvation narrative is so different from what we experience out in the world that I think it helps strengthen our faith.  (Granted, there are many ways to make that happen.)

So this year, don’t open all the boxes on your Advent calendar in the first week.  Don’t sing “O come, all ye faithful” just yet.  Don’t buy everything you want for Christmas so that there are no surprises greeting you under the tree, symbolizing the greatest gift of all – the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God with skin on, breaking into history to redeem us from sin from which we couldn’t hope to save ourselves.

Happy Advent!

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9.6, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Rest

Rest:  it’s important.

We all know it’s important.

Yet too few of us take time for real, significant rest.

We live in a time when the culture values busyness, almost as a badge of pride.  “How are you?” someone will ask.  “Oh, I’m great.  Really busy,” we reply.

A while back, I saw a meme online that showed the image of a cellphone battery in the ‘red zone’ – less than 10% power remaining.  It said, “You’d never let this happen to your phone.  Why do you let it happen to yourself?”

We are a society of the dangerously tired.  We so tightly schedule our own lives – and those of our children – that we leave little margin for God to work in our lives, or for us to notice God’s work in our lives.  We need rest.

The Bible follows an “order of creation” model for teaching us about the value of rest by suggesting that because God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, we, too, should take one day a week for rest and re-creation.  Every week.  Yes, every week.

Many of us think that would be impossible to do, but it wouldn’t be impossible.  We just have to undertake the hard work of prioritizing what matters in our lives.

As I’ve said before, in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus.  Work does not prepare us for eternity.  Sports do not prepare us for eternity.  But worship and rest do prepare us for eternity.

Eternity is a long time.  Don’t you think that which prepares us for eternity deserves top priority?

Christians traditionally take Sunday as their day of rest, because it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.  And it is from that day of rest and worship that we are able to have the energy to undertake all that the coming week holds.

I know that not everyone is able to take Sunday as a rest day in our secular culture.  But if you can’t take Sunday every week, at least take a day somewhere in there.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20.8, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word is taking an eight-week hiatus while I take a long-planned and much-needed Sabbatical.  This weekly email will return on Friday, November 29, 2019.