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Biblical Messages

Kids mimic what we model

Today was children’s Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton – the kids and youth led much of our worship.  I shared a brief message from John 4.31-38 that helped us understand what it means when we appreciate that kids mimic what we model.  Watch or listen below.

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Who wants a 50s kitchen?

I’m attending the Canadian Church Leaders Conference in Barrie today (and last night, and tomorrow).  It’s the second year in a row that Connexus Church has offered this conference, aimed at leaders in Canadian congregations (since so many church leader conferences are held in the US and aimed at the American culture, which is different from ours).  Even after hearing just two short talks, I’m encouraged to keep going in the work of change.

Change is a hard word for most people, but perhaps especially for those who have been invested in the life of a local church for a long time.  We all remember what the church used to belike.  Some will remember when there were 500 kids in the Sunday school – a number that seems to go up every time the person recounts the story of what life in the church was like 60 or more years ago.

Trouble is, the world looks a lot different today than it did in the 1950s.  In those days, the post-war baby boom and the optimism that came with a rejuvenated economy meant churches were full most Sundays, without much effort on the part of the leaders.  Today, we have generations of people for whom the church has never been a factor in their lives.

One of the key learnings, so far, has been this: if the church is to be strong, we have to be set free from the idea that we just need to survive, so we can dream again. And that means change.  And while change will be uncomfortable, we need to continue to focus on the people who are not among us yet.

That means ‘doing church’ in such a manner that it attracts those who are not yet part of the church and being more concerned for those who are far from God than those who are unwilling to change.  It’s a tough sacrifice, and it can even seem a bit cold.  But if we focus on who we already have, making sure we keep them happy, we are unlikely to see measurable growth in our churches.

I remember in one church I served, someone got up at a congregational meeting and complained about the changes that were happening.  After the meeting, a dear old soul came up to me and said, “I wonder if his kitchen looks like it did in 1950.”

Of course, few of us have kitchens that look like they did in 1950, even if the house is older than that.  Kitchens are among the first rooms in a house to be renovated, because we want to have the most up-to-date cooking and eating spaces money can buy!  We want granite countertops instead of laminate; we want dishwashers, water-serving and ice-making refrigerators, and efficient ranges – all in stainless steel, bien sûr!

Few kitchens today lack a microwave oven, but in 1950, there was no such appliance.

Yet too often, our churches look not much different than they did in 1950.  In some cases, the order of service might not have changed since then!  But if we’re going to reach a new generation, that change has to be made.

I am fortunate to serve a congregation that has adapted to change very well.  There’s more that needs to be done, for sure, but none of it is simply for the sake of change: we change howwe present the timeless gospel of Jesus, because that’s what’s going to reach a new generation.

Marshall McLuhan famously said that the medium is the message, and he had a point: the way we present truth attracts people, perhaps more than the truth itself. And that’s okay!  While we don’t change the message, we do change the medium, because the method of presenting the timeless truths of Scripture inherently makes the timeless truths of Scripture more appealing, thus increasing the potential audience.

Is that always what we old-timers prefer?  Probably not.  But we already know and love and serve Jesus.  What we want is to engage our neighbours so that they will know and love and serve Jesus.  So we set aside what we prefer in favour of what they prefer.  And the Lord does the rest.

When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9.22, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Spirit and Truth

Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that the time would come when people would worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  What does that mean?  That’s what we explore in this message based on John 4.21-30 (with a nod to Exodus 3.1-14).  Watch, or listen below:

 

 

Encouragement From The Word

Give all your worries to God

A friend of mine is moving a long distance.  She had quite a lot of stuff she chose not to take with her in the move. Wondering how best to find a home for it, she had been talking about it with some others, but in the end, with little hope of finding a way to get rid of it, she gave the situation to God.

That same day, she had a knock at her office door; two young women were standing there.  “We overheard you telling some people that you were trying to get rid of some things before you move, “ one of them said.

“Yes I am,” my friend replied.

“We decided to take an apartment together, along with another friend,” the woman continued, “and we need furniture.  We could take your stuff for you.”

My friend could hardly believe her ears.  But the story gets better.

“Yes, we’re moving to an apartment on X Avenue,” said the other woman, naming the street they were moving to.

“That’s interesting,” said my friend.  “That’s where I live now.”  There are several apartment buildings clustered together on that street, though, so it could have been one of many apartments in any of those buildings the women were moving to.

As the conversation continued, my friend realized that they were moving into the same building as she is currently living.  Imagine the amazement on all of their faces when they discovered that the women had rented the very same apartment my friend was vacating!

My friend committed the situation to the Lord, and not only was he faithful in answering my friend’s prayer generally, he was faithful in answering it very, very specifically.

The movers-in will not need to find a moving truck, or a group of friends, to get my friend’s furniture; it can stay exactly where it is.  And my friend is now deeply relieved that the belongings she elected not to move will be going to a good home…in the very same square footage that my friend had enjoyed as her home for several year.

Does God work this way all the time?  No. But the Lord can surprise us with graces like this when we fully commit our worrisome situations to his care.

What do you need to let go of in order to see God take care of your needs?

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5.7, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Resistance

One of the realities of human existence that is taught to us in the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.16-20 is that when confronted with uncomfortable questions, we often put up resistance. How can we avoid that, and be truthful with ourselves and others? Watch or listen here:

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Encouragement From The Word

How Do I Love Thee?

The other day, I was listening to a recording of choral music that I’ve heard dozens of times.  For some reason, though, this particular time my ears perked up to one particular anthem that was sung.  It’s called “How Do I Love Thee?”, and I realized upon listening carefully that it is, in fact, a musical setting of what is arguably the most popular sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43, written as a love poem to her husband, Robert Browning.

For years, in (sort of) listening to this piece, I thought it was just another choral anthem of praise to the Lord.  I hadn’t thought it was an anthem of praise to the poet’s husband!

However, if you examine the words, you can, without difficulty, make it into a song of praise to God:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

It works, doesn’t it?

Now, go back and read it again, and put God in the first person, so that it tells of God’s love for you.

Amazing, right?

Victorian-Romantic poetry may not always have been intended for God, but we can make it so.

Spend some time with this sonnet, and make it your own praise to the Lord.

Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!” (Psalm 150.6, NLT).

If you want to listen to the arrangement that struck me, here’s a setting.