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Encouragement From The Word

Examine it!

The responses to the passing this week of Canadian musician Gord Downey, and of Leonard Cohen earlier this year, remind us of just how influential music is in the lives of Canadians, and of western societies generally.  So attached are Canadians to their music legends that the official and unofficial condolences rival (or even exceed) those offered in memory of world leaders.  After all, how often does the flag get put at half-staff on Parliament Hill?

In light of this, I want to encourage you to examine the music you listen to.  Yes, examine it.  You might say that would take all the fun out of it, but anything worth having fun at is also worth thinking about.

You can ask yourself, How does this music make me feel inside?  Does it soothe your soul?  Does it make you angry?  Does it raise your pulse or lower it?  Does it motivate you?  Does it calm you?  How does the music you listen to make you feel?

For example, some people use loud music with a heavy beat to get them going in the morning; it stimulates them from head to toe.  (I think that’s why I never did well in fitness classes; loud music with a heavy beat just makes me want to walk away!)  Alternatively, some people use quiet music with a floating ambience to help them chill out.  The ease with which we can access recorded music of our own choosing today has made music a universal tool at our disposal pretty well anytime.

So, how does what you listen to make you feel?

You can also ask yourself, What do the lyrics I listen to really say?  This is a kicker for some, who may listen to the music for the beat but don’t realize until they examine the lyrics that what they listen to degrades women, or glorifies sex, just to state two common examples.

Or, you can ask yourself, What does the music I listen to say about me – intentionally or not?  As a follower of Jesus, you are being watched by your friends, family and acquaintances.  People notice if there are inconsistencies in your witness.  Does the music you listen to complement your faith or contradict it?

Some might say that, in response, we should listen only to Christian music.  While I certainly encourage you to listen to Christian music – and there is all sorts of it – I wouldn’t counsel you to limit yourself.  I do encourage you, though, to have a music “filter” that’s always engaged.  Music is a gift from God, something most musicians know innately.  So we can celebrate the gift of music of all sorts, asking the Lord for the wisdom to “filter out” what is blatantly unedifying.

I am reminded of the words of theologian A.W. Tozer:  “What goes into a mind comes out in a life.”  Remember that when you’re examining the music you listen to, and especially when you hear what your kids are listening to.

Take the advice of the apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Philippi:  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise…. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4.8b, 9b, NLT).

 

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Biblical Messages

Parenthood: Now What?

We conclude the series on parenthood with a few thoughts on how to deal with the strays – the children (or adult children) in our lives who wander.  This message is based on Luke 15.11-32, and (updated!) you can listen to the audio recording, or watch the Facebook video feed below.

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Encouragement From The Word

As far as the east is from the west

Simply spend some time meditating on these words today.  Let them wash over you as you read them several times.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
  (Psalm 103.8-12, NLT)

How will you respond to the Lord in light of this?

Biblical Messages

Parenthood: Discipline

Parents aren’t always popular when they discipline their kids, but as we hear in this message, based on Hebrews 12.4-11 and several verses from Proverbs, discipline is an important part of parenting.  Have a listen below, or click the link below that to watch the message on Facebook (no account required).

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Encouragement From The Word

We can ‘be’ change

The mass shooting in Las Vegas last weekend is a terrible tragedy.  Many lives were lost, many more people were injured, and emotionally, a lot of people are going to need help to resume some semblance of normality – not just the injured and the families of those who died, but also the bystanders and the people who work at the Mandalay Bay hotel where the shooting took place.  Long after the news stops talking about it (news channels always find something new and shiny on which to focus), people will still be struggling.

Of course, in this era of social media where everyone seeks to share an opinion, lots of folks are talking about the need for greater gun control, tighter immigration policies, or tougher screening to weed out terrorists.  But there is something else that can be done.

Parents can raise their children.

That might sound like an incongruous non sequitur, but think about it:  if parents raise their children – not just give birth to them, not just feed them, not just provide for their wants and needs, but raise them – we will have a generation of people who become adults who don’t have a hankering to kill people.  That sounds simplistic, but I know too many moms and dads who have engaged in the hard work of raising their kids whose children turn out to be kind, loving adults to believe it can’t be done.

To be sure, there are countless outside influences that work against what conscientious parents are doing, but that only raises the level of the challenge.

It seems like an insurmountable job, and it is.  Parents can’t do it on their own.

Parents need God’s help, and they need God’s agents to help them: the church.

When parents acknowledge that the job is too difficult for them to do alone, and they submit themselves to the Lord who knew their children before they were formed in the womb (Psalm 139.16), they give their children to God, recognizing that even parenthood is a form of stewardship; children are ours to raise on God’s behalf.

Then, the community of faith can partner with the parents to help kids grow up to be good, law-abiding citizens, yes, but also to love and serve the Lord.  When we introduce God into the lives of children, the Holy Spirit becomes an invisible player in the game of child-rearing – that unpredictable, love-engendering, tongues-of-fire-giving Spirit supports the work of diligent parents and churches.  And the result is a generation of adults who in turn raise their children the same way.

Will this work perfectly?  Undoubtedly not; because of sin, there will always be challenges to God’s plan for families.  But while we pray for those affected, while we work to bring change where change is needed in society, let’s start with our own families.  We can bring change; we can be change.

If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” (Jesus, John 15.16, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Unchanging Principles of Parenting

In part 2 of the Parenthood series, we look at some unchanging principles of parenting.  This series has been inspired by the work of Craig Groeschel at Life.Church, with our own adaptations.  The message is based on Mark 10.13-16.  Unfortunately, the audio recording came out so crackly that it is not worth listening to, but the Facebook Live video feed is working fine.  You don’t need a Facebook account to watch this, just click below and watch.  (The video that is shown at the beginning of the message can be viewed here.)

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Encouragement From The Word

Measure your words

If you’re into social media, you know that one of the challenges of Twitter is that your posts are limited to 140 characters.  This often means that one must be judicious in the number of words one uses in a tweet.

One of the down sides of Twitter character limits is that texting short forms have crept into the mainstream.  (How mainstream?  I once marked an academic paper that had an “lol” in it.  No, really, lol.)

Another down side is, of course, what we might call a failure to communicate.  Any written communication has the possibility of being misunderstood, because facial expression and body language can’t be seen in written communication.  And when character limits are imposed, it becomes singularly difficult to express exactly what one wants to say.

Well, Twitter has some good news for us – or so we think.  Certain ‘elect’ tweeters – I am not among them, as yet – have been granted status to be able to tweet 280 characters per tweet instead of 140.  They now have twice the space to say, well, whatever they want the Twitterverse to know.

This is good news for those who find it difficult to express themselves briefly (maybe us preacher-types are among them!).  It may also be good news for those who are not fond of texting short forms in written communication, though that could prove to be a tougher habit to break.

It may be bad news for those who find even short tweets from certain parties annoying, but they can always be muted.

Whether it’s 140 characters or 280 characters or 140,280 characters, we do well to choose our words wisely.  Consider this:  “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words” (Proverbs 10.19, The Message).  Measure your words carefully, even if you’re not limited to 140 characters.  It honours God.