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Encouragement From The Word

Digging

It’s federal election season in Canada, and as has been the custom, there’s all manner of digging going on, trying to find sordid things about candidates’ past. The digging is normally done by people active in one of the other political parties, rather than by the ordinary folks of the electorate.

If you’re anything like me, you’d rather hear what a particular candidate or party stands for, as opposed to what they stand against.  And you want to know what’s going on in their beliefs and platforms now rather than what may have happened in the past.

In one sense, the goal of the diggers is noble:  they want to unearth past truth about a person in order to find out if that happens also to be present truth.  As with so much of life, politics is a complicated beast.

But you know who one of those diggers won’t be?

God.

When we present ourselves to God in faith as we are, now, God is not concerned with the past.  We might lie awake at night, from time to time, thinking about that stupid thing we did 20 years ago, ruminating about how stupid it was, but God never does that.

When we come to God in faith, believing that Jesus died to take away all our sins, and believing that he rose again to bring us eternal life, God receives us as we are.  He doesn’t care about what we did 20 years ago.  Jesus died to forgive that sin, too.

Unfortunately, human beings are not often as gracious as God.  I wonder if we can change that, one human being at a time?

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 103.12, NLT

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A Presbytery Primer for Ruling Elders

In years past, in my role as Clerk of the Presbytery of Oak Ridges, I have led a brief discussion about the role of the Presbytery and the role of the elder in the Presbytery.  This has been aimed at new-to-the-Presbytery elders, but can be helpful for anyone.

In order to allow elders to attend their committee meetings in September, though, I decided to put together this video, along with a couple of handouts, to expedite the process, and allow for time at the September meeting for any who have questions.

Download these handouts:

An overview of Bourinot’s Rules of Order: Bourinot Overview

Excerpts from the Clerk’s Handbook: Clerk handbook Presbytery

And watch the video below.

 

Encouragement From The Word

Bring A Friend!

Every year, on or about the fourth Sunday of September, St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton celebrates “Bring A Friend” Day. While any Sunday is a good Sunday to bring a friend to church, we make a special effort on that weekend: invitations are issued, lunch is shared, guests are ‘expected’.

It’s become challenging for many people to issue the invitation, to make the ask. As I’ll say on Sunday, we’ve been taught for a few generations now not to talk about politics or faith in polite company, and the result, especially in our polarized society, is that we are no longer able to dialogue in a civil manner about the Lord Jesus.

The key is to build relationships.

When we are engaged in healthy relationships with our neighbours, our friends, our family members, and when faith is an integral part of our lives, those with whom we share those relationships will naturally want to know why faith is part of who we are.

And that opens the door to inviting them to join you for worship.

I’ve occasionally shared a vlog done by Penn Jillette some years ago about how, despite his avowed atheism, he admired a man who gave him a Bible after a show.  His point was this:  If we believe we know the way to eternal life, how much do we have to hate someone else to be unwilling to share it?

It’s a good question.  And a haunting one, if we’re honest.

Whatever congregation you’re part of as you read this, I hope you’re not waiting for an excuse to invite someone to worship with you.  If you’re looking to understand why this is important, I will be talking about our role as ambassadors this Sunday.  I’m inviting you!

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.  We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” (2 Corinthians 5.20, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

The best things in life…

The devastation left in the more northerly islands of the Bahamas by Hurricane Dorian this week has been unspeakable.  The images that have been flooding social media (perhaps an unfortunate, yet apt, choice of verb) have torn at our hearts.

People take different lessons from natural disasters.  Some will say a deity is angry (a strange notion and a stranger way for said deity to express it) and that we need to appease it.  Others will say it’s a side-effect of climate change (which would be difficult to prove) and that we should take better care of the planet (which is always a good idea).  There may be countless other lessons people will take from the hurricane.

But here’s one to consider: life is fragile.

I remember a number of years ago being given a tour of the beautiful home of some friends.  In their daughter’s bedroom there was a small plaque that simply said, “The best things in life aren’t things.”

How true that is!

In recent years, as I have reflected on vacation times, I’ve discerned that my favourite part of vacation has been conversations with people; that’s a big deal for an introvert!  But more than bringing Stuff home, more than seeing great sights, what has been most impactful is encounters with people.

When someone is in a tragic accident, or when a loved one has died, we often read social media posts to the effect of, “Hug the people you love.”

For those folks in the Bahamas, and in other places severely affected by this hurricane, that phrase may have more meaning than many of us will ever know.

Stuff is helpful.  Things are meaningful.  But none of it matters as much as people.  Life is fragile.

O Lord, what are human beings that you should notice them,
    mere mortals that you should think about them?
For they are like a breath of air;
    their days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144.3-4, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

The spiritual value of walking

I am grateful that I have the opportunity, quite often, that I can walk to work.  It’s a privilege not everybody receives.  I don’t have to fight traffic, losing hours from family time just trying to get to and from work.  Being able to walk to work enriches my life, both for the physical activity and for the enhancement of family life.

But it has another side benefit, too, that I experienced recently.

I was walking to work, taking my usual route, and a young neighbour, to whom I would wave when I’d see him, called me over to where he was sitting outside his front door.

Perceiving that I worked “at that church over there”, he proceeded to start a most interesting conversation about the life of faith.  We chatted for perhaps 10 minutes about similarities and differences between denominations, and he seemed genuinely intrigued with my subtle presentation of the good news of Jesus.

I invited him to our “Bring A Friend” Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton on September 22, and he gladly accepted; I will pray for him, and hope that he comes!  (If you’re in the area and don’t  have a church family to call your own, please come as my guest – that Sunday, or any Sunday at 10:00 a.m.!)

Even if you don’t have the opportunity to walk to work, you do have the opportunity to take walks through your neighbourhood.  Consider whether the Lord is inviting you to do so – for exercise, yes, but also for sowing seeds of new relationships with important conversations that can lead to spiritual discussions…and possibly spiritual transformation.

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord” (Romans 15.2, NLT).