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Biblical Messages

Create, Renew and Restore

Our old pal Soong came to preach at St. Paul’s this morning, as he was being looked at by a couple of search committees.  His focus was Psalm 51.10-12.  We also had to say good-bye to Donna, our long-time KidMin coordinator, which we did with love and humour.

You can watch the whole service below, or catch the message, which starts at 39:23.

 

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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).

Encouragement From The Word

God’s fingerprints

I’m sure you’ve had those kinds of days, as I have, full of unexpected annoyances.  I won’t bore you with details, but I will say that they were not pastoral issues; let’s be clear:  people are not annoyances.

But one day this week (well, more than one, really), I found myself engaged in Wild Goose Chases that left me feeling out of sorts and flustered.  When those days occur – and I can’t imagine that they don’t happen to all of us – I’ve learned to do all I can to take a step back in the midst of them to ask where God is present, and how I have prayed through the situations at hand.

I have learned to do this because, invariably, if I describe the day to my spiritual director at our next meeting, she’s going to ask me where I sensed God’s presence and how I prayed through the situations at hand!  So I might as well come prepared with an answer.

If you’re anything like me, you find it easy, on days like that, to feel overwhelmed and stuck in the (unpleasant) moments.  But if you can take a step back – even a baby step – and look at where God may be present in the midst of it all, it can garner you some remarkably helpful perspective that will help you deal with whatever has befallen you at the time.

For instance, though I found one thing piling on another earlier this week, I also found a few graces that might otherwise have been overlooked – good things that cannot and should not be taken for granted.

When we live each moment, intentionally, in the presence of God, it becomes easier to step back and find even small areas where his fingerprints are all over the situation.  In so doing, we receive comfort, and find our faith strengthened for whatever may happen next!

Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him” (1 Chronicles 16.11, NLT).

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.

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!