Blog posts

Encouragement From The Word

Two-way mentoring

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of spending part of my day with a young man from our congregation.  It was “take your kid to work day”, and since this particular young man understood his parents’ work, he asked them if he could spend some time with me.

Of course, I readily agreed!

Since no two days of my ministry are alike, I wasn’t sure exactly what we would do, but I invited him to help me with a number of regular activities in the study, and we made a ‘road trip’ to the Canadian Bible Society to pick up a Bible my wife and I want to give to an acquaintance.  So I showed him the vast range of English and non-English Bibles available for purchase and distribution.  We had lunch, and on the way home we stopped at Tyndale University College & Seminary to see the chapel and the bookstore, where my wife works.

Amid all the activities we undertook from the time I picked him up until I took him home, we chatted about a vast array of matters, including how faith impacts his life as a Grade 9 student.  He may have learned a little from me, but I learned a lot from him.

While I may have spent the day mentoring my young friend, he also spoke into my life as a Christian leader.

It leads me to ask you:  are you engaged in relationships with people younger than you including (but by no means limited to) your own children?

There is mutual learning that can come from that. The young person understands that you care, in a tangible way, because you are giving him or her the gift of time and wisdom.  And you learn from the young person because you get to view life and faith from a very different perspective.

You might think to yourself that you were young once, and that’s certainly true; but the cultural context in which you and I were young is vastly different from the culture in which today’s youth live.  And if you’re like me, you don’t often immerse yourself in youth culture today. We need to learn from our young people what life is like for them if we’re going to help equip them, and their parents, for effective Christian living in the current cultural context.

So spend some time praying about whom you might come alongside.  Offer that young person your faith and wisdom.  And listen to that young person’s story to learn what contemporary culture is really like.

It doesn’t mean that you or the younger person have to change your views on matters of theology, but the dialogue will enrich you both.

The dialogue I shared with my young friend certainly enriched me.  Give it a try!

We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12.5, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word will return on November 30.

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Biblical Messages

Led Astray?

In John 7.37-53, Jesus makes an astonishing statement about himself that is easy to miss without doing some background work.  It’s a good reminder to us to ensure that we realize we have the living Lord Jesus right in our midst – so going through the motions isn’t what it’s about.  Jesus makes our religion reality.  Have a listen, or watch below.

Encouragement From The Word

No Greater Love

This Sunday marks the 100thanniversary since the declaration of the armistice, ending poppythe First World War.  It was deemed “the war to end all wars”, yet it certainly did not turn out to be so.  Along with one other significant global conflict, there have been regional, local, and various civil wars that have taken place around the world since that celebratory day in Compiègne, France, on November 11, 1918.

Remembrance Day, as we call it in Canada, is one of those days in the year where church and state comingle in an interesting yet often awkward way.  As Canada has grown more pluralistic, the presence of Christian clergy has been augmented by the presence of other religious leaders, and has often been diminished by restrictions placed on how pastors can speak at some Remembrance Day ceremonies.

The Scripture most often cited around Remembrance Day comes from Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15.13:  “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (NLT).  Unfortunately, when it’s not given context, one can conclude that this was a passage about the valiance of war.  And while it is true that the valiant sacrifices made by those who laid down their lives in the cause of world peace and democracy are significant and not to be forgotten, this was not the context in which Jesus said those words.

Jesus was not talking about brave soldiers.  He was talking about himself.

John 15.13 isn’t about a war between nations; it’s about a war between humanity and God.

Sin separates us from God, and puts us at war with our Creator.  But Jesus came to pay the price for our sin, and make us right with God once again.  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul said, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations” (Ephesians 2.14-15a, NIV).

There will always be wars on earth, until Jesus comes again, or until the whole world knows his peace.  So let’s all commit to sharing Jesus’ peace with others, humbly and winsomely, so that war will be a thing of the past – between people and people, yes, and between people and God.

Let Remembrance Day be a reminder of our need for peace of all sorts, especially “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4.7a, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

What’s wrong with the world?

From time to time, when the bad news seriously outweighs the good, we are tempted to throw our arms in the air and exclaim, “What’s wrong with the world?”

This is nothing new, for many years ago, a correspondent of the Times of London was researching and reporting on many of the challenges of society – many of them similar to today’s – and would end every piece he wrote with that same statement:  “What’s wrong with the world?”

The renowned English writer, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote a reply to that correspondent which has become one of the things for which he is best known. He wrote,

Dear Editor:

What’s wrong with the world?

I am.

Faithfully yours,

G.K. Chesterton.

If we want to know what’s wrong with the world, we can start with some self-reflection. That’s why I commend to all followers of Jesus the ancient practice of the examen – examining our conscience (for sin) and our consciousness (of God’s presence in our lives) every day.  Consider concluding your day with a time with the Lord in which you review your day to see where God seemed most distant and most near to you.  Respond to where God leads you in that time with your own resolve to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in not being what’s wrong with the world.

Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7.20, NLT).

Musings

This Pastor is Appreciated!

I don’t normally share our weekly in-house email, Between Sundays, with the wider public, but I think this one deserves to be shared.  If you’re not tangibly appreciating your pastor, here’s some inspiration to do so, whether in October or any other time of year – since nobody gets too much encouragement! — JFL

I was speaking with my spiritual director last week, telling her about October. Insightfully, she said, “October is like Christmas for you.”

She was absolutely right.

October is a month for giving thanks in Canada, and it is Pastor Appreciation Month. I am the envy of many of my colleagues, whose congregations have never heard of Pastor Appreciation Month.  I brag a little bit each year – not about what I receive, but about you, and how, even after ten Pastor Appreciation Months with you, I am still surprised, honoured, and humbled by your kindness.

(Can you believe it’s been ten Pastor Appreciation Months?  It was 10 years ago today that Diana and I moved into the manse, with me in some fear, some trepidation, and a lot of faith as I eased my way back into the pastorate after two and a half years in parachurch ministry.  What an amazing journey this has been, and continues to be! God is good.)

I have a collection of cards on my desk; each will be kept, read again, and treasured, as I have done for the past 10 years.  I’ve mentioned before that in previous congregations, I had a “happy file”, in which I kept notes of encouragement that I received from congregants.  Early on in St. Paul’s, I learned that a “happy file” won’t do; I actually have to keep a “happy drawer” in my desk, one of the deep drawers, to contain all the encouragement I’ve received over the years. I’m sure it’s no secret that your encouragement makes it a joy to serve the Lord among you, and I truly hope that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27.17), that I am able to be an encouragement to you, too.

I don’t know who organizes this, but it’s obviously a coordinated event.  Most people sign their cards, allowing me to thank them.  Some choose not to sign, and that’s okay, too – though if I recognize the handwriting, I thank them anyway!  There was one person who scratched out a signature, thinking it was supposed to be anonymous, and that person’s handwriting eludes me.  (Whoever you are, thank you!)

October has always been my favourite month of the year, with beautifully-coloured leaves and crispness in the air.  But you have doubled my delight with your ongoing kindnesses.

A culture of gratitude – not only toward the pastor, but from the pastor, and toward one another – makes a church’s culture irresistible to those seeking a church home.  So keep up the good work of being grateful, as will I.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.  It truly is a joy to serve the Lord together.

Encouragement From The Word

Remembering a mentor I never met

Eugene Peterson – follower of Jesus, pastor, author, Bible translator – died this past Monday.  He was a mentor to me.

But I never met him in person.

How can someone mentor another person without actually meeting face to face?

Peterson did it with me through his writings.  I was introduced to his books early on in my seminary training, and once I’d read one, I couldn’t read enough.  When his memoirs were published, entitled The Pastor, I felt like I knew him well, to the point that I actually wrote him a letter of thanks in response to reading his memoirs.  I have no idea whether he got it, given that I had nothing more to put on the envelope than his name and the Montana town near which he lived, but it wasn’t returned to me, so I’m hopeful that he received it.

It’s valuable for all followers of Jesus to have mentors, and it’s certainly ideal for those mentoring relationships to be ‘live’ and face to face.  But we can be mentored passively by people we’ve never met simply by reading their writings.

What giants in the faith have mentored you, either in person or through their writings? Among passive mentors, Peterson’s at the top of my list, and I’m comforted in knowing that he has now received his eternal reward with Jesus, whom Peterson described this way in John 1.14 (The Message):

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.