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BEING THE CHURCH: No Turning Back

The last part of Paul’s final letter, 2 Timothy, might be of the sort where you might say, with Brother Maynard in this Monty Python clip, “Skip a little, brother.”  But as we find out in this message, it’s worth paying attention to for the life of the church!

Have a listen to this message based on 2 Timothy 4.9-22.

Unfortunately, the Facebook Live feed chose not to work today.  😦

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The relevant church

Earlier this week, I jumped into an online discussion about what constitutes a ‘relevant’ church.  It got me thinking about other conversations I’ve had over the years about what makes a church relevant.

Some say using contemporary music makes a church relevant; others say it’s fancy stage lighting.  Still others will say it’s a casual atmosphere with lots of humour.  The fact is that any of these can contribute toward promoting a relevant church, but so can traditional formality in the right circumstances.

There are many perspectives on this in our day, but I think there’s really only one answer, as far as the Bible is concerned, about what makes a church relevant.

Donald Grey Barnhouse, the great American pulpiteer of an earlier generation, once told the story of a native preacher in south China who was confronted by one of his listeners, who accused him of preaching nothing but Jesus for three days straight.

The preacher asked his accuser, “What did you eat for breakfast?”

“Rice,” was the answer.

“And for lunch?”

“Rice.”

“And for supper?”

“Rice.”

“What have you been eating for years?”

“Rice.”

“Why do you eat rice every day?  Why don’t you eat something else?” the preacher asked.

“Because it keeps me alive,” said the man.

The preacher replied, “That is the reason we preach Christ, nothing but Christ.  He brings us life and he is our life, and we could not live without him.”

Churches are relevant when they teach apostolic truth, the good news of Jesus Christ.  Whatever we couch it in, our job as the church is to centre our lives in worship and in service on the One without whom we could not live.  That is what makes us relevant, because Jesus, and the message of the Scriptures, is eternally relevant.

For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified” (1 Corinthians 2.2, NLT).

P.S.:  I was given a surprise honour last week when my blog, passionatelyhis.com, was named as one of Canada’s top Christian blogs by Faithworks Centre on Prince Edward Island.  There are many great blogs on this list, and you can read about them here.

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BEING THE CHURCH: 2. Unfettered

“The Word of God cannot not chained” (2 Timothy 2.9).  These are some of the most profound and powerful words in all of Scripture.  As we look at what 2 Timothy has to say about being the church, we see today about the power of the Word of God, and how its unfettered nature sets us free in a few ways.  Based on 2 Timothy 2.1-14, have a listen here:

Also, you can review the video feed on Facebook (which, happily, worked today) https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10211325394507772%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank”>here.

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Dealing with my own irrational fear!

Well, here it is, only the second Friday of the new year, and already it’s Friday the 13th.  I’m amazed that this still proves problematic for some people, even people who believe in God.  But I’d better not point fingers at anybody but myself.  Let me tell you why.

There were two particularly unfortunate incidents that occurred for me in 2016:  I had a gallbladder attack, and we were hauled in for a minor interrogation at the US border.  Thankfully, these did not both occur on the same day.

However, they had one thing in common:  on neither of those days did I shave my neck.  Sounds stupid, doesn’t it?  I mean, any guy who wears a beard will have occasional days (maybe more than occasional days) when he doesn’t shave his neck.  But I will admit, to my shame, that I have not failed to shave my neck once since the second of those two events occurred.  Not.  Once.

And I completely understand the irrationality of that…let’s name it for what it is…fear.

I’m no better than the person who wears the same sweater every time his favourite hockey team plays, or the person who refuses to walk under a ladder…or who is hung up on Friday the 13th.

Maybe, just this once, writing Encouragement From the Word will be therapeutic for me, because by admitting it for everyone to see, I know I need to break the trend.  One day of an unshaven neck is not that uncomfortable – though perhaps there is something in my genes, for I have never in my life seen my father unshaven!  (Of course, that didn’t keep me from growing a beard as soon as my hormones would allow!)

I can’t do it tomorrow, because I have a visit to make; I can’t do it Sunday, because it’s Sunday; but maybe on Monday, I will let the razor take a rest…just to prove the irrationality of this fear.

Why is it so irrational?  Because we serve the God of the universe, the one who flung stars into space and gave Bach the inspiration to write the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat major.  This God we serve is sovereign; it’s the only way he can be God.  And this God has told us, flat out, in his Word:  “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1.7, NLT).

If you see me next week, hold me to account.  I need to practise what I preach.  Hopefully, you will, too!

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

CAROLS BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Joy to the world!

On this Christmas Day, we celebrate the joy that Jesus brings to us.  Isaac Watts’ familiar carol, “Joy to the world”, was never intended as a Christmas carol, but as a paraphrase of Psalm 98.  Either way, it extols the Lord Jesus, as we learned in today’s message, based on Titus 2.11-14.

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Breathe and Pray

When I talk to folks around this time of year, I discover one fairly common trait: stress.

Whether it’s preparing for guests at home, or preparing to go and be guests in someone’s home; whether it’s fearing poor driving conditions or flight delays; whether it’s trying to get all the work done or trying to make peace with the fact that it won’t be all done, people are stressed.

It’s a sad irony, really.

Jesus’ followers read Isaiah 9.6 as Messianic prophecy, and it says that he would be “the Prince of Peace” – yet even his followers struggle to find peace at this time of year.

What can be done?

I think the answer is to be intentional about honouring the Prince of Peace with our own sense of peace.  That can, sometimes, mean making difficult decisions.  At other times, it simply involves choosing to have peace.

A very basic way to make that happen is – and this may sound overly simplistic – to breathe.  Pay attention to your breathing.  Take deep breaths.  Decide that a challenging situation will not stress you out.

The latest update to the operating system for the Apple Watch includes a reminder to stop and breathe.  Some call it ‘mindfulness’, but you and I can call it prayerfulness.  Breathe in the grace of God; he’s got this, whatever it is.  Breathe out your stress.

So, amid the kitchen prep and the house cleaning, breathe and pray.  If you’re sitting in traffic or waiting on a late flight, breathe and pray.  While trying to get all your work done before the weekend, breathe and pray.  God’s got it.

And have a merrier Christmas.

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A Blameless Life

In today’s message, we talked about the importance of what to look for when electing new ruling elders, which we will be doing in St. Paul’s this month.  Titus 1.5-9 gives some helpful pointers in what elders should be like, among them, living a blameless life.  None of us is there yet, if we are honest with ourselves, but when we know what the goal is, we can get on the road to achieving it by God’s grace.  Have a listen below, or watch the stream on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10210487499040909%2F&show_text=0&width=400” target=”_blank”>here.