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Come and see for yourself!

My apologies…being out of the country, I failed to post this beyond my Mailchimp campaign!

Hello, from Israel!  My wife and I are helping to lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  We arrived yesterday, and (no thanks to Air Canada) were late arriving, so not only did we hit the ground running, we hit the ground running past our first stop, since it would be closed by the time we arrived. Still, we managed to get to Mount Carmel before dusk last evening.

It’s a great place to start, actually, because from the roof of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery atop the big hill, you can see so much history:  to the west, the Mediterranean, where Elijah and his young assistant watched for the coming, promised rains; and to the east, the Jezreel Valley, where so much biblical history took place; and beyond that, you can squint and see into Galilee, where we are as I write this.

If you have not made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I recommend that you do so if you are able.  It really makes the Bible come alive in three dimensions when you can picture places that you are reading about.

We are spending a few days in Galilee, and as I write this (what for you is Thursday afternoon, but for me is Friday morning!), we are going to visit Nazareth today.  When I think of Nazareth, and visiting the Holy Land, I am reminded of Nathanael’s response to Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus. “Nazareth!…Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  ‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied” (John 1.46, NLT). 

Indeed, do come and see for yourself.  It will change you forever.

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Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Picture This

“Picture this.”  Can you imagine yourself in a Bible story?

There’s an ancient spiritual practice called “Gospel Contemplation”, in which we pray, asking the Lord to sanctify our imagination, and read a story from one of the Gospels several times, each time paying more attention to the details in the story.  We use all five of our senses to place ourselves in the story.  It can be a way that the Lord speaks to us through his Word.

For example, consider the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10.46-52 (NLT):

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

Read this several times over, paying more attention to the details each time.  Toward the end, ask the Lord, “Who am I in this story?”  And ask, “What do you want me to learn from my role in this story?”

It’s possible that the Lord Jesus might be asking you, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Sit with that question in the presence of the Lord.  Seek the boldness to ask it.

There’s nothing formulaic about this; we can’t command God’s presence.  But we can seek to broaden our experience of his Spirit in our lives as we read his Word.  Why not try using your holy, sanctified, God-given imagination as you do?

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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.  😦

Uncategorized

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.