Encouragement From The Word


Rest:  it’s important.

We all know it’s important.

Yet too few of us take time for real, significant rest.

We live in a time when the culture values busyness, almost as a badge of pride.  “How are you?” someone will ask.  “Oh, I’m great.  Really busy,” we reply.

A while back, I saw a meme online that showed the image of a cellphone battery in the ‘red zone’ – less than 10% power remaining.  It said, “You’d never let this happen to your phone.  Why do you let it happen to yourself?”

We are a society of the dangerously tired.  We so tightly schedule our own lives – and those of our children – that we leave little margin for God to work in our lives, or for us to notice God’s work in our lives.  We need rest.

The Bible follows an “order of creation” model for teaching us about the value of rest by suggesting that because God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, we, too, should take one day a week for rest and re-creation.  Every week.  Yes, every week.

Many of us think that would be impossible to do, but it wouldn’t be impossible.  We just have to undertake the hard work of prioritizing what matters in our lives.

As I’ve said before, in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus.  Work does not prepare us for eternity.  Sports do not prepare us for eternity.  But worship and rest do prepare us for eternity.

Eternity is a long time.  Don’t you think that which prepares us for eternity deserves top priority?

Christians traditionally take Sunday as their day of rest, because it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.  And it is from that day of rest and worship that we are able to have the energy to undertake all that the coming week holds.

I know that not everyone is able to take Sunday as a rest day in our secular culture.  But if you can’t take Sunday every week, at least take a day somewhere in there.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20.8, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word is taking an eight-week hiatus while I take a long-planned and much-needed Sabbatical.  This weekly email will return on Friday, November 29, 2019.

Encouragement From The Word

Investing in eternity

Each morning this week at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we’ve welcomed some 50 children to our vacation Bible camp, ‘Camp WannaKnowGod’.  As we come to our last morning, everybody’s a bit tired out, but we’ve done this work with joy.  Why?

Because we’ve been investing.

In one sense, these five mornings have been like a whole year of Sunday kids’ ministry crammed into 15 hours.  No wonder everybody’s tired!  But we carry on because we are investing…in the spiritual lives of 50 kids.

All the time, money, creativity, and effort that have gone into making this week possible have had but one motive: to help this group of children entrusted to us have a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.

These kids could be at soccer camp or at the cottage or at Canada’s Wonderland, but they are with us.  And we express our gratitude by investing in them.

Because, after all, in 100 years, it won’t matter how good they are at soccer.  It won’t matter how much time they spent at the cottage.  And it definitely won’t matter how many roller coasters they’ve ridden.  The only thing that will matter in 100 years is what they did with Jesus.

Some of my earliest Christian memories are of a vacation Bible school, which was done in the form of a musical called “A 100% Chance of Rain”, about Noah and the flood. I was probably around 5 or 6 years old. While that was not a “give my heart to Jesus” time, I’m sure the Lord used it to prepare my heart for the time when I would trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

This week, our prayer is that these children would know Jesus.  And if not through us this week, then in the future, when someone else’s ministry leads them to faith, and our investment will pay eternal dividends for the children.

We also hope to invest in the parents, equipping them with resources that will help them nurture faith in Jesus.  After all, they have a lot more hours to invest in their kids than the church does!

How are you investing in children – either as a parent, or as a part of the church?  It’s an investment in eternity where others reap the benefits, and God gets the glory.

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

No foolin’!

I’ve never been a fan of pranks, whether on April 1 or any other day.  I enjoy a good laugh as much as anyone else does, but not at the expense of others’ dignity.  Good, creative April Fool jokes can be most enjoyable.  I read Model Railroader magazine each month, and the creative staff at Kalmbach Publishing do an outstanding job of finding new ways to trick readers.  (This year, it was a product review of a tower and depot kit from “Seed Scale Models”.  In the box was a pine cone and some acorns!  I wonder how long people were strung along by that one?)

Our culture suggests that anybody who falls for a prank on April 1 is a fool.  But the Bible defines a fool differently.  It says:

Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14.1a, NLT).

Richard Dawkins and company may work tirelessly in an attempt to discredit Christian notions of God, but atheists come and go as they have come and gone for centuries.  The Word of the Lord stands forever, and ultimately, we will find out in eternity who “wins”.

I’m putting my bets on God, made known in his Son Jesus Christ, and in his Word in Scripture.  If I’m wrong, I’ve lost nothing.  But if I’m right, I will gain eternity.  With that in mind, I’d rather be a fool for Christ in this life than a fool who says there’s no God.

How about you?

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Know where you’re going

Happy new year! I hope that 2016 has gotten off to a great start for you.

This past week seems to have been a big week for the passing of famous people. I must admit that I don’t pay a lot of attention to famous people, but one’s use of the Internet seems to make them a trifle hard to ignore.

I was especially intrigued by a quotation from David Bowie, who died this week, who apparently said this: “I don’t know where I am going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.

I’m sure many people found that humorous, in that in this life, David Bowie made sure it was never boring. What saddens me is that he had no sense of what his future destiny was. “I don’t know where I am going from here.” Isn’t that sad?

The whole of the Christian life is not just about “knowing where we’re going”, but the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ certainly includes that. In fact, “knowing where we’re going” is, in part, our impetus to share our faith, and to make a difference as Jesus would have us make in the world.

“Knowing where I’m going” is a big reason I’m not afraid to die. That’s probably true for you, too. But not everybody understands this. Let me encourage you to live your life in Christ in a way that makes others long to have the same confidence you have in where you’ll spend eternity. Because eternity is a long time, and I want everybody to experience ‘forever’ in the presence of the Lord. Don’t you?

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” (John 14.1-7, NLT)

Encouragement From The Word

Priorities, in light of eternity

Sometimes, we say things inadvertently, without words. And sometimes, we give a message by what we do or don’t do, or by what we say or don’t say. Let me give you an example.

Last Sunday in my message, I was talking about having peace with one’s family. In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul talks about the importance of treating one’s children well, and helping them to know the Lord. One way we do that is by giving our kids a theology.

When we tell our kids that they have multiple choices in their activities, that they can stay home and play video games, watch TV, or go to soccer practice or hockey practice or whatever, and tell them that they also can go to youth group (for example), what we’re saying to our kids is that each of these activities matters equally.

I’ll bet you didn’t think of that, did you?

That’s why it’s important to look at what we do with our kids, or how we order our own lives, in light of eternity. After all, which of those listed activities is apt to have the greatest impact on your kids in light of eternity?

Those activities are not all equal, are they?

When we look at activities we do, or that our children do, in light of their eternal impact, it helps us order our priorities even better. I’m not saying that hockey and soccer are bad, or even that video games or TV are bad (though we should be careful with those!), but there are activities that are better. Always choose the better for yourself, and help your kids do the same.

They may not thank you for it today, but down the road, they will.

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22.6, NLT).

Defending the faith

How do you invest in others?

How do you invest in others?

This question is on my mind right now, as I have been spending some time preparing a brief lecture for a group of students at Tyndale Seminary that I will present next Wednesday evening.  The topic is “clergy self-care”, about which I have a fair bit of experience, both positive and negative.  I look forward to sharing my experience and insights with these people from varying backgrounds who will be out in the field as pastors themselves before too long.  I look forward to helping them learn from my mistakes!  Sharing what I’ve learned along the journey of twenty-plus years of ministry is a great way to invest in others.

I seek to do the same with the good people of St. Paul’s, Nobleton each Sunday, and through the week, in every aspect of my ministry.  Whether it’s a message or a prayer during worship, a chat at Tim’s, the post office or the study, or even at a meeting – my goal is to invest in people so that their walk with the Lord may be enriched somehow.

So how do you invest in others?  One way you can do that is through a simple invitation to worship.  A few times a year, the Outreach Team at St. Paul’s does its best to make that easier for our gang by sending mailers out to the community.    (One side of this Easter’s postcard, thanks to lifechurch.tv, is pictured.)

What we’re sending out isn’t so much an invitation to come to church at Easter, though the timing of it is quite intentional that way:  I find that beginning a new series – one that should be of interest to the community – on a ‘major’ Sunday like Easter not only attracts attention for Easter itself, but also for the whole series.  This year’s Easter season series is on marriage – “Take A Vow”.  (If you’re wondering how I’m going to tie a message on marriage to the resurrection of Jesus, well, you’ll have to show up to find out!)  Rest assured that this series is not just for married people.  It’s for everybody, including those who have never been married, were married and aren’t anymore, and everybody else.  There will be a challenge and a word of encouragement for all people in this series (even if your marriage wasn’t or isn’t all you’d hoped it would be.)

I hope you’ll find this mailer to serve as good ‘support’ for you as you invite your friends to worship at St. Paul’s for Easter or any other Sunday.  It will be distributed to all households in Nobleton, the rural routes north of town, and some of the homes in Schomberg.  If you invite a friend who receives it, each will reinforce the other and the possibility of your friend attending will be greater.

If you find it difficult to invite a friend to church, ask God to give you the courage and the strength to do it, and see it as an investment in eternity for your friend.  Many people have found their lives changed through one simple invitation to worship.  I know you can do it!

Encouragement From The Word

Life is temporary

The horrific accident that occurred earlier this week northeast of Stratford, in the village of Hampstead, Ontario, has served to remind us that life is fragile – and temporary.  Eleven lives were lost in an instant.  Many families are devastated.

The word ‘temporary’ itself suggests something that has to do with time.  It means “to last a short time”.  We may think of our lifespan as being something more than temporary, but on God’s eternal timeline, our lives each take up but a small dot.  In the Grander Scheme Of Things, we don’t take up much space.  Yet, in what time we do have on this earth, we make an impact.  We matter to people.  Much more do we matter to God!

God cares deeply about our every breath, even if the span of our lives is but a dot on God’s timeline.  Too often, though, we live as though we figure we’re going to live forever, don’t we?  This, despite some of our peculiar sayings, such as, “He’s driving that car like there’s no tomorrow” (meaning that the driver was going too quickly or recklessly).  Life is temporary.

People who move beyond middle age often begin to realize this, and they evaluate their lives – which sometimes results in the creation of a “bucket list” – a list of things these people want to do before they die.

There’s nothing wrong with having a “bucket list”, but when it focuses on things that are, like life itself, temporary, the bucket list itself becomes somewhat vapid.  For instance, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go zip-lining before you die.  In fact, it might be kind of fun – but it is decidedly temporary.

What if we really understood the temporary nature of this life, and decided to do things that, instead of impacting a few minutes now, actually made a difference for eternity?

Starting with ourselves, it means making sure that our own accounts are settled with God.  As yourself:  Am I engaged in a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?  Am I serving him with a community of believers and their children?  Have I received the grace that God longs to pour out upon me?

Then move to your loved ones:  Have I encouraged my children, my family, my friends to walk with the Lord, even as I do?

Beyond that, consider:  Do I engage in acts of service that will help God’s kingdom come on earth, just as it is in heaven?

An horrific accident like the one in Hampstead shows us how quickly life can be taken away.  Let’s live each moment we have investing in eternity.  We don’t know when eternity may become our now!

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90.12, NLT).