Encouragement From The Word

All about family?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the US.  Today is Black Friday.  This Sunday begins the season of Advent, as we count down the days to Christmas.

And we’re still in COVID.

Many people say – reinforced by countless television commercials aimed at selling you something neither you nor your loved ones need – that “The Holidays are about family.”

I’ve been saying for years that this statement misses the mark significantly.  And this is the year to find out if that’s true.

I’m astounded – nay, gobsmacked! – at the attitudes I see on social media with respect to the pandemic and family gatherings.  These days, I see photos of some of my American friends, gathered in large crowds for Thanksgiving, as if they are unaware of the risk that if even just one person in a gathering is carrying Coronavirus, the whole group could be infected.  Why are they taking this risk?  Because “the Holidays are about family.”

In other words, maintaining a tradition is more important than preserving life.

We are entering what is usually the most socially-packed month on the calendar.  This year, that may need to be handled differently.

This may be the year that you prove that the Holidays are not really all about family.

It is possible to be thankful without having The Whole Gang present in the room.

Christmas parties can take place virtually, or in physically distanced settings.

We can still celebrate the birth of Jesus when it’s just our own household.

I don’t want to pretend I’m anybody’s Medical Officer of Health, and I’m certainly not trying to engender fear in anyone.  We serve a God who is bigger than any virus!  But as Advent begins, I think this is the year we can demonstrate, once and for all, that the Holidays are not all about family.

In this year of craziness, let’s focus on the One (in the) Stable:  let’s remember the Reason for the Season.

Whatever shape your Advent and Christmas celebrations take, be safe.  And let Jesus be the Centre of it all.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15a, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Selfless Care

Technology wasn’t on my side today.  The whole service was recorded, but with no video!  So rather than have you watch a whole service with a black screen, I’ve opted to upload only the message, so you can listen to my talk called “Selfless Care” from Ruth 1.  It’s about the concept of covenant faithfulness, and how that can impact our lives as family members and as followers of Jesus.  Give a listen:

Biblical Messages

Peace with your family

How can we have peace with our families?  If there’s going to be a rip-roaring battle, that’s apt to be where it happens, for a whole lot of reasons.  Listen or watch below to learn how the Bible addresses this in Ephesians 6.1-4.

 

LifeConnect Group discussion questions are here:  2018 09 30 lcg questions

Encouragement From The Word

Language check

While my wife and I were camping at Bonnechere Provincial Park last month (after our visit to Fort-Coulonge, noted in last week’s Encouragement), we sat outside enjoying the campfire one evening, and couldn’t help but overhear a family’s engagement at a nearby campsite.  They weren’t super loud; the sound just carried naturally.

Sometimes, when we hear other people’s business going on at a campsite, it is unnerving, annoying, and often embarrassing.  But not this time.

This young family had some of the usual interlocutions over the course of the day, talking about going swimming or canoeing or the like.  And in the evening, the mom, dad and three kids sat around the campfire playing a conversational game (the rules of which we never quite caught on to, but which we enjoyed overhearing nonetheless).

What made it so astounding – and gratifying – for us is that each member of the family interacted with the other with the utmost care and respect.  Not in a weird way, just in what we all would hope to be a normal way.  We never laid eyes on any of them, but we would guess the parents to be in their late 30s or early 40s, and the kids to be mid-teen, early-teen and pre-teen (two girls and a boy respectively).  It was obvious that they were ‘normal’ people, but that they truly loved each other.

I suspect, too, that they may have been Christians.  I don’t know that for a fact, of course, but their conversation was so kind that it seemed like a wholesome Christian family.

What most astounded us was that even when exclamatory remarks were made, not once did God’s name get misused.  Not once.

We never heard an “Oh my God!” even one time, which is rare – dare I say, even rare among Christians!

This got me thinking:  how often do we blurt out an “OMG” without really realizing it?  If you watch television, you know that tossing God’s name around has become common sport; people don’t even think about it anymore.  While my instinct may be incorrect, I think the social acceptability of this may have begun with Bonnie Franklin’s character in One Day At A Time, an evening sitcom that was popular in the 1970s, who blurted out a prolonged “Oh my God” at least once or twice a show, with the laugh track ensuing.

The third commandment makes it pretty plain that such cavalier use of God’s name is not something his people should be making:  “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” (Exodus 20.7, NLT).

Many of God’s people don’t intentionally do this; for most who do, it’s reflexive, and not thought out.  Still, it is disturbing when followers of Jesus do this.  We should be careful with our choice of words, even when we’re frustrated or angry!

I want to encourage you today to do a language check:  if you’re spitting out even the occasional “OMG”, consider rephrasing your exclamations to honour the Lord you serve.  Be that family at the campsite near ours.  Be the person to whom people look appreciatively when you speak.  It honours the God you serve.

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

PRACTICAL LOVE: A cup of cold water

We sometimes misread passages of Scripture, don’t we?  I approached Matthew 10.37-42 expecting a different conclusion than the Lord gave me in it.  This message, surprisingly to me, came out as a call to discipleship and a call to take care of the family of faith.

Don’t stop five minutes in!  I’m not attacking the family…I promise.  Listen here:

Biblical Messages

THE MISSING PEACE: Peace with your family

Someone once said, “Everyone deserves a close, tightly-knit family…in another city.”  Family is often a source of conflict, because we often let down our guard with those closest to us.  So how can we know peace with our families?  Based on Psalm 133 and Ephesians 6.1-4, you can listen to the message and find out.  (By the way, the orange football was found…behind a stack of books in the pulpit!)