Encouragement From The Word

Praying over your eggs

I was chatting with a friend yesterday who visited the southern United States while on a recent vacation.  One of the things on which she remarked was how she and her husband observed a young man purchasing a meal – a plate of eggs – and when he sat down with it, he bowed his head and prayed.

“That’s not something I see here,” she said, remarking about Canada, her homeland.  “I wish we saw more of that here.”

Pausing to ponder this idea, I suggested to her, “If you want to see more of that here, why not begin by praying over your own eggs?”

By that I wasn’t intimating that table graces might spark revival in our country.  But maybe it’s a place to start!

Michael Green was an Anglican pastor who had a great heart for evangelism.  He was known to say that too often, Christians are like people going through customs in the airport:  nothing to declare.

And yet we have much to declare, don’t we?

One of the challenges faced by followers of Jesus in our time is that our friends and neighbours look at us and see very little difference between us and them.  In one sense, that’s not bad – we don’t want to be seen as freaks, which would take away any opportunity for witness – but it’s also kind of sad, because followers of Jesus have something that our non-Christian friends and neighbours lack:  the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle Paul, a onetime Jewish Pharisee whom Jesus supernaturally brought to himself, was commissioned to bring the good news of salvation to the non-Jewish population of the known world at the time.  One of his passions was to remind God’s people that they are ambassadors for Jesus wherever they go, 24/7.

And he likened the saving grace we have received in Christ to a precious treasure, contained in jars of clay, fragile vessels.  Sometimes, to reach that treasure, the fragile jars must be broken.

By that I mean that when we pray over our eggs, when we bear witness to God’s love in Jesus, we are taking a risk.  It’s said that one never speaks about religion or politics in polite conversation, and the big problem with this is that we have lost the ability to have polite conversations about matters of religion and politics, each of which is an important part of being a citizen of this world.  

One way our witness can be strengthened is through having such conversations, with grace and truth, possibly opening doors to encourage others to love and serve Jesus.

And maybe – just maybe – it will all start by praying over your eggs.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4.7, NLT).

Biblical Messages

The Covenant of Grace: Why Infant Baptism is Biblical

Do you ever wonder if it is biblical to baptize children? In the Reformed tradition, we don’t believe it saves the child, but we do believe it places the child on the path toward profession of faith in Jesus, which does bring salvation. It’s based on Genesis 15, Genesis 17, Colossians 2 and Acts 2. You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.

Biblical Messages

Stumbling Block

In Romans 9.30-10.4, we see how the apostle Paul explained to the mostly Gentile church in Rome in the first century how the people of Israel had missed the point of their pursuit of God. It’s as if they were running a race (following the Law of the Old Testament) but had missed the finish line by going around it (missing out on the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus). And sometimes, church people who call themselves Christians do the same thing. What does that look like? We’ll learn in this message how that can happen, and how we can avoid it. The entire worship gathering is below, and just the message below that.

Biblical Messages

The Trouble Is With Me

As we come to the close of Romans 7, we gain a glimpse into the life and struggles of the apostle Paul, who admits in Romans 7.14-25 that he wants to do what is right, but his sinful nature keeps him from doing so.  However, as is highlighted in the message, just because a spiritual giant like Paul struggled doesn’t mean we can shrug our shoulders and give up the pursuit of holiness.  How do we deal with the interior struggle?  The message suggests some spiritual disciplines that may help us.

You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.

Encouragement From The Word

Dead to the law

In Romans 7.1 (NLT), the apostle Paul wrote something that might seem very strange on an initial, out-of-context reading:  “…don’t you know that the law applies only while a person is living?

Seems fairly obvious, doesn’t it?  I mean, I’m not going to care whether a traffic light is green, amber or red when my funeral procession is winding its way to the cemetery.  But all the drivers in that procession should care, because they don’t want to risk injury.  The law only applies while a person is living.

But Paul goes on to say that everybody who has faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord has died to the law: they no longer live under its reign.

That changes the picture a bit, right?  So Paul is telling us that if we have died with Christ through our faith in him, we have died to sin (see Romans 6), and therefore have also died to the tyranny of the law.

Does that mean we should ignore the law of the land?  Well, if we all did that, the number of traffic fatalities would skyrocket (among other things).

Does that means we should ignore the law of God?  There’s the rub:  when we become followers of Jesus, the Old Testament doesn’t fade away, and the Ten Commandments don’t cease to be applicable to our lives.  So what does it mean that we have died to the law?

Just as Paul said in chapter 6 that sin will not be our master, so it is true that the law shall not be our master.  Our goal is not perfectly to keep the law; our goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us.

How do we glorify God?  Well, Jesus tells us in John 14.15 (NLT), “If you love me, obey my commandments.” Since we live under grace and not under law, we have come into relationship with Jesus by his favour alone, and in that relationship, we demonstrate our love by following what he tells us to do.  So while we are dead to sin and the law, we are alive to God in Jesus, and in that relationship, we follow the law without fear of being judged for our imperfect ability to keep the law.  We are respectful of the law, but not enslaved to it.

There are some great ways to apply this, and I’ll be talking about that this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  You (and your face mask) are very welcome to join us at 10:00 a.m., or catch the service from the comfort of your home live, or on demand later.  The application may cause you to squirm a little!

Encouragement From The Word

Everything we need

Today’s Encouragement is a guest post from my friend, Adelle Lauchlan, who serves on staff at Uxbridge Baptist Church.  Enjoy! – Jeff+

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3a, NLT).

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that most people want to be useful, want to live a productive life, and that Christians want to live a life worthy of Christ’s call. So I find these words of Paul’s very reassuring.

But what are these things that we have been given that allow us to live a godly life?

Well, I think this is what they are:

  • We have the love of Christ, a love so great that he willingly died that we would be saved – it is a love that drew us to him, and it remains with us always.
  • We have the power of the Holy Spirit – we received it, as promised, when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
  • We have the gifts of the Spirit – those attributes that we share with other believers and which mark us as Christians.
  • We have the Word of God – left to us so that we would know his will for us.
  • We have the model of Christ and how he lived so that we would know how to live out God’s will.
  • We have the company of each other to encourage us in our walk and to help us when we stray.

And we have all these things because God is glory and excellence, and in his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. We live under the new covenant, sealed on the cross. Grace, God’s love and forgiveness, freely given.

Truly, everything we need! A precious promise!

And what are we asked to do in return? Respond in faith. Respond with faith. Faith is the foundation of this great promise. It is everything we need!

Thanks, Adelle!

Biblical Messages

Off to Faith we go…

We commonly see #blessed on our social media feeds, but what does that really mean?  That’s part of what we’ll learn in our time together in Romans 4.1-8.  The big idea here is that we are blessed not because we have earned righteousness, but because it is given to us.  Abraham is used as the example by the apostle Paul in this passage.

We can’t earn our salvation.  It has to be given to us.  And when we receive that which is given, we are truly #blessed!

Watch the whole broadcast below, or just the message portion below that.

 

 

Encouragement From The Word

Holy Gazing

Along with the somewhat more common spiritual practice called lectio divina, or holy reading, whereby we read a passage of Scripture a few times in order to hear from the Lord, there is also a less common spiritual practice called visio divina, or holy watching.  In this practice, we spend a protracted time gazing upon an image, likewise in order to hear from the Lord.

When we look upon an image, we may see something that prompts a memory, something that might encourage us to have a conversation with God.  The idea is certainly not to use the image as an object of worship, but to allow God to use it to speak into our lives in some way that will build our relationship with him.

Today, I’m encouraging you to spend a few minutes – as long as it takes – looking at this image.  Ask yourself these questions:

What stands out to me the most?

Is there a colour that quickens me in some way?

What emotions am I feeling as I look at this?

Then, pause, and offer your answers to these questions to the Lord.  Perhaps he wants to speak to you.  Even if you get no clear message, spend some time praising him, inspired by the image.

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“If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”  This is a large mural on the wall of the lower chapel at Magdala in Israel.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to him” (Psalm 24.1, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Raising the Bar

Sometimes, as a pastor, I prepare with a particular goal in mind and when I’ve finished preaching my message, I have found it does not come out quite as I had hoped.  Today was one of those days.  It was not a bad message at all; but I’m not sure it said all that I hoped it would say.  I may tackle the same passage next Sunday and see where that goes. But for now, here is the worship gathering from June 23, 2019 with a message, “Raising the Bar”, from John 13.31-38.  The message itself starts at 32:28.

Biblical Messages

Caught!

When the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery before Jesus, they were expecting a judgment.  What they got was quite different!  But there’s a twist to the way many people read this beloved story.  Watch or listen below to “Caught!”, based on John 8.1-11.

The LifeConnect Group discussion questions can be found here: 2018 11 18 lcg questions

Biblical Messages

Denied!

Preachers often take a passage like John 18.15-18, 25-27 and tell us, “Don’t do that!” They’re right, of course, but how can we put a positive spin on this?  What lesson can we learn from Peter’s denial that will encourage us in our faith?  Listen, or watch, and find out.

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Biblical Messages

Two Christmas Gifts

Jesus is the gift, as we say at Christmas, but he brought with him two gifts that are also xmas as a childfor us.  We learn about them in John 1.6-14.  Have a listen, or watch the Facebook Live feed below (no account needed).  And yes, that’s me at a young age pictured.

 

 

 

 

 

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Biblical Messages

SONGS OF L(AM)ENT: Cleft For Me

What does it mean to be hiding in the cleft of the Rock?  In this message, I draw the parallels between the hymn “Rock of Ages” and the story of Elijah on Mount Sinai in 1 Kings 19.1-18.  Give a listen, or watch it on the church’s Facebook page (for which you don’t need a Facebook account).

Facebook video:  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10211851455978980%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Biblical Messages

SONGS OF L(AM)ENT: My chains fell off

Today’s message focused on Romans 8.1-17 and the Charles Wesley classic hymn, “And can it be”.  Have a listen below, or check out the video on our church Facebook page.

 

Facebook link, available even to those not using Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10211781713035450%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

Uncategorized

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.  😦