Encouragement From The Word

Welcome home

In Ontario, it was announced this week that the mask mandate, put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, is being lifted as of March 21 in most settings.  This means that many people are thinking about resuming “normal” activities – things they did before the pandemic hit.

A lot of those activities will involve other people: being involved in community.

For those who walk with Jesus in faith, community is a significant part of our journey.  We engage in Christian fellowship through corporate worship; through participation in small groups for study, prayer and service; and through more casual means such as getting together for coffee with a friend or having people over for dinner.  

It will be nice to be able to resume these activities as we did before.

But did you know that community is also a spiritual discipline?

Very, very few Christians are called to be hermits.  They have existed over time, but they have been the exception to the rule.  In general, followers of Jesus are called to function in community.  This is true regardless of one’s state in life:  married or single, children or none; no matter our race or job or ability, we are called to function in community.

For some, this has meant living in intentional community, where believers live together under one roof, or in a commune-like setting, essentially becoming a church.  For many, though, functioning in community has meant living with one’s family, or alone, and engaging in community through the local church.

The word church, after all, literally means “those called out” – people called by God to faith in Christ, called to separate themselves for his Kingdom, called to do together what is either difficult or impossible to do alone.

It saddens me that these two years of restraint have, in a sense, cauterized some people: they have lost their sense of the value of community.  Church has become something they tune into on their computers, not people with whom they can ‘do life’ together.  They forget that the church is not the building, but the people.

If you follow Jesus, you are the church.  If you’ve been waiting for the “all clear” to be sounded, it looks like that signal is coming later this month.  See it as a call from God to be the church, to worship, study and serve with others who likewise are looking to Jesus as the Author and Finisher of their faith (Hebrews 12.1).

Welcome home.

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12.5, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Read on!

Most of you reading this find that there is value – great value – in reading the Bible. It is, as the Psalmist put it, a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119.105). It is God’s revealed Word in writing, the library of books in which we find God’s will for the human race, in which we find everything that can profit us for salvation.

Reading the Bible is good for your soul.

Do you also read the writings of those who have read the Bible and found their lives enriched by it?

There is a whole category of Christian literature entitled, ‘Spiritual Classics’. There are varying opinions as to what gets classified as a classic piece of spiritual literature, but the writings of many of those who have contributed toward the church’s understanding of God and of itself generally qualify. Think of people like Athanasius, Augustine, Benedict, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley. Rarely is an author considered a spiritual classic while still living, though one might argue in favour of Eugene Peterson today, or even A.W. Tozer 50 years ago.

Many of these authors can be found online, whether in free books or for purchase. A few, like C.S. Lewis, can usually be found in big-box bookstores. To find many of the others, you have to find a really good quality bookstore. There are few Christian bookstores left, but the better ones will carry classics. Many better general, mom-and-pop bookstores will keep some of these classic writers in their religion section.

There is a whole world of learning to be had at the feet of these great thinkers and writers, but most Christians simply don’t know they exist. Now you do!

If you sometimes struggle for devotional reading that challenges your spirit, consider adding one of the great classic Christian writers to your routine. You will find blessing from their words, and perhaps even a certain affinity, when you realize that these great men and women of the Christian faith had struggles and doubts and difficulties alongside the joys of life in Christ – just like we do.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12.1, NLT).