Encouragement From The Word

Gentle influence

One of the delights of being on a pilgrimage that includes some people you don’t know is that you have the opportunity to get to know them while travelling. So one day, when someone I didn’t know was sitting across the aisle on the bus from me, I said, “Tell me a story.”

Among the things this young woman told me was how she got involved in the congregation in which she participates. Much to my delight, it was through the gentle influence of a mutual friend.

This friend would care for her children, and would invite the kids to sing Bible songs and learn Bible stories while in her care. And as time went on, and it seemed appropriate, she would make soft invitations – to church events, to fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, to come to Christmas services, then Easter services, and then, well, she got involved whole-hog!

A whole family came to know Jesus because of the kind words and simple invitations of a Christian who cared.

Think of the gentle influence you may have…and think of the people over whom you might have it!

…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).

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Biblical Messages

So you think you can see?

Jesus said that the Pharisees were guilty because though they had sight, they refused to see.  So often, people lack self-awareness, like the Pharisees did.  The man born blind, on the other hand, saw Jesus for who he truly was.  Based on John 9.35-41, you can watch or listen to this message below.  I apologize for my pre-pubescent, raspy voice.

Encouragement From The Word

The Saviour…all year

I hope you enjoyed a blessed Christmas!  This week between Christmas and the new year is always a nebulous week for me.  For pastors, it’s a time of recovery from what is often a lot of worship celebrations in a short period of time (five in three days for me…but I knew that when I signed up!).  For families, it’s a balancing act between visiting relatives and keeping kids from being bored or fighting with their siblings; now that Christmas is over, “naughty or nice” has gone out the window for some children!  For some people, it’s a heavy travel time, with highways busy and airports crowded. And for some of us, the week gets clouded even more because our birthdays fall during that week.  (Mine happens to be today.)

Too often, amid all that, the Reason For The Season gets left behind.  Christmas helps us to focus on Jesus as our Saviour.  But if we’re not too careful, as time goes on, Jesus gets relegated to a lesser place than he deserves.

In my message this Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’m going to say something I think bears repeating more widely.  I’ll quote Old Testament scholar John Oswalt, who said, “When we think the solution to our problems is to be found within ourselves, we are liable to think of God as an assistant or a fall-back device.” And in this state, we think we do not need a Saviour. We may need a teacher or a friend, but we do not need a Saviour.  That’s why, in part, Christmas has become this strange combination of consumerism and romanticism.

Jesus has become ancillary to the celebration of Christmas, because the concept of a Saviour seems unnecessary.  We, as the church, will be used by God to turn that around, because humanity is in deep need of a Saviour, in deep need of the Saviour, the one who is called Jesus the Christ, who came to save us from our sins.  We may be saved by grace, but we still sin (well, at least, I do).

So, as the memory of Christmas services fades into the past for another year, and a new year stands on the horizon, let me encourage you to keep Jesus’ place as Saviour in the forefront.  Remember that you need him as Saviour.  Remember that your loved ones who are far from God need him as Saviour.  Remember that “this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16, NLT).

I wish you a happy and blessed new year.  And may you know the delight of Jesus as your Saviour all year.

Encouragement From The Word returns on January 11.

Biblical Messages

Father Abraham

Remember how Dana Carvey, the American comedian, used to have a character called “the Church Lady”?  Everything bad was Satan’s fault, in her eyes.  But did you know that Satan can even use God’s people to accomplish his ends?  Jesus demonstrated that to his Jewish interlocutors in John 8.42-59, and we learn how to apply it in the message, which you can listen to or watch below.

Will you do me a favour?  Let me know if you actually prefer to listen to the message rather than watch it on YouTube, because I’m considering no longer making a special audio recording of the message, now that we are videoing it.  Thanks.