Encouragement From The Word

To love and serve

I was doing some research for a message this week, and I encountered a prayer-hymn. It struck me to the point I thought it would be worth sharing with you.

It was written by Richard Baxter, a 17th-century Puritan clergyman who wrote widely and deeply about Christian faith.  His seminal work is called The Reformed Pastor, which is worth reading even if you’re neither Reformed nor a pastor!  (Truth be told, he wrote it in response to The Country Parson, Anglican cleric George Herbert’s work on pastoral care.)

Background aside, I think you will find this a prayer worthy of your lips.  If you’d prefer to sing it, it’s set in Common Meter (8.6.8.6).

Lord, it belongs not to my care
whether I die or live:
to love and serve thee is my share,
and this thy grace must give.

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
than he went through before;
he that into God’s kingdom comes
must enter by this door.

Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
thy blessed face to see;
for if thy work on earth be sweet,
what will thy glory be!

Then shall I end my sad complaints
and weary, sinful days,
and join with the triumphant saints
that sing my Saviour’s praise.

My knowledge of that life is small,
the eye of faith is dim;
but ’tis enough that Christ knows all,
and I shall be with him.

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90.12, NRSV).

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Encouragement From The Word

Love extravagantly

Having written about the tragedy in Humboldt, Saskatchewan a few weeks ago, I was going to write today about the Southwest Airlines Pilot who successfully landed a plane with a non-working engine, a fan blade from which killed a passenger. Her testimony is remarkable.

But then someone decided to drive a van on a busy Toronto sidewalk on Monday.

Ten people were killed, and half again as many were injured.  What was most notable about this tragedy, if one can find any good in it, is the fact that one lone police officer managed to arrest the van driver, within minutes of the whole episode beginning, and without firing a single shot.

On Wednesday, I wrote to the congregation I serve to encourage us not to be afraid in the wake of this event, that the best thing to do is to trust in the Lord and push on.  Perhaps another point to emphasize as we continue to reel from this catastrophe is that it’s imperative for God’s people to be engaged in the lives of others, especially those who might seem unlovable.

The man who drove the van that killed ten innocent victims last Monday, according to research revealed online, was a troubled soul, and frustrated (for lack of a more sombre term) that he couldn’t get any dates with women.  It was this, apparently, that led him to run over that crowd of pedestrians – mostly women – and to want the police to kill him.

To be sure, there will be those who think that he should have been killed, but that was not the arresting officer’s mandate.  His mandate was de-escalation, which he performed in textbook fashion: weapon drawn, but not fired.  Now, hopefully, the driver can receive both justice and the help he needs.

What could have prevented this man from evenwantingto do something like run over people?  We may never know for sure, but I think it’s fair to say that experiencing more love would have helped.  We don’t know what his relationship is like with his parents or his wider family, and we don’t know if he has any kind of relationship with a church or with the Lord.

The lesson for us is to love our kids, and all people we encounter, with the love of Jesus. Who knows what difference our care could make in the life of another person?  Could our care save lives?

Possibly. What have we got to lose?

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love” (1 Corinthians 13.13b, The Message).

Encouragement From The Word

No Greater Love

For Christians in many traditions, this coming Wednesday marks a special day:  it will be Ash Wednesday.  And if you notice the calendar, it falls this year on February 14, which is also widely celebrated in western culture at Valentine’s Day.

When you were a kid, maybe your experience was a bit like mine.  My mother had me write out Valentines for each of my classmates.  After all, it was the right thing to do.  But did you feel, well, awkward about some of them?  Like they were going to be received as pregnant with meaning when they weren’t?

Love, as they say, is a many-splendoured thing.  And it is multi-faceted, like a beautiful diamond.  It can be possible to read too much – or too little – into an expression of human love.  A Valentine can be an expression of single-minded devotion, or it can be simply conforming to a cultural tradition.

Ash Wednesday inaugurates the season of Lent, a 40-day (note that Sundays are not included, since each Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection!) period of penitence and preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is a whole season that prepares us to receive the greatest gift of love – the greatest Valentine – ever offered.  There is nothing ambiguous about this Valentine.  Jesus only has one meaning for it – selfless, life-giving love.

You don’t need to celebrate Lent to value what Jesus has done for us.  But many people find it a helpful time to awaken their awareness of what God is doing in their lives.

This coming Wednesday, whether you receive the imposition of ashes or not, understand that the greatest Valentine you will ever receive has paid the price for your sins, has paved the way for eternal life to be yours.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command” (Jesus, John 15.14-15a, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Parenthood: Discipline

Parents aren’t always popular when they discipline their kids, but as we hear in this message, based on Hebrews 12.4-11 and several verses from Proverbs, discipline is an important part of parenting.  Have a listen below, or click the link below that to watch the message on Facebook (no account required).

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Biblical Messages

Good Cop/Bad Cop

Is the God of the Bible a God of love or a God of justice?  Yes.  And we see that underlined in the oft-ignored book of Nahum, chapter 1.  Have a listen below, or click the link at the bottom to watch the Facebook Live feed (no account required).

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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:

Encouragement From The Word

Lessons from Charleston

By now, you may have heard about the massacre in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, earlier this week. Shootings are always tragic, but when one happens inside a church building, all of us, even those who are not big fans of the church, are rattled by it.

Whatever would cause someone to engage in such a heinous act? Reports say that the shooter was an obsessive white supremacist, and that he truly hated black people.

Why? What causes someone to develop this? Racism isn’t a genetic trait; it’s learned. And in this case, it was costly to many families, and very costly to one church family.

There are many instructive points for us in this terrible story, but perhaps one that hits close to home is the importance of having healthy, engaged community surrounding our children and youth, starting in the home.

Parents, grandparents and other relatives, surround your kids with love and encouragement. Let them see that, just as in God’s eyes, all people have value. True, all of us are fallen, broken sinners, but we are still all made in the divine image and carry intrinsic value as a result.

Parents, grandparents and other relatives, teach your kids that violence is not the way of Jesus. While we in Canada don’t have the same kind of ‘gun culture’ that exists south of the border, there is, nevertheless, an unnecessary degree of violence that takes place, often among youth, and frequently in our cities. Help your kids learn that dialogue and conversation are more useful tools than guns or knives.

Parents, grandparents and other relatives, model for your kids the love with which God has showered you. Children and youth want to know, above all, that they are deeply loved. We all want to know, above all, that we are deeply loved! You are deeply loved by God, and that enables you to love others. It is hard to love when we do not know that we are loved. Tell your kids you love them. Tell your kids that God loves them. Prove it with your actions.

And pray for the people of Charleston, South Carolina – for the church family at Emanuel AME Church, for the families left behind, and for those whose hearts are hard enough to kill because of colour.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3.1, NIV).