Encouragement From The Word

No pockets

A friend of mine relayed a story recently about Ray Stedman, a well-known American pastor from the 20th century.  He had flown to a speaking engagement (remember the good old days, when people actually flew places?), and the airline lost his luggage (we don’t miss that part!).  In that culture, preachers didn’t get up to speak without wearing a suit – and he didn’t have one, thanks to the airline.

Stedman asked his host what could be done, and the host pastor said he would arrange to get Stedman a suit in which to preach the next morning, making note of his measurements.

When the suit was delivered to the hotel, Stedman dressed, and tried to put his wallet in a pocket.  Much to his amazement, he realized the suit had no pockets in the jacket or even in the pants!

He mentioned this to his host pastor, who quickly admitted that the suit had been acquired from a local funeral home!

This was a suitable reminder for Stedman, as for us, that ‘you can’t take it with you.’

I’m often amazed at the stories I hear – and sometimes witness – about people wanting to be buried with some sort of treasure that mattered to them, whether money or things.  But they will do us no good in the afterlife. The only thing we can bring with us when we die, that will do any good, is faith.

As we are reminded when we sing the old hymn by Augustus Toplady, Rock of Ages, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling!”

So rather than filling our proverbial barns and buying more when they are full, we can invest in opportunities that will enable more people to carry faith into the afterlife.  The dividends paid by that will last for eternity.

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6.19-21, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Seize the day

This is not a favourite weekend for a lot of folks. This is the weekend that we “spring ahead”, time-wise: the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. If it seems early, remember that the dates for DST were broadened a number of years ago; we don’t “fall back” until November.

Losing an hour’s sleep is not fun for any of us. Historically, it also tends to be a low-attendance Sunday for churches – let’s buck that trend this year!

Yet what we lose in March, we gain in November. What goes around, comes around. What saddens me, though, is that often, I hear people wishing their lives away.

“Oh, I wish it were summer so I could go to camp.”

“Oh, I wish it were fall so I could go back to school.”

“Oh, I wish I were older so I could retire.”

In our wistful desire for achievement, or delightful experience, we want to hit the fast-forward button on our lives.

There is much value in the old Latin phrase which was the motto of my high school, and surely many other institutions: carpe diem. Seize the day.

There are many sides to this, of course. It’s possible to be very hedonistic about seizing the day, living only for our own pleasure in the moment. It’s also possible to focus on this world when seizing the day, living solely for this life and not for eternity. But it is possible to seize the day and live for eternity, too.

One way to do that is to avoid worry. Many people are given to worry, even though they know it does not one iota of good. What about tomorrow? What about next week? What about next year? There is no need to worry; God has plans.

Another way to seize the day and live for eternity is to live in the moment for the sake of eternity. By that, I mean that we can live every moment of every day with great vigour, and live for Jesus while we do so. We can enjoy life while enjoying our faith. By wishing away our days, we wish away our opportunities to sow seeds for eternity in others’ gardens.

Why not seize the day today, and live each moment for God’s glory?

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6.33-34, NLT).

Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead an hour before bed on Saturday night!

Encouragement From The Word, Israel 2013

Power and Affection

I’m writing  from my hotel room in Akka, Israel, not far from Mount Carmel – the site where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal.  My wife and I actually visited that site today.  Remarkable!

We’re part of a clergy study tour group, led by a friend and colleague of mine who has much experience and expertise in so doing; it was great for us to be able to get ourselves to the airport in Toronto and consign ourselves to his care, without a worry of our own, for the 8 days we will be away.

One of the things that I noticed right away on our flight was the disproportionate – though not surprising – number of Jewish people aboard.  It was the IMG_0932first day of Hanukkah, so presumably, some folks were coming to Israel to celebrate the Festival of Lights.  Several of our fellow passengers were Rabbis; it was fascinating to watch them rise with the sun (which happened early, since we were travelling eastward), put on their prayer shawls and phylacteries, and offer their morning prayers, facing Jerusalem.  There is a sense in which watching these men in their very public devotion and dedication encouraged me in my own “public display of affection” toward the Lord.  Of course, Jesus told us to pray in secret (Matthew 6.6), but too often, we offer no indication that we have a life-changing faith we practise.  How can you display your affection for God in these days?

When visiting Mount Carmel, I was reminded of the story in 1 Kings 18 of the time the prophets of Baal, a false god, were teaming up with Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen, to discredit Elijah and bring disrepute to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God showed his power by sending fire from heaven not only to consume an offering, but to soak up all the water that had been poured on and around it.  It really was a remarkable story, and a remarkable scene to stand at.  We were shown the place where Elijah killed those prophets.  The very spot where the showdown took place has been, for over 150 years, the site of a monastery, in an order named for its location:  a Carmelite community.  There still are monks there today.

What if we brought these two ideas together?  What if we displayed our affection for God through a demonstration of his power?  It wouldn’t have to be fire from heaven; it could be something as simple as loved shared where it seemed least likely, or a hand offered in the midst of a busy life.  It could also be something decidedly flashier, but it wouldn’t have to be – it would just need to be consistent with who you are in Christ and how you serve him faithfully.

So what power will God demonstrate through you?

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77.14).