Encouragement From The Word

The gift of time

February 5 has always been a special day for me.  It’s the birthday of the woman who gave birth to me!  I wish I could be with her to celebrate the completion of her 82nd trip around the sun, but the stay-at-home order we’re experiencing here in Ontario prevents that from happening.  So if you know my mom, feel free to phone her or inbox her with your own greeting!

I’m finding as I age that birthdays seem to get closer and closer together:  time passes quickly.  That may or may not be everyone’s experience, but that reality, for me, is a reminder of the precious nature of time.

God understands this; he is, after all, the Author of time.

There is much in the Bible that speaks to how we best may steward the time allotted to us in this world, even as we prepare for the world to come.  Consider these:

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3.11, NLT).

Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring” (Proverbs 27.1, NLT).

And this one – this one really stands out:

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90.12, NLT).

There are hundreds of others, but these give you the idea.  

How are you being a steward of the time God has given you?  With every breath, we acknowledge our Creator, whether we realize it or not.  Let’s choose to realize that, giving God praise with every breath we take.  Let’s choose to see time as a precious gift, enjoying the moments we have with those we love, and living in relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection are what gain us eternity.

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 (

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).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Celebrating good news

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the Challenger spacecraft that caused the death of several astronauts from NASA. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since that fateful day. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you first heard about it?

Remembering tragic events in history tends to be a generational thing, doesn’t it? People of a certain generation remember where they were when war was declared on Germany, or when John Kennedy was shot, or when the attack on the World Trade Center took place.

But do we remember where we were or what we were doing when we first heard about something good?

You know – like when you heard you were going to be a father, or a grandparent, or when you learned one of your children was engaged to be married, or when you got your acceptance to university or college – things like that. If you stop to think about it, you probably do remember these things, but all forms of media remind us of the global tragedies first. And, to be fair, they don’t know when you heard one of your children was engaged to be married, unless you were a prime minister, a president, or some sort of royalty.

But what about occasions like the driving of the last spike to create the first transcontinental railroad? (For the record, that spike was driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia, on November 7, 1885. Those of you who know me well wouldn’t be surprised I would remember that.) Or what about the day Newfoundland officially entered Confederation? (That one I had to look up: March 31, 1949.)

These ‘good news’ events are less often marked widely than the ‘bad news’ memories. And while ‘bad news’ history can serve to remind us not to repeat it, ‘good news’ history can inspire us to greater things.

Here’s an idea you can try with your family for remembering ‘good news’ events. Do you celebrate your (or your children’s) baptism dates? What about the anniversary of your public profession of faith? (Depending on your tradition, those two may be the same or different.) Why not celebrate them the way you would celebrate a birthday, by having cake and a party? Celebrating good news, and its memory, can strengthen faith, build families, and remind us that the world is not all about bad news.

Lord, throughout all generations, you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God….Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives” (Psalm 90.1-2, 14, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Remain Calm!

A lot of people, it seems, are worried about the Ebola Virus. I wouldn’t call it “mass hysteria” yet, but we are getting close to the need for a “remain calm” announcement!

There is much in the world that can cause harm; it has always been so. The realities of contemporary media mean we hear about it a lot sooner and more often than we used to. But in the midst of that which can harm, there is also that which can bless.

Worrying, of course, does nothing to help us or the situation about which we’re concerned; as Jesus told us, we can’t add to our lives by worrying (Matthew 6.27).

Whatever our concerns, know that we can give them to God and be assured of his care. The answer we receive, whatever it may be, may not be exactly what we ask for, but it can be part of God’s greater plan, which is too vast for us to know.

Take heart in these words from Psalm 90 (NLT), and be at peace.

Lord, through all the generations

    you have been our home!


Before the mountains were born,

    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,

    from beginning to end, you are God.


You turn people back to dust, saying,

    “Return to dust, you mortals!”


For you, a thousand years are as a passing day,

    as brief as a few night hours.


You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.

    They are like grass that springs up in the morning.


In the morning it blooms and flourishes,

    but by evening it is dry and withered.


We wither beneath your anger;

    we are overwhelmed by your fury.


You spread out our sins before you—

    our secret sins—and you see them all.


We live our lives beneath your wrath,

    ending our years with a groan.


Seventy years are given to us!

    Some even live to eighty.

But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;

    soon they disappear, and we fly away.


Who can comprehend the power of your anger?

    Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.


Teach us to realize the brevity of life,

    so that we may grow in wisdom.


O Lord, come back to us!

    How long will you delay?

    Take pity on your servants!


Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,

    so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.


Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!

    Replace the evil years with good.


Let us, your servants, see you work again;

    let our children see your glory.


And may the Lord our God show us his approval

    and make our efforts successful.

    Yes, make our efforts successful!

Encouragement From The Word

Lessons for us from the tragedy of VIA Train #92

I wrote a few weeks ago about how disturbing I find it to see transportation vessels in some position other than what is intended – such as the Costa Concordia lying half-submerged on its side in the sea.  As a railfan, you can imagine how disturbing I found it to see the accident involving VIA Rail Train #92 earlier this week.  Seeing FP40-2 locomotive #6444 lying down in the ballast on the engineer’s side was very disturbing, as was the loss of the three crew members’ lives.

Like many others awaiting the findings of the Transportation Safety Board, I was wondering, What could have caused this derailment?  After all, the weather was clear, it was a straight stretch, the track appeared to have been in good repair; the train was using a crossover to move from one track to another.  Then came the report:  the train was moving at 67 miles per hour, when the legal speed to move through a crossover is 15 miles per hour.  And no brakes had been applied.  Ouch.

There may be many unanswered and unanswerable questions surrounding this tragedy.  But there also may be lessons for us in our walk with God.

Slow down when you’re changing tracks.  The physics of how trains move through crossovers necessitate that it be a relatively slow movement compared with normal track speed.  For us, the emotion of significant change in our lives necessitates that it happen slower than the normal pace of life.  For example, when someone you love dies, you’re ‘changing tracks’:  let the process of grieving take its course, and don’t be afraid to let that happen slowly.  Or, if you are retiring, that means ‘changing tracks’ too; ease into it, and take the time to get used to the change.

Be aware that your movements are being recorded in the “black box”.  Unfortunately for this incident, the railways’ “black boxes” (which are orange!) don’t record voices in the cab, unlike aircraft “black boxes” which do.  Had there been an indication of what the two engineers and the trainee were talking about, it might have given the Transportation Safety Board some clues as to why the train was speeding through a crossover.  In our lives, however, nothing we do is truly kept in secret.  God, who is all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere, knows what we say and what we do at all times.  I don’t mean by this that we should view God as a “Big Brother” figure, or even a Santa Claus figure; no, God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent with a purpose of love.  He longs for us to be in constant conversation with him, and he is disappointed when what we do or say does not reflect the faith we profess.  And Scripture says that we will be judged at the end of time based on what’s in our “black box”, but that’s a judgment not for our salvation (which is based on faith), but for some other divinely intended purpose.

It may seem like a stretch to pull these thoughts from the tragedy of a train derailment, but they are meant to encourage us to pay careful attention to the details of our lives, that we may live them to God’s glory!

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90.12, NIV).