Encouragement From The Word

The gift of Sabbath

That our current social situation has occurred in the season of Lent is no small irony to me.  For many, though not all, Christians, Lent is a season for sacrifice and penitence, often symbolized by “giving something up” for these forty days.

And globally, we’ve been forced to give up quite a lot!

While many are still working, either from home or as those engaged in what are deemed essential services, one thing that has been taken from us is ordinary social engagement.

We who are introverts may be saying, “I was made for this!”, but with perhaps a few exceptions, even we who gain energy by being alone are finding this time particularly trying.  It’s as if being told we can’t do something makes us want to do it anyway.

I haven’t left town for a week now, but as I look at photos online, the streets and highways are nearly empty.  Malls are closed.  Restaurants, save for take-out and delivery, are abandoned.  Sports and concert venues are now echo chambers.  It’s kind of eerie.

Amid all this, though, we are hearing reports that air quality in many densely populated cities is improving.  Water quality is changing for the better.  The world appears to be healing in ways it never would have without the spread of Coronavirus.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that Coronavirus is a good thing; not at all!  But if there can be any good seen coming from it, the environment may be it.  But there’s more.

When God made the world, the Genesis account says that he made it in six days, and rested on the seventh.  Even in creation, there was Sabbath.

But our society, especially over the past 75 years, has been on a steep trajectory away from Sabbath.  Businesses flourished, stores opened on Sunday, and busyness was considered a badge of honour.

Now, we’ve been placed in a position where, for the most part, Sabbath is not optional.  We can’t go out with others.  We can’t go to concerts.  We can’t take our kids to their hockey practices.  We’re stuck…with the people with whom we live, be it family or friends or even strangers.

It’s like we’re being forced to stop and breathe.  And that’s a good thing.

We don’t know how long this season of restraint will continue, but perhaps a good question for us to consider is this:  will we learn something from it?

Certainly, this time is a gift to our immediate families (however they may be defined economically – that is, by household) as we are given the gift of time to reconnect with them.  It’s also a gift of time wherein we may reconnect with God.

In times like this, people who might otherwise have not given any thought to the Divine are turning the thoughts and hearts toward God – the God who made the world and rested.

This is a time of Sabbath.  Embrace it.  Rest with your family, rest in the Lord.

And carry that into your future, whatever it may hold, when we are free to resume whatever may be called ‘normal’.  Let it be a new normal – if not for others, at least for you.

…enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day” (Isaiah 58.13b, NLT).

By the way, if you don’t have an online church home in these days, you are welcome to join the online community with St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on Facebook Live, or for replay anytime on our YouTube channel.

 

Encouragement From The Word

Rest

Rest:  it’s important.

We all know it’s important.

Yet too few of us take time for real, significant rest.

We live in a time when the culture values busyness, almost as a badge of pride.  “How are you?” someone will ask.  “Oh, I’m great.  Really busy,” we reply.

A while back, I saw a meme online that showed the image of a cellphone battery in the ‘red zone’ – less than 10% power remaining.  It said, “You’d never let this happen to your phone.  Why do you let it happen to yourself?”

We are a society of the dangerously tired.  We so tightly schedule our own lives – and those of our children – that we leave little margin for God to work in our lives, or for us to notice God’s work in our lives.  We need rest.

The Bible follows an “order of creation” model for teaching us about the value of rest by suggesting that because God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, we, too, should take one day a week for rest and re-creation.  Every week.  Yes, every week.

Many of us think that would be impossible to do, but it wouldn’t be impossible.  We just have to undertake the hard work of prioritizing what matters in our lives.

As I’ve said before, in a hundred years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus.  Work does not prepare us for eternity.  Sports do not prepare us for eternity.  But worship and rest do prepare us for eternity.

Eternity is a long time.  Don’t you think that which prepares us for eternity deserves top priority?

Christians traditionally take Sunday as their day of rest, because it was the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.  And it is from that day of rest and worship that we are able to have the energy to undertake all that the coming week holds.

I know that not everyone is able to take Sunday as a rest day in our secular culture.  But if you can’t take Sunday every week, at least take a day somewhere in there.

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exodus 20.8, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word is taking an eight-week hiatus while I take a long-planned and much-needed Sabbatical.  This weekly email will return on Friday, November 29, 2019.

Encouragement From The Word

Rest on your long weekend

Where I live, this weekend heralds the unofficial start of summer:  the Victoria Day long weekend.  The major north-south highway that is just a few kilometres from here will be plugged with vehicular traffic making its way to and from the cottages that populate the many lakes of what Ontario calls “Cottage Country”. People will be breaking out the shorts and the sandals, irrespective of the weather.  But opening up the cottage can be a fair bit of work.  There’s cleaning and raking and so many other little tasks that need to be done in order for enjoyment to take place.

Many people, though, will stay home, preferring to mark the long weekend with yard improvements and maintenance.  This is the time when nurseries and home renovation stores do a booming business.

Here’s a question to ponder:  how often does a long weekend, for you, include rest?  The idea behind statutory holidays is to give workers time off from their paid labour, to be sure; but whether or not we include time off from our unpaid labour is our own responsibility.

As human beings, we were created not for constant work, but for a cycle of work and rest.  When God made the world, he made it in six days, and rested on the seventh.  This is not so much a scientific statement as it is a theological statement:  the God of the universe, who is all-powerful, so believes in the value of rest that he himself took a day off.

So why wouldn’t you?

We live in a culture that values busyness.  But the church, we are reminded, is called to be counter-cultural.

By all means, enjoy your cottage, enjoy your back yard, enjoy whatever this weekend holds for you…but take one day off from things that mustbe done.   I recommend that day be Sunday, so you can worship God in community and share fellowship with others.  See you in church!

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him” (Psalm 62.1, NIV).

Encouragement From The Word

Looking at all four legs?

Leadership expert John Maxwell tells the story of why animal trainers go into a cage of lions carrying whips, pistols and stools.  Why stools?

Apparently, the trainer holds the stool by the back, and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal.  It tries to focus on all four legs at once, and in that attempt, a sort of paralysis overwhelms the animal.

It becomes tame, weak and disabled, because its attention has been fragmented.

Does that sound just a wee bit familiar?  It does to me, that’s for sure.

I keep myself busy, without a doubt, as I’m sure you do.  And at times, I consider whether I should stop doing something, but when I do, I realize that if I did stop something, I would likely just pick up something else in its place.

We have accustomed ourselves to doing something all the time.  There can be value in that, but only up to a certain point. Each of us needs margin in our lives.

If you’ve been looking at all four legs on that stool, and you feel paralyzed, it’s time to stop and re-evaluate.  What could you give up to build more margin into your life?  Sometimes, we need to give up something good, something very good, in order to have time for that which will make usbetter, not least of which is time with the Lord.

Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46.10, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Sin and Sabbath

There are varying opinions among followers of Jesus as to what one should do with the concept of Sabbath.  In John 5.1-15, we see the Sabbath Police at work, and Jesus connection sin and sickness.  What on earth can we do with these concepts?  Watch below and find out how the Holy Spirit invited me to draw them together.  (Sorry, no audio-only file this week.)

 

 

Encouragement From The Word

Don’t let your clock wind down

We live in a world that never sleeps, don’t we?

It used to be that we’d refer to New York as “the city that never sleeps,” but it seems like the whole world is that way now.  And it’s rubbing off on us: we’re working long hours, wasting our time getting worked up over pointless things, and not getting enough rest.

Someone once likened the human body to a seven-day wind-up clock.  (Last week I wrote about a watch that ticked; today, it’s about a clock that needs winding!  Watch for next week’s instalment, where we talk about sundials!)  Yes, back in the day, clocks needed to be wound or they would not keep time. If the winding ritual were to be neglected, the clock would run down and stop completely.

Taking a day of rest – a Sabbath of some sort – is like winding the clock of your body, mind and spirit.  We can’t work constantly and expect to keep our health at any level.  And by “work”, I’m referring not only to your ‘day job’, but also to anything that saps joy from you.

Unless you’re a pastor, it’s hoped that you can take Sunday as your Sabbath rest day. For a long time, it was assumed that you couldn’t do anything fun on the Sabbath; if we adhere ourselves to the ceremonial laws of Leviticus, that’s true.  (Of course, if we adhere to those laws, we should be taking Saturday off, not Sunday – but we are an Easter people, and we celebrate the Lord’s Day!)

Take time on your Sabbath for worship, for rest, and for doing that which gives you life. But above all, take time for Sabbath. Don’t let your clock wind down.

This Sunday, I’m going to be talking about the importance of Sabbath (and its connection to sin).  You can join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, watch the message on Facebook Live, or catch it later on my blog or on YouTube.

It may be summer, but it doesn’t always feel like a time of rest.  Honour God and yourself by taking time for Sabbath.  Don’t let your clock wind down.

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 5.12, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

I heard the watch ticking

Donald Grey Barnhouse once told the story of a man who operated an ice house and lost his watch in the sawdust.  (You know it’s an old story when it’s talking about keeping ice cool with sawdust!)  He wanted his watch back badly, and offered a reward to anyone who could find it.  Many people went through the sawdust, by hand and with rakes, but to no avail.

A young boy went into the ice house after all the searching was done, and he came back out with the watch.

How did he find it?

“I just lay down in the sawdust and listened, and finally I heard the watch ticking.”

You may not have lost your watch, but in the busyness of life, you may be missing something else:  your body and soul may be out of sync.  Your relationship with God may be off the rails.  Your spiritual disciplines may be not all you wish they were.

With kids out of school and summer finally here, perhaps this is your opportunity to lay down in the sawdust and hear the watch ticking.  Maybe now is the time to let your body and soul catch up with each other, to re-rail your relationship with God, to beef up your spiritual disciplines.  You have the chance to gain some rest…in the Lord.

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Jesus, Matthew 11.28, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

That’s the question the Lord asked Elijah in 1 Kings 19 – twice:  in verses 9 and 13.

The prophet had just defeated the prophets of Baal and brought rain to a land of drought, and for his trouble, the king’s wife, Jezebel, wanted his head on a platter. He was sick of the race.  So he ran away, and this was God’s response:  “What are you doing here?”

It’s a good question for each of us to ask ourselves – perhaps not about the room we’re sitting in at this very moment, but about our stage in life.  And there are different ways we can ask it.

We can ask ourselves, “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?”

Notice the different emphasis each time the question is asked.  There is an ancient Christian practice called the examen, where typically at the end of the day, we review the day in God’s presence and examine our conscience and consciousness.  Perhaps God’s question to Elijah, with these different emphases, might be one way to frame a review of the day.

Besides asking important questions about life, this practice also forces us to pause, which is not easy for all of us.  Give it a try today.

Elijah was sick of the race, but he knew he needed more of God.  So the Lord revealed himself to Elijah – not in the windstorm, not in the earthquake, not in the fire – but with the sound of a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19.12).

Pause long enough to hear that gentle whisper, be renewed, and know what you are doing here!

Encouragement From The Word returns on September 2.

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

From Judgment to Rest

“Come to me, all you who are weary…and I will give you rest.”  Many are familiar with these words of Jesus, but do we realize what their context is?  The section right before Jesus utters these words unique to the Gospel of Matthew finds him condemning entire communities where he and his miracles were well known, but the response was underwhelming.  The key question in this message is, “How will you witness for Jesus?”

Based on Matthew 11.20-30 in The Message, you can listen to the message here:

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Songs in the Key of Life: 5. God Is Gone Up

On this Ascension Sunday, we looked at 2 Samuel 6.1-15 and Psalm 47.  The Samuel passage gives the original-context background for the Psalm, and the Psalm is also one commonly associated with Jesus’ ascension.  (I’ve had this anthem by Gerald Finzi running through my head all week.)

Have a listen to the message (and my muted rant on political correctness therein!):

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

The older you get…

I used to hear people say this years ago when I was a child, and I never quite understood it.  Now, I think I do.

The older you get, the faster time seems to move.

I am astounded that tomorrow is the last day of April, 2016.  That will bring to completion the first third of the year.  Last Christmas seems like yesterday – but it wasn’t!  Perhaps it comes with busyness, perhaps with age, but either way, the clock seems to tick faster these days.

So I’m led to ask myself, and you:  What are you doing with this time?

We all know each day is a gift; this is especially true for those who have lost loved ones.  The value of keeping short accounts is magnified when we come to realize that the time we have with others may be limited.

Likewise, we do well to be good stewards of our time.  Often, when we think about stewardship as followers of Jesus, it’s in the context of the wise use of the material wealth with which the Lord has blessed us, or maybe the care and conservation of the environment, the world God made.

But time?  That’s a gift to be stewarded as well.  Think about the number of hours we have in each week:  168.  If we spend 56 of them sleeping, 10 of them eating, 7 of them in the Necessary Room, 45 of them working, and 10 of them driving to and from work, that leaves us with 40 waking hours to do other things.  How can we be good stewards of those 40 hours?  Here are a few ideas.

Build your spiritual life.  As has been famously said, in 100 years, the only thing that’s going to matter is what you did with Jesus, so prioritize those 40 hours (and maybe some of the others, while you’re at it) building your spiritual life.  Make worship with the church and personal or family worship a priority.  Take time each Sunday to worship in community and spend time in fellowship with other followers of Jesus.  Be part of a small group of some sort that deepens that fellowship and involves some less formal study time.  Read Scripture, pray, and engage in other spiritual disciplines daily.  Use the time you’ve been given to enrich your relationship with the Giver of time.

Build your family life.  If you’re married and/or have children, prioritizing your spiritual life is the biggest favour you can do for your family, but the next thing you should do is deepen the relationships you share with those closest to you.  If you’re single, that can involve spending time with close friends.  Do things together.  Talk together, without competition from technology or television.

Rest.  In a world where the addiction to work (or even play) is not yet seen as a problem, rest is often frowned upon, but we all need it.  God set the example in creation where he looked at all he had made in 6 days, pronounced it good, and set aside the other day for rest.  Rest isn’t something we do just when we’re sleeping.  Remember, the word ‘recreation’ can be hyphenated to ‘re-creation’.  When we rest, we are re-created, rejuvenated, made ready for the week that is ahead of us; that’s why having a day of rest at the beginning of the week is so wise.  (Ever wonder why Sunday is on the left side of most calendars?)  Work from your rest, not toward it.

Of course, there can be overlap in all of these, can’t there?  We can build our spiritual lives and our family lives as part of our rest – but we should set aside some of that rest for personal renewal.  There’s no single formula for all this, so I encourage you pray about how the Lord would have you be a good steward of the time he has given you.  Hold your calendar before God as an offering.  Let the Lord speak to you as you seek to make priorities in your life.  After all, we think our time is our own, but in reality, time is in his hands.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3.1, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Be Still

I’ll bet you’ve had a busy week.  So have I.  So here’s what I’ve prescribed for myself, and I hope it’s of encouragement to you, too.

Just take five minutes – five whole minutes – to sit in God’s presence.  Pay attention to your breathing, and read these two small verses several times:

Be still, and know that I am God!

I will be honoured by every nation.

I will be honoured throughout the world.

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

The God is Israel is our fortress.

   – Psalm 46.10-11, NLT

Just let that sink in.  It’s worth your time.

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Rest Matters

Where I live, we’re on the cusp of March Break.  School children everywhere (to say nothing of the teachers) are giddy with excitement at at week without having to rise early and sit in classrooms for a whole week.

Why does this matter?  Because rest matters.

God did not design us to go at it hard every day, world without end.  He established a rhythm of work and rest in creation:  one day in seven would be a day of rest.

There’s been a lot written over the years of what constitutes “rest”, of what one is “allowed” to do on a day set aside for Sabbath.  I remember being chastised, as a student, for buying and reading a newspaper one Sunday afternoon.  I’ve known others who were not allowed to play outside as children, others who were forbidden from watching television.

Sadly, less has been written and said about what should be celebrated on Sabbath than what is prohibited.  As a result, what God intended as a gift to his people became just another law to abide.  Dare I say it?  I wonder if some families’ rigorous attempts to honour God with a day of rest actually may have driven some people from the church.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are some people who feel that they are sufficiently indispensable that they feel they must work on a day of rest.  There is an illness of spirit in that mind set, and among the worst offenders are clergy.  I have some colleagues who boast that they can’t remember the last time they took a day off.  That doesn’t honour God.  Working well honours God, yes, but so too does rest.

God invites us to work from our Sabbath rest – on whatever day we are able to take it (heaven knows pastors can’t take it on Sunday!) – not to work so hard that we collapse into a heap one day and find ourselves physically sick because we have failed to pace ourselves at a rate that enables our bodies and souls to keep in sync with each other.

So if March Break affords you the opportunity to find time to carve out some rest, take it!  If not, be sure to take some other time in the year, as well as in the week, to enjoy the gift of time away from your daily labours.  Take time to rest, take time to worship, take time to enjoy recreation in its literal sense, where you find re-creation taking place through the abandonment of work for a few days.

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[a] from all his work” (Genesis 2.1-2, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Rest

As a musician, I have always found it important to pay attention to rest. Why? Because if I’m playing in an ensemble, and the Quarter-Restcomposer has given me a symbol for rest, there’s a good possibility that if I play something, it’s going to sound dissonant. Even if I’m itching to keep playing, rest symbols urge me not to, for the good of the ensemble (to say nothing of those listening).

Rest is also important in life generally. As a human being made in the image of God, I know that God designed me to have rest. My body requires sleep, and without aid of unnatural stimulants, my body will even tell me when it’s time to go to bed at night. But sleep is not all there is to rest.

God’s design for the rhythm of the earth is to have a day off in seven. God set this pattern out at creation, when the world was made in six days, and on the seventh, God rested. Fields were to go fallow one year in seven. Debts were to be forgiven after seven years. There is a rhythm of rest in all of creation.

Vacation time, no matter how much or how little our jobs allow us to have, is equally sacred time. I would argue that times for retreat, where it’s just you and God, are also very important in the rhythm of work and rest in life.

Yet we humans sometimes think that, by one means or another, we can go without rest. And do you know who can be some of the worst offenders in this area? Pastors. Because some pastors can be cursed with a people-pleasing gene, they have a hard time saying no, even at their own peril. Recently I found myself saying to a colleague, whom I love, that when we have perforated boundaries around vacation, we demonstrate to our congregations that rest is not an important part of Christian discipleship.

We – all of us – are human, not super-human. Each of us needs rest – weekly, annually. We should not deny it of ourselves, and we should not allow anyone else to attempt to deny it of us.

The writer to the Hebrews hints at an aspect of rest that we are inclined to miss, and that is that Sabbath is, in a real sense, a rehearsal for eternity. “So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God.  So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today” (Hebrews 4.6-7a, NLT).

Do you take rest seriously?

Encouragement From The Word

Stop. Rest. Now.

Most Canadian households will celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend in one fashion or another, whether it’s by inviting the extended family over to the house for a turkey dinner, or going north to close up the cottage before the frost gets at the water pipes.  And while I would often take this opportunity to encourage you to be thankful – and I do encourage you to be thankful! – I wish instead to encourage you to take a break.

Stop.

Rest.

Not just after the potato overdose kicks in from Thanksgiving dinner, but now.

Stop.

Rest.

The time from the day after Labour Day until Thanksgiving tends to be one of the more hectic times of year, with all sorts of activities restarting after their summer hiatus.  Many of you will already be in need of a break, and there’s still the Thanksgiving celebration to attend to.

Stop.

Rest.

Now.

Simply marvel in God’s goodness to you, and accept his invitation to come, and rest in him.  If you’d like some accompaniment for that rest, even for two minutes, feel free to listen to this setting of a text from the Song of Solomon by the English-Canadian composer, Healey Willan:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdEIYnQsSZQ

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come” (Song of Solomon 2.10b-12a, NRSV).  True, the winter is not past, it is on the doorstep!  But the beauty of autumn remains, and the invitation of the Lord to us, like the invitation of the love to the beloved, remains.

Stop.

Rest.

Now.

Before the rush of the weekend.

Biblical Messages

The Yoke’s on You!

In the midst of summer’s last gasp, as those going back to school might phrase it, we can do a gut check and ask ourselves if we got enough rest this summer. I learned a lesson as I began my vacation – a lesson in rest, a lesson passed on in today’s message, based on Matthew 11.20-30. Listen here:

Encouragement From The Word

Labour (-free) Day Weekend

Welcome to Labour Day weekend, when, ironically, we celebrate the value of work by not working! For most people outside the trade union movement, however, Labour Day weekend is mostly about getting away for one last weekend before mundane routine returns with the onslaught of September.

Maybe, though, it isn’t so ironic that we pause to celebrate work. After all, work can’t be done in any meaningful way without time to regroup and re-energize. I know people who work seven days a week, and I can’t quite figure out how – or why – they do so. The Creation story tells us that God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh. It wasn’t that God needed to rest; he’s God, after all, and God possesses limitless energy. No, God rested on the seventh day to give a model to his covenant people that the rhythm of life needs to include rest. 

At St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I will be talking on Sunday about the value of rest, and I will touch on how important it is to work not into our rest, but from it. It may seem subtle, but there is a difference.

We can push ourselves to the point where if we don’t take a day off, our bodies will force us into it through illness. That’s working into our rest – we’re resting because we are left with no other viable alternative. And it’s not healthy.

Instead, we should work from our rest, where our Sabbath time is used in such a way as to re-energize us for the week that is to come. And in that process, we can pace ourselves so that we don’t find ourselves saying, “Boy, I sure hope I’m going to make it to my Sabbath this week.” We should look forward to it eagerly, of course, and our bodies, minds and spirits should become accustomed to the rhythm of expecting rest in the midst of our efforts.

For many of us, that means scheduling that day of rest – actually putting it in the calendar. Nature abhors a vacuum, as the saying goes, and if we have blank spaces on our calendars, we are inclined to fill them – often needlessly. By blocking off an entire day for rest, it keeps work activities at bay. And it frees us to do things that energize us and bring us joy. This should include, but not be limited to, worship, sleep, and time with those we love.

So if you’re celebrating Labour Day weekend by not labouring, good for you! Enjoy the rest, and ask the Lord to let it prepare you for the week that is ahead.

Jesus said to his followers that “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath” (Mark 2.27, NLT).

Biblical Messages

God’s Invitation To Being

In our busy world, we regularly forget that we were not made to go hard 24/7.  We were made to spend six days in our work, and one day in rest.  And that rest – that gift of Sabbath – should include availing ourselves of God’s gifts of solitude and silence.

Prior to this message, based on Matthew 11.25-30, this video was shown.  You can listen to the message by clicking here.

Encouragement From The Word

Practise what you preach!

Sometimes, I am amazed at God’s ability with irony.

The past two weeks, I’ve been running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off:  flitting from one responsibility to the next, hardly budgeting time for personal renewal, to allow my soul to catch up with my body.  This isn’t terribly new, and is certainly not unique to me.  But today, I’m reflecting on the irony.

What is so ironic?  This Sunday, as part of the “Growing in Holiness” series at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, I will be preaching on the subject of “God’s Invitation to Being”.  And I know for certain that I will be preaching that sermon – once it is finally prepared! – to myself before preaching it among those who gather for worship on Sunday.

Any preacher worth his or her salt willingly preaches his or her own sermons to the self before preaching them to others.  And by that I don’t just mean rehearsing.  As a preacher, I need to take what I say to heart before I can expect anyone else to do so.  Just as a leader can only lead people as far as the leader has gone, or is willing to go, so a preacher can only be authentic in the preaching of a sermon that she or he has integrated or is willing to integrate into her or his life.

This is an important principle for all believers, that we practise what we preach – even if we aren’t “preachers”, as such.  Sometimes, we proclaim God’s good news by how we live far more effectively than by what we say.  Still, what we do and what we say should match what we profess to believe.  It’s not always easy, and we always make mistakes.  But if we say we believe something, we should do our level best, in the grace of God, to put it into practice…even if that means making some sacrifices, or saying “no” when you want to say “yes”.

The Lord Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their unwillingness to practise what they preached:  “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.  So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example.  For they don’t practice what they teach.  They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23.1-4, NLT).

I don’t want to be a stumbling block to those among whom I serve, so I’m going to listen carefully to the message I preach this week, and put it to work!

Last night, I admitted to a friend that I had not yet prepared the Encouragement, and wasn’t sure about what I would write.  He suggested that I might write about the irony of my need to slow down in order to do things like write the Encouragement!  Not a bad idea.  🙂