Biblical Messages

SONGS OF L(AM)ENT: My chains fell off

Today’s message focused on Romans 8.1-17 and the Charles Wesley classic hymn, “And can it be”.  Have a listen below, or check out the video on our church Facebook page.

 

Facebook link, available even to those not using Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fjeff.loach%2Fvideos%2F10211781713035450%2F&show_text=0&width=560

 

Advertisements
Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Every. Little. Thing.

Not long ago, I received word that my family physician is going to be retiring at the end of September.  I’m particularly sad about this, because he’s one of those “old school” doctors who takes the Hippocratic Oath very seriously, who still makes house calls when necessary, and who almost always has enough room in his daily schedule to fit in those last-minute needed appointments.  I will miss having him play a role in my life.

He has engaged a firm that will digitize his patients’ files so that all the records of my years of being seen by him will fit onto a CD that I can carry to my next doctor, whoever that may be.  Everything that he has seen me for in the past eight years will be available for the new physician to review.  Every.  Little.  Thing.  Yes, the important things, like my drug allergy (yikes) and my body mass index (ouch), but also the less affirming things, like the time I had to be treated for a boil on my bottom (let’s not go there).  Every.  Little.  Thing.

Of course, this is all for my good, right?  The new doctor will need to know my background fully in order to be able to treat me properly when I come for assistance.  The new doctor needs to see the big picture.

I like how God can see the big picture – the whole picture – but chooses not to.  The apostle John says of the Lord, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1.9, NLT).  And when does that happen?  The earlier part of the verse says it happens “if we confess our sins to him”. And when God receives our confession of sin and forgives us and cleanses us, he keeps no record of our sins.  They are gone like dust in the wind.

Let’s not kid ourselves:  God could remember every little thing if he wanted to.  But he chooses not to.  As the old saying goes, he throws the sins we confess to him into the lake of forgetfulness, and posts a ‘no fishing’ sign there.  While our medical records may have the good, the bad and the ugly in them, our divine records do not – when we live in relationship with God, believing that Jesus died to take away our sins and rose again to draw us to eternal life.  When we are in Christ, God looks upon us as if we have the righteousness of Christ.

Our challenge is to seek to live that way.  Growing in holiness, in righteousness – that’s the best response to realizing that God chooses not to remember every little thing.  I’m praying that God will give you the grace and strength to grow in holiness and righteousness!

Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: The Son of God Has Come!

In the concluding message of this series, based on 1 John 5.13-21, we learn that the real purpose of Christmas is to celebrate that God has come in the flesh.  This gives us certain assurances about faith and prayer and forgiveness of sin, about which you can learn if you listen here:

There is a section of the passage that deserved more attention than I could give it in this short message.  Verse 16 talks about “a sin that does not lead to death” and “a sin that leads to death”.  What is John talking about here?  In the message, I allude to Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of venial and mortal sins, but is that what is being referred to here?  And, in verse 18, John writes that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.  How does that square with reality?

The Old Testament knew of sins that were deliberate – open rebellion against God, and punishable by death – and sins that were inadvertent and could be atoned for.  (For example, look at Leviticus 4 or Numbers 15.22-29.)  Judaism in the time of the writing of 1 John will have retained this understanding, and perhaps it was thus delineated in John’s community of faith.  That would help us understand the notion of the sin that leads to death.  Trying to guess what that is, on the other hand, is a pointless and fruitless venture.  Mark 3.29 refers to the sin against the Holy Spirit; could that be the sin that leads to death?  Because John’s context is all about false teaching in this letter, it’s more likely that he is thinking of that:  leading people astray in their belief is an unforgivable sin.  And then, are we enjoined not to pray about those sins?  It’s not clear that John is discouraging praying under any circumstance, but it does seem clear that he thinks there is no hope in prayer for someone who has committed such a sin; such a person would be denying God’s mercy, and the only effective prayer for such a person is to call for repentance and conversion (so says the Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

As to not continuing in sin (v. 18), it has been John’s premise throughout the letter that those who truly are ‘in Christ’ are not going to fall victim to a sinful life.  Do we still sin, even though we belong to the Lord?  Yes.  John’s point is that followers of Jesus should not make sin a pattern, a lifestyle choice, since that would be incompatible with the life to which we have been called.

Hopefully, that will tie up some of the loose ends left by the message.  Merry Christmas!

Biblical Messages

LOVE ONE ANOTHER: Don’t be a fool!

There are better titles I could have chosen for this message, and you’ll learn why I didn’t choose one of them as you listen.  In this new series, we’re taking a journey through the first letter of John, near the end of the New Testament.  Written by the same John who penned the Gospel, the Apostle, the first letter of John is primarily a story about God’s love – and right thinking about the person of Jesus Christ.

Based on 1 John 1.1-10, you can listen to this message here:

Encouragement From The Word

Getting at the olive pit

About a week ago, our dishwasher started making a really nasty noise. Not being too familiar with the internal workings of this marriage-saving appliance, we weren’t too sure what to do. We began by running some vinegar through the system, but that didn’t help.

As you may know, the majority of the ‘guts’ of a dishwasher are suspended underneath the tub, mere millimetres from the kitchen floor. To see anything, you have to lie down on the floor in front of the dishwasher.

Like lifting the hood of your car, staring under the dishwasher doesn’t remedy the situation at all.

I called a repair shop and described the noise as sounding like a motorcycle running in my kitchen. The helpful chap on the other end of the phone politely suggested I clean out around the pump, and check for things like olive pits around the macerator.

I managed to clear some time last night to disconnect the electricity, water, and drain, and pull out the dishwasher. Of course, staring at it then rendered no positive results, either.

Thankfully, YouTube is a great resource for many things, including dismantling our brand of dishwasher. With just one video (played and stopped and played over again and again!), I had all the help I needed to know how to get the circulation pump dislodged from the tub of the dishwasher.

And what did I find around the macerator? Yes. An olive pit. (There were a few other offending bits, too, but the pit was probably the real culprit.) After giving the guts a thorough cleaning, I reassembled the dishwasher (with a couple of false starts), flipped the breaker back on, and ran a rinse cycle. Our quiet-running dishwasher was back.

To find the problem, I had to get to the heart of the dishwasher. Only after a serious dismantling process did I discover the offending pit.

Life is like that. We live our lives, managing our sin, trying to keep it quiet, in a sense. We might even make other noises so that the sound generated by the sin isn’t noticed. (At one point I suggested to my patient wife that she could just turn the television up louder. Probably not the best answer!) Do you see what I mean, though? We manage our sin; we don’t get rid of it.

In many ways, we’re afraid to get rid of it, because, like taking apart the dishwasher, there is a lot of work involved in dealing with sin at its root.

But it totally worth it.

It can be hard to do this alone. Sometimes, rooting out sin works best when we share that difficult journey with another person who loves us and wants God’s best for us. It begins, of course, with confession and repentance. And it must include seeking the Holy Spirit’s power and grace, because even though we may repent, without the Spirit at work in us, we are likely to go back to old ways.

Have you identified the proverbial ‘olive pit’ that you need to get out of the core of your life? Have you sought the help of God’s Spirit, and maybe a Christian friend, to excise the sin?

It may be hard work, but you will be glad you did it when your life isn’t so bothered by the noise of that sin impeding God’s work in you and through you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139.23-24, NIV).

Encouragement From The Word

Whiter than snow

Talking about the weather is something that’s about as Canadian as it gets.  And there’s been plenty to talk about this year.  Earlier this week, we had a remarkably balmy day, followed by a dreadful snowstorm.  I remarked on Facebook that the only redeeming quality of the storm was that the fresh snow made the dirty snow look much cleaner.  A friend remarked that there was a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

Since I’m not using it on Sunday, I thought I might as well use it today.  And there are at least two ways to look at it.

One way to look at fresh snow covering dirty snow is that it’s a pretty covering over something not very pleasant that’s still there, even when covered over.  Unfortunately, we humans are inclined to treat sin that way at times.  Rather than confess it, repent of it, and walk away from it, we cover it up somehow.  As the late Dallas Willard was known to say, this is a form of sin management; we play with it without actually getting rid of it.  That’s not God’s way of having us deal with sin, though.  We are called to confess our sin – to name it before the Lord – and to repent of it.  When we repent of a sin, we tell God we’re sorry, but we go a step further by walking away from that sin in a more holy direction.  This is a more spiritually healthy way to face sin in our lives.

The other way to look at fresh snow covering dirty snow is that it makes the landscape seem new again.  Where the analogy breaks down is that the time will come when the snow will melt (please!) and we’ll see the dirty “brown sugar snow” (as my wife calls it) once again – but it, too, will melt in due time.  In the meantime, we enjoy the new covering that has come.  Forgetting the breakdown of the analogy, though, this is what Jesus does for us:  he covers our sin with his blood.  When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price for our sins, and in a sense cloaked us with his righteousness so that when God looks on us, he sees not the sinful beings that we are, but he sees the righteousness of Jesus that covers us, just like freshly-fallen snow.

In this season of Lent, we do well to examine ourselves and be honest with ourselves so that we can get rid of sin in our lives.  Most Christians don’t believe that we can ever fully be rid of sin in this life, but we can work toward that goal!  Let’s not merely manage our sin; let’s invite Jesus to cover it with his righteousness, letting his blood wash it away.

Each morning is new, each day filled with grace.  God is for us.  The snow will melt, and new life will grow.  But that may be an illustration that has to wait a few weeks more.

Though your sins are like scarlet, 
I will make them as white as snow.  
Though they are red like crimson, 
I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1.18b, NLT).