Encouragement From The Word

Hate

This Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’m going to talk about hate.  It’s a pertinent subject, since there’s a lot of it going around these days – but not all of it gets publicized in the same way.

Jesus tells his disciples the blatant truth in John 15.18-19 (NLT):  “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

That seems like pretty bad news.  How do we survive, let alone thrive, in a society where we are surrounded by hate? (You’ll have to stay tuned for the answer to that.  You can join us at 10:00 a.m. for worship on Sunday, or tune in to our live-stream on Facebook, or later on YouTube or on the church website.)  Hatred toward followers of Jesus is not widely talked about, perhaps because the church has been a dominant force in society for so long…but it isn’t anymore.

But the good news is that there is help.  We aren’t consigned to live the Christian life alone.  We have the Holy Spirit, and each other.  Each is important!

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, given to us by the Father and the Son to live in and through us when we come to him in faith.  Living the Christian life without the Holy Spirit is like trying to breathe without oxygen: it can’t be done.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Advocate in the midst of the hate the world offers.

There are a lot of “one another” phrases in the New Testament, and these underscore how important Christian community is.  We need each other if we are going to make a difference in a world of adversity. We need each other in both a macro and a micro sense, sharing corporate worship as well as a deeper intimacy with the Lord and each other through small groups.

The world will hate us for following Jesus, because it hates Jesus.  But the good news is that the church of Jesus has been historically proven to thrive under persecution.  Think of the Christians in China, forced underground to continue their devotion to the Lord.  Imagine how much community means to them!  Imagine how much they rely on the Holy Spirit!

We don’t know much about persecution here in the west…yet.  But we can be ready for it by relying on the Holy Spirit and each other.

See you on Sunday.

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Encouragement From The Word

Iron sharpens iron

Yesterday, I had a three-hour conversation with a colleague whom I deeply respect and genuinely like. Our conversation went ‘around the world’ in one sense, but found its focus on God, the things of God, and being leaders of God’s people. It was the kind of conversation that leaves one energized and encouraged about the task of serving God’s kingdom.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in church leadership or not; you need a friend with whom you can have those comfortable conversations. Ideally, you need a friend with whom you can talk about your work and your faith; for my colleague and I, of course, those two things are intricately interwoven. But to be able to chat freely, openly, and vulnerably with someone about life and faith is a real gift. Hopefully, you can do this with your spouse, if you have one, and that’s an important part of any marriage; yet it’s also good to have friends, particularly who share similar vocational or avocational interests, with whom to exchange ideas and just generally commiserate.

John Calvin certainly had this in mind when he created his Company of Pastors, a weekly gathering of clergy from all around Geneva and environs, in the 1530s. Not all jobs have any sort of built-in method for fellowship, but that doesn’t stop us from creating them. Even if we are not working outside the home everyday, as is the case with retirees and stay-at-home parents, there can still be room for connecting with friends in a similar place in life. (If you’re not sure of the value of this, check out any moms-and-tots group, or the coffee klatch at the nearby donut shop most weekday mornings!)

These examples allude to another form of Christian fellowship from which we all can benefit: the small group. Congregations have different names for their small groups; at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, we call them LifeConnect Groups. They are avenues for study, fellowship, mutual support, and service, and are key means of helping the congregation fulfill its mission to connect with God, grow in Christ, and serve in community. Being part of a small group is a great way to remember that our faith is not just a Sunday thing; God calls us to integrate our faith into every aspect of our living. That’s basic discipleship. Following Jesus is the vocation from which every other part of life flows. Having a church family, a small group, and faithful friends make a difference in our walk with God.

We all need people in our lives to keep up sharp, in the best way. They are gifts from God; sometimes, though, we need to seek out those gifts! Have you?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27.17, NLT).