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Tough Scriptures

The Bible is filled with the encouraging love of God but it is also filled with tough scriptures that speak into our lives and into our culture and makes us stop and think for a second and say that can’t be right.  Somewhere in our reading and in our lives we have heard something that does not line up in scripture.  Some of the messages that we have heard are actually misquotes of the Bible and when we are confronted with them in scripture you may almost think that the scripture must be wrong because we have been ingrained with the false message.

This past week, Nov. 23, 2014, we looked at two passages that can cause us to struggle with our perceptions.  Luke 6:27-36 challenges us to think about what is really important in this life.  Jesus challenges His listeners to deal with their values, is it their stuff, what if it is stolen, is it power and money, what happens if it is lent out and not paid back, what about your health and security, what if it is taken away?  Jesus challenges us to be more like Himself.  Are we willing to find our value and importance in God, find our security in God even while we are in danger, see the value that God has placed in other people, even those people that hurt others.  What kind of kindness can you show someone who is trying to take something from you, if instead of making them a thief, you made the stolen stuff a gift.  Les Miserables demonstrates the power of this and how it changed Valjeans life, a theft was turned into a gift, a victim chose to be a giver, a sinner was transformed into a person with life and value.

This leads to the Romans passage that reminds us not to judge unless we want to be judged.  Are we willing to see God’s kindness and patience, to see through the sins, as God has looked deeper into our souls and sees more than just a mere sinner, and see a person that Jesus died for.  Allow God to be the judge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and through you, being an example of God’s kindness and love.  This isn’t ignoring sin, it is not about being naive, it is about confronting the sin, and loving the person.  It is about seeking Jesus to be alive in you and in the other people and in the situation.  When Jesus is present none of us are going to be the same.

Nov. 16, 2014 Imitating God

When we talk about the fruit of the Spirit, we sometimes forget that these fruits are part of who God is.  By being filled with the Spirit, we are being filled with God’s Holy Spirit.  For some of you it is obvious, for others we some times need the dots connected for us to see the bigger picture.

So when we are told to Imitate God, we are being given the opportunity to be filled and connected to God on a deeper level.  It is not just about us putting on a mask and trying to be someone that we are not, it is about allowing God to work in our hearts and minds and bodies, and souls, transforming us and conforming us.  We are not trying to be shallow but allowing the deeper change in our lives so that we are finding a truer sense of who we are in God and with God.

We also have the example of Jesus.  I am not belittling Jesus, Jesus is much more than just an example but in Jesus we can see the depth of God’s love for us.  We see the strength of character that comes with being closer to Jesus, closer to God.

In the Ephesians 5 passage we looked at we also see Paul telling us what imitating the world around us looks like, when we choose those things from our culture that actually go against God and are contrary to being like God.  One of the key things Paul is responding to in his culture and the people that he is speaking to is to say that just because the culture says it is okay and right, does not mean that it is right with God.  God is not someone we create and form and transform, God is the one doing the forming and transforming.  Some of us complain that I don’t know how to act. Others complain that God doesn’t allow us to be who we want to be. The irony that I have found is that some who complain that their are too many rules really don’t like it when people break their own rules, and even though the Bible does not lay down the word for word, and step for step actions that we are suppose to do, but God does show us where the boundaries are, even when we don’t like the boundaries.  When we don’t know the boundaries we find ourselves struggling against life, when we know the boundaries we are able to live life to its fullest, however when we decide to break the boundaries we hinder our own lives and the lives of others.  When we don’t follow the rules, we end up with a harder life, even though some think that life would be easier without those helpful freeing rules.

Notes from Nov. 9th’s Message

When we talk about gentleness and self control we can talk about just about any part of our lives.  Whether it is our actions and our words, whether it is giving into our desires, whether it is about things that we don’t even realize we think we need to worry about self control.  I am not going to go to much into gentleness because I believe that this one of the fruits can be seen more and more as we follow in self control.  It is very import an to exercise gentleness, especially when we are confronting changes and problems in our lives and work place.  We can very easily confront problems and other people with aggression which then escalates problems.  When we enter into a situation with gentleness and self control, we are not coming in as weak but in control.

Many of use have problems with self control.  For some it is what we think about.  Our society may not care so much about what we think about but Jesus does.  In the Gospels, Jesus raises the bar on sin.  Many people would agree that sin is an action word.  You have to do something to sin.  However, Jesus said that even if you think about sinning, e.g. thinking about adultery, or hating your brother or sister ( Jesus says this is like murder).  Others have a problem of worrying.  Keeping your focus on your problems instead of seeking to have a deeper relationship with Jesus and trusting in Him.  These are deeper problems that we need help for from the Holy Spirit and in some cases we need someone to walk with us through this journey, whether it is a pastor, or a counsellor or maybe even a doctor.

A lot of us might focus on the need to have self control on our eating, on our spending, on balance in life, on how we respond i.e. our actions and our words, and many others that you can put into this category.  Having these needs for balance and self control is not just about our personal balance but it is greater than this, it is balance with the people around you, with the world, and with God.  Self-control is about obedience to God and flows down to how we relate to the world around us.  In the Bible, whether it is 2 Timothy 2:22-26 or Galatians 5:16-26, or a number of other scriptures, God is telling us that our actions and our words have consequences, and shows us what it would look like to follow God and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Are we in line with God or are we trying to make God be inline with us?

Okay so now you may have taken the time to look at your life and be scared but the need to change many things in our lives that it is going to take a miracle to change.  You have been given a miracle.  God has come in Jesus to redeem us from our sins, forgiving our sins when we come to God through Jesus, but God has also given us His Holy Spirit.  This change does not take place by our own strength but by the strengthening and empowering of the Holy Spirit.  We do not need to do this alone.  If we need to we can even break down our need to change and work on one area at a time.  God gave us Jesus to free us from sin, not to help us continue to live in sin.  Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed that isn’t what God wants from us either.  God wants us to be able to live life to the fullest not just a life half lived.  Being blessed by the Holy Spirit guides us away from our sinful passions, desires, actions, and words, leading us away from the trappings of the devil and into the freedom of love and grace that God wants to pour into our lives that too often we resist. Will you ask for the help you need and stay dedicated to God or will you ask and give up instead of persevering or will you just throw in the towel and give up on yourself and God.

Remembrance Day

As we near Nov. 11, many of us prepare to gather together to remember the cost of our freedom, our way of life, our privileges and many other things.  One of the biggest costs that we remember are the many lives that were lost, men and women, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends that died in the wars.  Many of their names are written in books or on plaques because they died in the wars.  However there were many who died in the wars but returned home as shadows of the people that they were.  Many people fleeing the war, scarred by what they saw, or heard.  Many loved ones waiting in hope that was never fulfilled.  The reality is that there are no winners in war but there are millions of losers.  Just because one side conquers another does not dictate a winner, it means that they may have been stronger, had more resolve, but it does not mean that they won.

War is a place of great sin where people are asked, ordered, forced to face the worst of humanity.  I have never experienced it.  I know that what I have read, the stories that I have heard, and the silent horrors in people’s eyes does not convey the fullness of the experiences that haunt many people.

King David was a man after God’s own heart but even he had a strange separation from God because of war.  In 1 Chronicles 22:7-10 he tells us that it is because of all the wars that he fought and the blood on his hands that he was not going to be the one to build a temple to God.  Even though war was necessary, it still was filled with sin, and was not right.  The killing of people whether in war or protecting people at home leaves our soul unsettled and wounded.  Whether you were fighting, or waiting, or witnessing the atrocities of war, the sinfulness of war affects who we are right down to our very soul.  It does not mean that God does not love us, God loved David but we need to realize and address the depths of hurt that affect the body, heart, mind, and soul, not belittle them or avoid them.  Every time I hear the last post, there is a deep moving in my heart and soul.  Thankfulness for the freedom that we have but also realizing that I will never know the full cost of that freedom.

Entering into God’s faithfulness

I have been meaning to do this for a while but for various reasons I have not either taken the time or had the time to do this.  You might be wondering what this is at this point.  When I am giving the message or sermon on Sunday mornings, their is usually more to say that I don’t get the chance to say.  Whether this is because I try to say too much or because the Holy Spirit is helping narrow down what I am saying.  But I have been finding in the past little while that I look back and feel that God wants me to say more and this is one way of adding this into the my growth but also to your growth.

This blog post is tied to the message that was given on Nov. 2nd 2014 at both Gordonville and Arthur.  You can go to the sermon/message tab and find it and listen to it there.

The main Bible passage that we looked at was Ezekiel 37:1-14. You can follow the link and read the passage on Biblegateway.com.  I am not going to give you the whole sermon here but I will highlight some of the points and then go from there.

One is that God is inviting us into His faithfulness.

God invites Ezekiel to serve Him and to share God’s faithfulness with God’s people.  God also calls Ezekiel to be faithful even though at times it is dangerous, strange, uncomfortable and does not always make sense at first.  It is easy to be faithful when it is stuff that we like to do but it is harder to be faithful when it takes us to another level of our awareness and trust of God’s faithfulness.

God tells Ezekiel to preach to the dried bones

This is another invitation to share in the ministry and mission of God.  In this occurrence, God takes Ezekiel to a valley of dried bones.  People who had been dead for a long time.  As we read through this passage we see that the message that God gives Ezekiel to preach brings these bones back to life.

This is where I would like to start expanding on the sermon. Note that this is not a burial ground, because the bones are laying on top of the ground, this is possibly a battleground where the dead have not been taken care of properly, possibly because there wasn’t time or the people to care for the dead.  This in itself is a sign of the sinfulness of the people that Ezekiel is going to be speaking to.  To not care for the dead was either a sign of the sinfulness of the people who are dead or of the people who did not care for the dead. One thing is clear is that these are human bones that have been there for a while.

There is the belief that this is not an actual resurrection but a spiritual renewal or revival, I personally think that God is speaking to both and in reality it needs to be both.

First off, if we look towards the end of the chapter God is talking about these dried bones who now have a new life being returned to the promise of God, the land and this also means a relationship with God.  In our day and age, I think there is a common belief that you are closer to God when you are dead than when you are alive, at least there is a hope. However, at the time of Ezekiel it is questionable what the idea of an afterlife was.  When we follow the Promise of God which is manifest in the giving of the Land, and reciprocated in the worship of God, it flows through the living.  Also it is important to note that our idea of the separation of the body and the soul, is a later idea coming more from Plato than early hebrew.  In hebrew thought the body and soul while different where equally together.  Therefore when you died you were outside of the promise of God.  Even if we are talking about being Spiritually dead, you can talk the talk but do you really believe what you are saying, is your life more alive because of your faith in the giver of life or are you just going through the motions and wanting to put on a good show for people, but you are spiritually empty inside.

Here’s why this passage is so powerful

God tells Ezekiel to tell these bones, these people to live, not just to stay the way that they are, not to be forsaken but to live.  Not just to go back to the way things were, but to enter a new into the promise of God, not to be dead outside of the promise.

This act reminds us of the book of Genesis where God forms Adam and Eve.  Again it is the word of God having life giving power, to create and recreate. It also reaffirms that God has power over death, not death having power over God. This brings us back to Jesus’ resurrection.  In both instances, God is acting for the good of His people. He has not left them out to be forgotten or lost but God acts to bring His people back into relationship with Himself.

The life of a prophet and for this instance the life of Ezekiel was filled with speaking God’s words of life to God’s people.  We see clearly hear how powerful God’s words are, the bones come together, sinews are formed, muscle is formed and flesh covers them and breath enters them.  Now we need to remember that breath, is many times synonymous with the life giving spirit of God, ruah.  These are God’s people given new life out of their sinfulness.  These are God’s people given a second chance to receive God’s promise and to live and thrive in it.  God saves His people.

Also this is powerful because Ezekiel is invited to be part of this life transformation.  While they are God’s words that Ezekiel speaks, Ezekiel is still willfully part of the transformation.  Ezekiel is again trusting God, again speaking God’s message, and things are happening, lives are being changed.  Now this would have been an encouragement for Ezekiel since many times when he had spoken God’s word, people laughed at him and they stayed the same.  Not everyone wants to hear God’s word, but that is not our problem.  We can not change people’s hearts, but we can be faithful to deliver the message.  And hopefully we will get to see dried bones come alive to the live in the promise of God.

Music

Do you like music?  Some people love music, it is always playing as if their life was a musical with all their favourite songs filling in the quiet moments adding depth to their emotions.  For others they like a little bit of music but not too much, enough to set the mood but not to be over powering and if it is not there, they are okay with that too.  And still others just don’t have time to be bothered with music.

In the history of the Christian Church, music has played an important role.  And each church has their different beliefs about what kind of music should be allowed or not allowed.  But the music that is sung or listened to has been used to praise God but also to learn about God and to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. Whether they are older hymns or newer praise songs, God uses these songs to speak into our lives, whether it is the Biblical truth in the words or the tune the resonates with where we are at this particular moment.

Two songs lately have really struck me and Jesus has been using them to move my heart, my mind and my soul, and my body.  The first one is “I heard the voice of Jesus say”. The low tune and melody speak to me and bring comfort and peace to my life, but also, as I was worshiping yesterday Jesus spoke to me through the words and I felt His faithfulness and knew that no matter what I was facing, when I come to Him, He will give me what I need, “I heard the voice of Jesus say “Behold I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink and live!” I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived and now I live in him.”  This verse reminds us of the passage from the Gospel of John where Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, and He says to her, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:14).

The other song is a song that when I first heard it/sang it, I didn’t really like it or understand it.  However, sometimes the things that are the most meaningful to us are not what we like off the bat, but are things that we need to take the time to get to know and wrestle with.  This song, sung by Hillsong United is called “Oceans (where my feet may fail)” You can follow the link to youtube and listen to it there.  Do you pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you, even into a place where your feet may fail, but also where you will learn to trust Jesus more and more. Will you be like Peter and ask Jesus to call you out onto the water, a place we cannot stand with out Jesus holding us up, or will we stay in the boat afraid of what might be, afraid of our fears, afraid of our failures, afraid to trust our Saviour.

How does Jesus use music to speak into your life?

Example

838455_60490256Whether we are at school or at work, most of us learn better after seeing or hearing an example.  Jesus knew this fact.  He would tell stories to the people around Him to give an example of what He meant.  Jesus also demonstrated what it meant to have a life giving relationship with God, but also with each other.  His life is an example and so much more than just an example, but whom have you learnt from?  Who has been your example?  What kind of an example are you being?  As a parent, I try to be conscious of the example I am being to my children and as a pastor, I am also trying to be an example of God’s love and grace, but how do you know that it is working? What do you see coming back at you from the people around you?  I have heard it over and over again, the question “where did you get that from?” When I see that in my kids I can usually trace it back, sometimes it is from my example.  Most times we recognize the things that we would rather they not.  The question that comes up though is are you intentionally modeling your faith for your children and even your friends and family.  This isn’t to make yourself look better but so that people can see the difference Jesus is making in your life.  I have heard grown children remember seeing their father or mother praying, or reading their Bible.  Do you take the time to do that alone as well as with your family?  When there is a problem do you take time to pray?  When you are happy do you take time to thank God?  Can people see you walking with God throughout your day or is it only at set times in the day or of the week? One criticism I have heard is that people are different on Sunday than they are the rest of the week.  Being a follower of Jesus is not just something you do when it is convenient, it is a lifestyle, a choice for life.  Are you living by Jesus’ rhythm or by someone else’s rhythm that is leading away from the life giving love of Jesus.  Jesus said to his disciple’s “Come and follow me.”  Are you?  Are you showing others how to follow, with your words and your actions, and your time?  Do you need someone to show you how to follow so you can be a better example of who Jesus is?

Family – Togetherness

I am going to try and start writing a little bit more and sharing it on Facebook when I do and linking you to the post on the website.

Families are an important part of our society, and of creation.  Families are a suppose to be a place of support and nurturing, yet we either know or are part of a family that this is not totally the case.  Living in a society where to some it seems that the family has gone down on the values list because of wants and desires and even the changing face of society, it can be hard to find the time to nurture togetherness.

Why is this important?  Togetherness should be about valuing the family as a whole and looking past yourself to see something greater as a whole.  Without this look past yourself, you may only focus on your needs, your wants to the detriment of the whole family.  I have know families that this was the case with one or more people in the family.  The family suffered emotionally, always trying to meet the endless needs of the one, and sometimes physically because the one used up the majority of the family resources.  However, when we merely focus on the others, and forget about the family as a whole, we take individuality to a dangerous place that in the end can breed selfishness and blindness to those around them.  You can be selflessly be running yourself crazy trying to please everyone in the family and giving them what each of them want in an effort to make them feel loved and normal.  Giving them every opportunity they want but not always the opportunity they need.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be doing some of the wonderful activities available, but do you really of the time and the patience for everything, including and most importantly time together.

When we take that time to be together as a family interacting, sharing, laughing and crying, encouraging and correcting, doing life together modelling love and relationships we have the opportunity to give and receive love that is based in the being of God.  Remember, it is not that we need more time in the week, for some of us we need less things to do. When it comes down to it, when we look back at life the most meaningful times people remember are times that are shared with people that are important to them, people that let them know that they were important too and would fight for them no matter what.

As I watch the Olympics, the most meaningful moments are not the wins themselves but the families that won together, not just the person competing.  Will you work for your togetherness or will you look back at life and wonder why it seemed so lonely?  Will you allow Jesus who came to die for us because our sin, our rebellion had separated us from God, and Jesus was fighting for our togetherness, to be part of the family of God, and to show us how important each relationship is.

The storms we face

Each of us will face different storms in our lives.  I haven’t met one person who hasn’t had a problem or hasn’t been stressed about something.  However I have met people who when these storms hit, they have a different kind of peace about them.  The peace does not make them oblivious, it actually makes them more aware.  These people still feel the pain of whatever has happened but they also find Jesus in the storm and know that they will be okay.  They won’t be the same, it won’t be like the event didn’t happen, but they know that Jesus will get them through.  They aren’t disillusioned to the reality around them and are going to be in for a big wake up call and their whole world is going to fall apart, the faith that they have prepares them for the long haul and the mountains and deep valleys and the ability to live in the storm, to breath and go on, and to see beyond what is immediately before them.  This is an example of a deep trust in God, that hasn’t failed them.

What storms are you going through right now and what help do you need?

Trying something new

No matter what it is, when we try something new, there is always a learning curve.  Sometimes the curve is steep and we get scared or frustrated and we want to give up.  Sometimes it only feels like chaos when all we want is simplicity.  The Bible talks about in God bringing order to the chaos, in other words, God is the god of the chaos and the god of order.  No matter how big the learning curve is, or how small, no matter how crazy things can get or how comfortable life can become, God is still God.