Is God trustworthy 

Is it worth the risk to trust God? Or to put it another way…

Is common sense “common” in Christians?
It is often said, “I will not believe it until I see it for myself!” Even one of the most famous characters of the Bible said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Thomas has been severely criticized by preachers and other believers alike for his unbelief however many of us act in the same way when it comes to the practical issues of life. Can I trust God with my future? Can I trust God with my children? If I am faithful financially in my local church, will God be faithful to me?
More than 20 years ago, our family went out as fully supported missionaries. But when we started the project we didn’t have any money and no one who was going to pray for us. But we can share that because of God’s faithfulness to us, we never lacked anything in our service for God.  
We often want the guarantee first before we respond to follow the plan. But it never works that way with God. Even in the work of salvation, God says, “Trust in me, believe what I have said to you!”  
God is always faithful to His Word, Always! If you think there is something that He has missed, hang on, God has it all under His control. It is always worth trusting what He has said!

Why We Celebrate

If you take a quick look around on this 24th day of December you would think something big is going down!

Today, we are on the cusp of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Over the past month we have been rehearsing the events and the characters in the drama of his birth. We could fill many books studying these important characters in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and we would be right to do so. However, all of this reading, studying and putting ourselves in the shoes of these characters would be an empty pursuit if it were not for one thing.

The thing that makes Jesus birth so important is the reason for which came. If he was just a good example for us on how to live then we are kind of wasting our time, for many people are worthy of following their example. But only one person ,the God man, the Messiah, the son of God was born to reconcile God and man.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ born of woman, born without sin, and born to become the sacrifice for our sin. This is what makes Christmas important. If we divorce our celebration of the events of Christmas from the reason for which Jesus came then we are left with tinsel, wrapping paper, and a quote on quote “nice holiday”.

We can sum up the Christmas story with this verse from Romans chapter 6 verse 23, “for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” And we live in the attitude of gratitude, “thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

That is what gives Christmas it’s meaning!

The Age of Being Disagreeable

We are living in an age where everyone believes they are right.  Have you noticed?  There is a war of ideas, thoughts and words that makes enemies of friends and separates the closest of friends.  Pick any topic and the debate can quickly erode into name-calling and hard feelings.  Unfortunately, this is even true in the church.

Here is the question that I have been asking myself,  “How can we demonstrate love even in the midst of disagreement?”  Is that even possible?  I believe that it is.  Now, before you call my psychiatrist and book an appointment for me, let me tell you what I mean (I don’t have one, sorry to worry you!).  There are very few issues that are so black and white that I need to draw a line in the sand to dare others to cross it.

It seems to me that we who confess the Name of Jesus Christ, have neglected the role of prayer and the Holy Spirit.  If I am walking with integrity of character while seeking to glorify God in my relationship with Him and in my relationship with others, I am equipped with what I need to love others the way God has loved me.  In the name of openness and honesty, I need to tell you that I have not always thought this way. I was a huge proponent of drawing a line in the sand! And, as a result it cost me at least three ministries that I love very much!  Yes, I am a slow learner!

Our model for this type of attitude is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  He often taught that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who treat us disrespectfully. He was quite the revolutionary to say the least!   I have been in church congregational and missionary meetings where the words of Jesus were not the ideal! In fact, they were down right laid aside and forgotten!  They were painful meetings to be a part of, very painful!

We must remember to practice the ethic of God’s love, His agape love, His selfless love in the midst of those situations. God is working out His plan in both you and the person or situation you are dealing with.  I read recently that we will never be able to say that we are right when we are wrong in the way we express ourselves.  There are very few situations that allow me to treat another person with disrespect and not miss the blessing of God in my own life.

In every situation God is working out His plan. It is His plan that we love one another and seek the greatest good in the lives of others.  I always want to ask myself in whatever situation that I am in, “How can I best express the love of Jesus in this situation?”  Sometimes, that means I need to be quiet and let the Spirit of God do what He does best!  I am learning that every person I meet, every meeting I participate in, God’s plan is of greater importance that my own personal agenda!

It is my prayer that you and I learn to express ourselves in such a way that people are left with the aroma of the gospel of Christ, an aroma that is sweet, encouraging and filled with His love!

What in the World!

By this all people will know that you are my disciples...

By this all people will know that you are my disciples…

 

In recent days there has been a lot of hand wringing among the people of the church.  There is a general feeling that everything is out of control and that the world is careening rapidly down to the hill into the abyss of hell.  The announcement last week of the United States Supreme Court decision in regards to same-sex marriage has caused an uproar among people of faith.  I have had the privilege of living in the United States and know how patriotic most of God’s people are. There seems to be a very close association between government and the church. To many government is a reflection, or ought to be, of Biblical values. Continue reading

The Responsibility of Pastoral Ministry – Part 1

Winter 07-08 094

To serve the people of God as a Pastor is the greatest blessing (other than my wife and family) that I have had in my life! I have been truly blessed by the friendships that have been formed. Not just a little, pretend blessed but a knock your socks off blessed! Over the next few weeks I want to write on ministering to different segments of the congregation.

Continue reading

The Cross

the cross

I am humbled today.  To imagine that we are so valuable to God that Jesus would sacrifice his life for us!  Recently, like millions of Canadians and Americans I watched Dr. Billy Graham’s last sermon(http://myhopewithbillygraham.org/programs/the-cross/).  The broadcast was entitled “The Cross”. After hearing the God-story of the two people featured on the video and the message from God’s Word, I am moved beyond words.

As a young person who had just come to faith in Jesus, I accompanied our church’s youth group to a weekend conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  On this particular weekend, one of the keynote messages dealt with the Cross.  As a new Christian, I will never forgot how the speaker described how valuable Jesus, God the Son was to God the Father. He talked about all the Son of God had endured to pay the penalty of the debt of sin that I owed. He talked of the Roman scourge and the cruelest form of execution that the Romans had invented called crucifixion. To top it all off, the separation for the first time in all eternity of God the Father and God the Son, you and I cannot even begin to fathom all that meant. For all the human race,  Jesus endured the shame of the cross to purchase our freedom from sin’s curse.

Have you gotten over it?  The pure, holy, lovely Son of God was made subject to the wrath of God so that we could go free! His righteousness was applied to us so that when God the Father looks at us, he sees his Son’s death and righteousness applied. God knew that this was the only way for us to be saved from his wrath. Here is the kicker for me, in John chapter 10, Jesus said that he willing laid down his life for us, no one took it from him, by his own volition he died. If that does not move your heart today you need to see either your cardiologist or your pastor or maybe even both!

The world has believed the lie of Satan that what we really need is material possessions, be the king of our lives and in control of everything! There is a reason he is called “the father of lies” in the Bible. He knows that none of those things can bring us real joy or satisfaction that lasts more than a day. But we keep trying. Even those who say they are Christians have fallen into his trap.

What the world needs now is the gospel. But the gospel is difficult, the gospel is insulting because we cannot do anything to make ourselves acceptable to God.  You cannot save yourself! The Cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the human race because we really think can make it on our own.  Deep down we know we cannot unless God changes our heart.

I am grateful that the Cross of Jesus, this gospel of Jesus Christ, is the only way that I can find true life. I have found out that I not only needed the gospel that day in 1978 but I need the gospel everyday! I need his grace to mold my character and shape my future. What I need now is the gospel.

You and I are so valuable to God that He would endure the cross for sinners like us. Absolutely amazing! We are eternally grateful. Does that humble you, too?

The Practice of Prayer

In Times Like These

It’s Wednesday night at 7 o’clock, we are gathered at the corner of Queens Avenue      apraying handsnd Adelaide Street in London, Ontario to pray.  We sing a couple of hymns, listen to a brief study of God’s Word then we gather in groups to pray.  But the prayer time seems very sterile and safe.  We pray for health issues, the pastors and missionaries and conclude with an Amen. But there is something missing.  I finally have put my thumb on it.

Prayer can become very rote. We do it because, well, God created Wednesday nights for prayer meeting, didn’t he?  It becomes so mechanical that we can pray whether God shows up or not. We forgot that the fundamental reason for prayer is not asking for stuff but having communion with the Creator of the universe.

Jesus taught this in his model prayer to his disciples.  When we pray there…

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What Does God Want Me to Do?


“What does God want me to do?” Have you ever asked that question? A friend said to me recently, “I cannot tell you what God’s will is for you.” I appreciated that. Many times people do try and help us in this area, and at times we are left scratching our head.  The question of knowing and living in God’s will is something that we grapple with in many areas of life. From our vocation, to family issues, to how we spend our money, to how we discipline our children, and in many other areas we want to know what God has to say. Does the Bible have anything to say about this?


God says a lot about it, let me give you some biblical principles when it comes to this area of life:


1. Seek God first – we many times put the cart before the horse.  We want to know God’s will instead of getting to know God as priority. James 4:3 talks about people who put their own desires first then conveniently forget about seeking God first. In Matthew 6 as Jesus gives the principles for living under God’s rule, he underlines the importance of seeking God first (verse 33) before seeking any other thing in life.



2. Know God’s Word – What does God have to say about the issue you are facing?  For example, the word of God may not tell you the name of the person you are to marry but it does give you principles for discovering who he/she may be.  It may not tell you what type of job you should look for but it certainly tells you how God has wired you to serve Him. The important thing is to grow in your knowledge of the Word and in intimacy with God.



3.Grow in Community – If I think that I have the gift of teaching I should be a part of community that will affirm that or lovingly tell me that I don’t have that gift.  I believe strongly in the local church (or a small group within that church) recognizing and affirming the gifts God has given to us. In fact in Acts 13 we read of Barnabas and Saul(later to be known as Paul) being sent out as missionaries from the church of Antioch.  It seems that they were involved in the ministry of that church and then God confirmed in the hearts and minds (verse 2) of the church that these men should be sent out to serve God and reach the unbelievers with the gospel (verse 3). If the church does not recognize one’s gifts then that ought to indicate to us God’s direction for this moment in time.



When you ask next time, “What do you want me to do, Lord?”, know that this is a great question and a great place to start is talking to God about it.  When we sincerely seek him he will lead us in his ways. Psalm 23:1-3 reflects this truth in a beautiful way,
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me like down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for
his name sake.”

The bottom line is that we are asking God to lead us in his path for the glory of His name!

The Great Deception

I have been deceived.  That is quite a statement to begin this blog, is it not?  For my entire life of walking with our Lord I have equated my knowledge of theology, my reading of the Scripture with making progress spiritually. But I have missed the point. Those things are well and good, necessary even. But they can never be substituted in for growing in intimacy with the Lord. 

To grow in intimacy with the Lord is the goal of the Christian life. When the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3 “that I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection” he was talking about growing in intimacy with Christ.  In this chapter he talked about all the things that had become his “claim to fame.” He had a very impressive resume that included spiritual activity that brought “ooos” and “ahhhs” from those around him. However impressive, none of those things helped him grow in intimacy with the Lord.

What is your claim to fame? Your theological training? The church you attend? Maybe you have memorized all kinds of verses from the Bible. My own spiritual heritage was marked by a form of legalism that declared you were okay with God if you followed the ‘do’s and don’ts’. The truth of the matter is that our only claim to fame that is worth anything before the Lord is the fact that we are His! In looking at those things in his past Paul plainly stated in Phil. 3:8, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things (his claim to fame) and count them as rubbish.” The question that burns in my heart is this, how does one get to that point in their spiritual journey?

How can I look at all my accomplishments and say that they are rubbish? What would motivate me to consider my past as garbage?  For Paul there was something more important, more dear to his heart than anything he had every accomplished. That something became a someone, Jesus Christ.  It was important now for Paul, and for every son and daughter of God, to know Jesus more than any other thing or person in life.  

The crux of the matter is that we should know more theology, and we should be faithful at reading our Bibles. BUT these should be disciplines by which we get to know Christ more. These ought to never stand apart from the greater goal of knowing Jesus; they ought to lead us to love him more.  The commentator Matthew Henry states that this knowledge of Christ is an “experimental acquaintance with Christ.” It is personal, and it is something that we experience because of Christ’s resurrection. It is what we experience in growing more and more in Jesus.

Recently, my wife and I drove the Beartooth Highway. This road has been classified as one the 10 most scenic highways in the United States. On its route between Montana and Wyoming, one must drive on U.S. Highway 212 slowly climbing from 5,000 feet above sea level until you reach the top at 11,000 feet. There are switchbacks going all the way up in order to make that climb. The Christian life is like driving on switchbacks. The goal is to know Christ, to grow in intimacy with him, to strive each day to know him better and more fully than the day before but then comes another switchback when it seems that we are not making progress at all. The apostle Paul expressed our goal in Phillippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal (knowing Christ) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We keep on striving with the goal of knowing Christ clearly ahead of us.

The deception that I have experienced is in thinking that the exercise of spiritual disciplines is enough. No, they are not, they are tools to help me achieve the ultimate goal, to know Christ and I dare not confuse the two. When I do then I am off track and end up with a false knowledge of God and not the real thing. Our prayer ought to be that we continue to grow in the intimacy of knowing Jesus.

If I am a Bible teacher in a seminary, my goal ought to be not only that my students learn the material I am teaching but that they grow in knowing Christ better. My goal as a pastor is not just that my people learn to have a daily quiet time but that in that quiet time they are knowing Christ more. My goal as a church member is that I personally am growing to become like Jesus.

May God help us to see the real goal for which he has made us his own! God bless!

Keep the Water Flowing

Pastor Tim Keller twitted recently, “Our hearts are like a bucket of water on a cold day – they will freeze over unless we regularly smash the ice that is forming.”

It got me to thinking, how often do I find that my own heart has frozen over?  When that happens, communication (fellowship) between myself and God seems to be cut off.  So the question I want to pose is this: How can we keep the water of our spiritual lives flowing without the stoppage of ice blocking communication with God?

One example of a church, a group of God’s people, who experienced this blockage, is the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. This is Jesus’ evaluation of this church. We have this evaluation recorded for all time. What would Jesus evaluation be of our church or our life? Thank God that it is not written in Scripture for all to read for all time!  Revelation 3: 15-17 reads, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

As I read these verses the question that popped into my brain is, “how could they not realize that they were in such a desperate situation?” Then, I remember, how many times do I live in sin and not realize the desperate situation I am in?  Sin is the great deceiver; it promises satisfaction and never delivers! One would think that I am spiritually sensitive enough to know when I have fallen in the eyes of the Lord. But we don’t because, as Tim Keller says, the water in our bucket has frozen over.
There are at least  6 principles, 3 negative and 3 positive, that will help us to smash the ice in our spiritual walk to keep the water flowing.

      3 things that cause the water of our spiritual lives to freeze

            1.     Unrepentant sin – Psalm 66:18 “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
                 the Lord would not have listened.”

2.      Lack of Intimate walk with God – we go through the motions of attending church, do what we should but lack the passion that comes from a daily encounter with the Lord
3.      Unforgiving attitude toward others – Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-26 that if we know that things are not right between you and another member of the family of God that we are to leave the gift and be reconciled to that person. We must avoid holding grudges. The old phrase that says ‘let’s bury the hatchet’ in regards to repairing relationships is good as long as we don’t remember where the hatchet is buried so we can use it against the other person when they mess up the next time!

What things can we do in a positive way to keep our relationship with God flowing?

1.      Have an active, daily dependence in God.  The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  He knew that he needed to live by daily depending on the Lord in order to keep moving ahead to becoming all God desired for him. What does daily, active dependence on God look like? A. Meet with God daily. No Christian can survive spiritually if he is not growing on a daily basis. B. Trust God when you don’t understand what he is up to. There are times when I come to the proverbial fork in the road. At these times we need to follow his clear leading.

2.      Find our satisfaction in God ALONE
      We human beings tend to blame others for what is lacking in our own lives. This can be true in husband-wife relationships, as well as in many other relationships we have. We can’t understand why our spouse is the way he/she is because he/she is not meeting our emotional needs. Because we are not satisfied in God alone, there is no person on the planet who can meet that need! It is only when I am satisfied in God that I can let the other off the hook for their shortcomings.
3.      Keep moving forward one step at a time, one decision at a time. 
      God is continually teaching us.  I remember when summer was over and be back in the classroom in the fall thinking, “Will I ever do anything else in September other than sit in a classroom?” Have you ever thought that?  With God, we are always in the classroom; we are always growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3:18.  The book of Proverbs is all about growing in wisdom to become a person of wisdom through the decisions we make every day. Don’t allow sin to slow you down! Proverbs 24:16 says, “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” Confess your sin, ask God to give you victory of it and keep on walking in the grace and victory He has given to you in Jesus!

Conclusion
How are you doing spiritually today? Are you freezing up, as Pastor Keller mentioned, or are you continuing to smash the ice that is forming so that the water can freely flow? May the Lord give us wisdom and grace to keep on keeping on for His glory!