C.S. Lewis, perhaps one of the greatest “lay” theologians of the 20th century. I have been receiving quotes from his writings in my email for some time now, and the depth of his thinking continues to astound me. Don’t get me wrong, I have read Lewis before, but not a whole lot and not from a wide range of his writings. But these quotes are changing that, and increasing my desire to read more of Lewis. I received a quote the other day that ties into what I’m preaching about at PEMC.
Here’s the quote, taken from Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain:
God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense all His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give and nothing to receive. Hence, if God sometimes speaks as though the Impassible could suffer passion and eternal fullness could be in want, and in want of those beings on whom it bestows all from their bare existence upwards, this can mean only, if it means anything intelligible by us, that God of mere miracle has made Himself able so to hunger and created in Himself that which we can satisfy. If He requires us, the requirement is of His own choosing.
Sunday mornings over the next little while we’re looking at the phrase “Go…Put God’s Love In Motion”, a phrase that this church has had lying around for some time now. But it is a phrase that has not been utilized as a motivator or as a theme that we can throw ourselves behind to say “This is what we are about.” But it is a phrase that is jam packed with good meanings about what it means to be a church, and even what it means for each of us as individual Christians.
Last Sunday (September 22), I made a point of starting in the middle of the phrase. God’s love. What is God’s love? What does it look like? That is a massive question, and one that I can’t hope to answer. But here are some things I did point out:
1) God is love, it is the very basis of his essence and character (taken from 1 John 4:8, 16)
2) God’s love is always demonstrated in action (1 John 4:9-10; Romans 5:8)
3) God’s love is what motivates him to act (John 3:16)
4) God’s love is sacrificial (John 3:16-17)
This love is so very difficult for us to grasp, partially because the love we see demonstrated in the world around us is such a poor comparison to God’s love. And yet, one of Paul’s most ardent prayers for Christians is that we would know this love (Ephesians 3:14-21). Not understand it cognitively, but that we would know it, experience it.
Why do we need to know it? 3 reasons: 1) because the full measure of God’s love is directed at each and every one of us, each and every second of each and every day; 2) because God’s love extends to every person who has lived, lives now or will ever live; 3) because as Christians, you and I are agents of that love.
If we don’t know God’s love, it can’t motivate us, move us, inspire us to be it’s agents. It is so critical, as Paul declares in Ephesians 3, for us to know the power of Christ’s love and so be filled with the fullness of God. Then, only then, Paul declares: “With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”
So don’t strive to understand Christ’s love. Believe it, experience it, bask in it, let it fill you up so that it can flow through you to the world around you.
September. The “beginning” of the church ministry year. We talk so much about our fall launch in North American church culture. There is even an official “back to church Sunday” on September 15th in the States. But I wonder if this type of event is actually a product of defective thinking. Sure, “back to church Sunday” is clever and is a great marketing tool to draw attention to what has become the launching point of many programs and ministries in the church year, but are we sending the wrong message even as we’re trying to send the right one? When did it become OK to “leave” church in the first place? Why have we bought into this mindset that summer “belongs” to us, that church (and God) should naturally take a back seat to warmer temperatures, family vacations and longer days? I realize I’m drawing huge generalizations with these statements, and if they offend you, I am sorry.
Let me ask you a question. When you plan out your vacation time, whether that time is in the next time zone, on another continent or simply down the road at a family cottage, do you plan where and when you will go to church? Do you plan where and when you will worship as a family? Does the Bible go with you, what about family devotions after supper, or bed-time prayers with your spouse and kids?
Don’t get me wrong. I was on vacation this summer too. I was away from PEMC, but was I away from church? No. OK, to be honest I was only in church 2 of 3 Sundays, but that was because we were travelling that third Sunday. And we’re not perfect with our family devotions when we’re at home let alone when we’re away. But we try. The point is that pastors are probably worse than most at this. Pastors often make the mistake of taking a vacation from church while they are on vacation. They don’t plan on being in church while they are away because, let’s be honest, what pastors need a vacation from is church. That is not OK.
Hebrews 10 points out: 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
“meeting together” is vital to our lives as Christians. In just these three short verses the writer of Hebrews mentions three things meeting together does: 1) helps us hold fast to our confession of hope, IE: our faith in Jesus Christ, 2) encourages us, and 3) reminds us of our mission to be salt and light to the world (love and good deeds).
That leads me to my next point, when does church ministry really stop? Let me clarify. If you’ve been in the church for a while you read those words “church ministry” and you jump to a whole bunch of mental conclusions without even thinking about it. When you read “church ministry”, you might think, automatically, about the programs, small groups, outreaches, Bible studies, soup kitchens, Sunday schools, prayer meetings and worship times that your ”church” staffs, promotes and offers. But what if that phrase meant something else entirely. If you’ve been reading these posts, you will realize that I don’t assign the same definitions to things that others might. What if “church” did not refer to the building and organization you happen to attend or belong to; but instead referred to the body of born again believers who you are privileged to be part of, and referred to you as part of that body? And what if “ministry” did not mean all of those fancy programs, planned events, organized gatherings and staffed functions we all know and love? What if “ministry” meant the simple act of living out the Word, following the example of Christ and obeying His two biggest commandments (1: Love God, Love Neighbour and 2: Go and make disciples).
Suddenly, church ministry is not something you attend or volunteer at because the organization you are part of is running or promoting it. Church ministry becomes everything that you do as a born again believer to bring glory to God, be obedient to his commands and share the hope of Jesus with the people God has put around you every day, even during the summer time. Church ministry becomes very personal. When you begin to look at it that way, it makes “leaving” church a bit more difficult, doesn’t it. Thankfully, we have one another for encouragement and to spur one another on to love and good deeds. It is all one big, glorious, heavenly designed circle.
So why do we feel the need to have a break from church? Maybe because we’ve become so stuck in “doing” our faith that we have lost track of what it means to simply “be” a Christian. I hear it all the time as the pastor of a church. People are tired of doing ministry. Strung out, burned out, wiped out, stretched thin, pick the turn of phrase that suits you best. I love the ones who spiritualize it the best: “I feel God calling me out of this ministry” or “I’m not sure I’m gifted to do that.” All because ministry has become something we do instead of who we are, the faith we live by and what God calls us to.
Here’s the truth of the matter. I don’t want to call PEMC “back to church”. I want to call the people who make up PEMC to BE the church. Love God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Love you neighbour as you would love yourself. Be a witness for Jesus, give testimony of His greatness, shine a light in the darkness. None of that gets tiring, in fact, it gives life. Let me leave you with two statements from Jesus that prove it, both taken from the gospel of John.
John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Join us in our church parking lot for our Block Party this Saturday September 7th starting at 4pm.
We will have : Carnival games, bouncers, blow-up slide, Dunk Tank (the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, 2 Councillors, Pastor Phil, and Pastor Kevin (Whites Rd Pentecostal, are lined up so far), Mini-golf, BBQ, Popcorn,Candyfloss, Balloon animals.
After hot dogs PEMC proudly presents Juggler Eric Detweiler
Click here to view a sample of Eric’s show.
We will end the day with Fireworks!
Everyone is welcome! And everything is FREE!
I’m going away. Not permanently, just for a little while. 23 days technically.
As I prepare to go, I’m trying to put aside the stuff of daily life and ministry. That’s the trick of vacationing really; to somehow disconnect from all the stuff at home and be somewhere different. And I don’t mean just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well.
As I prepare to go, I am reminded that there repeated examples in the Bible of what God can do when we go somewhere different. Elijah received encouragement on Mt. Horeb (after running for 40 days). Moses received life direction at the burning bush. Hagar received a promise from God for her son, Ishmael. Jesus encountered and defeated temptation. In all of those instances, God worked when the people had left their place of residence, their place stress or distress, let their regular lives and stepped away.
And then there’s Mark 6:30-32. Let me put it here for you so you don’t have to scramble for a Bible:
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” 32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
Can you imagine, Jesus saying those words to you? The beautiful thing, I believe, is that he still does say those things to us. Jesus set the example for sneaking away to those quiet places where God speaks. Don’t get me wrong, God speaks every day in every circumstance. The problem is usually in the listening. I don’t believe God calls us away to a quiet place so that he can speak. I believe God calls us to a quiet place so we can hear. And here is the Lord Jesus Christ, inviting the disciples away. There are several things buried in here. He invites them away, not just so he can speak to them, but so they can speak to him. So they can share their excitement with what they’ve been seeing God doing through them. He invites them away to share their excitement with each other. Remember, he send them out in pairs in different directions. It was important for them to share with each other the things they saw God doing.
And he pulled them away to rest. As I get ready for holiday, that’s the part that stands out to me. Jesus cares that we get tired, and he wants to give us the opportunity to simply go away with him and rest. God is not always about doing. He’s not addicted to tasks and productivity and activity like our work oriented culture is. God rested on the 7th day, why can’t we?
I’m going to. Well, I’m going try to.
Have a great 23 days.
Church. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Jesus, the manifestation of Jesus’ character and will here on earth. The church is the family of God. 1 John 4-5 calls us to be brothers and sisters because we have been adopted by God as his children. Ephesians 2 tells us that we, collectively, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. That the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We are also called the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5, one that he desires to spend eternity with. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the church is called the people of God. We are his people, chosen Colossians 3 tells us, called together because of his love.
There are wonderful blessings waiting for us as we live out these descriptions of who God sees his church to be. Unity in purpose, caring support, a place of encouragement and loving correction, a whole group of someones who can pray with us, cry with us, laugh with us and walk through life and faith with us.
A bride, a temple, a body, a family and a holy priesthood. Those are five high, honourable and lofty descriptions of the church. They are descriptive of God’s feelings for us, of his commitment to us, of just how much he values the people who are the church and of what he expects of us. Why then do we do it so badly sometimes? These descriptions should inspire us. They should motivate us to be more than we would normally be. Do we act as a family? Do we live out the presence of the Spirit in our midst? Do we bear ourselves as a bride on her wedding day? Do we manifest the person of Jesus in our attitudes and actions? Do we really believed God called us to be his holy people? Don’t get me wrong, we do church right sometimes. I just wonder why the sometimes are further apart than they should be.
Here’s part of the problem: me. I’m in the church. And I say things wrong, I pout when I don’t get my own way, I get angry and frustrated. I get hurt and then hold a grudge. I forget to forgive. I talk more than I listen. I like to be right and hate to be wrong. I could continue, but we’d be here a while. And I’m being honest, I do all of those things. I think you get my point. We do it so badly sometimes because I do it badly sometimes.
And here’s the encouraging part: the solution is me. Well, not just me. All of us “mes” out there. Just as I am the source of the problem, I know I can also be part of the solution. When I sacrifice my pride, offer my way on the alter and let God direct my attitude, I can be part of the solution. But it means learning to be the man (or woman if your anatomy differs from mine), that God needs me to be. Because the church is not a building, it is not an organization or a tax-exempt charity, it is not even an employer. The church is people. People gathered together to share in worship, engage in mission and equip the saints for both. I have a part to play in that, so do you.
I will mess it up and so will you. But I can also get it right and so can you. Galatians 5 tells us that the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” These are the things the Holy Spirit wants to cultivate in all of us, things that show God living in and transforming us. The funny thing is, to do church right, all of those things have to be present. It’s almost as if God planned it that way…go figure.
Here is the church, here is the steeple…open the doors and there’s all the people. Believe it or not, that’s exactly the way God wants it to be.
Over the next weeks, we’re going to spend some time exploring how we can do church right. Not that we’ll be perfect at it, but God has given us his instruction manual so that we can get it as right as we possibly can. Join us May 12 – June 30 as we take a detailed look through Colossians 3:12-17 and unpack what that scripture has to say about the church, why it exists, what God’s picture of it is and how we can learn to live “As God’s Chosen People.”
Have you ever spent time looking at a really big tree? When I was younger, we had a huge red maple tree in the front yard. I mean huge. Our whole house fit in the shadow it cast in the summer time. It was better than air conditioning! One of my favourite pastimes was climb that tree. It was big enough that the branches near the very top could support my weight. I remember spending more than a few summer afternoons in that tree. Enjoying the shade, the challenge of climbing and the feeling of the tree moving underneath me. It may seem strange to think about trees moving, unless you are a Tolkien fan and are reminded of the Ents in Lord of the Rings.
But when you climb a tree and simply sit in its branches, you realize just how much they move. It can be quite disconcerting the first couple of times you do it. This thing that weighs more than some houses, that has been in the same spot for 50+ years, that you perceive to be solid and immovable, actually moves a lot. Even when there doesn’t seem to be any wind, the tree moves. Climb it in a big wind and it’s better than those cheapo roller coasters at mobile carnivals!
So I spend a lot of time looking at trees. Thinking about how difficult they would be to climb, thinking about straight or crooked they are, how healthy they look. But also about the sheer size, the years it took for them to grow and the strength in the root system that it takes to keep them upright. And I think about their shadows.
There are plenty of spiritual metaphors I could pull out of those musings about trees. But we stand, my friends, four sleeps away from the most important tree in human history. It is not a maple or an oak. Not a spruce or a pine. In fact, it is not a living tree at all. It was a tree of human construction, with only two branches. It didn’t stand 100′s of feet tall or even stand in the same place for long. One afternoon, 6 hours to be precise. That is how long the cross stood in place. And yet it is as if it stood in that place from eternity past to eternity future. Such is the shadow it casts.
We, my friends, are in it’s shadow. Our mainline church friends call this week Holy Week. It is the week leading up to the reality of Good Friday and the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is in this week that the shadow gets a little stronger, that the world remembers one more time that God took on human flesh knowing that flesh would be ripped from his bones by a Roman whip. The world is reminded that God took on human emotion, knowing full well that he would plumb the depths of shame, loneliness and brokenness. The world is reminded that God took on veins filled with blood, knowing that blood would be spilled; knowing that blood would flow out of his body and cover absolutely all of the ugliness of this life and its sin. It is a huge shadow my friends.
And so my hobby of looking at trees takes on a bit more meaning this week. I’ve seen some impressive tress in my life my friends. Full maples in southern Ontario, absolutely massive red pines near Thunder Bay, the unimaginable tree of the B.C. coastline. Trees of all shapes and sizes, all colours and shapes. But none of them compare to the cross. I’ll never get bored of looking at it. Not because of the cross itself, but because in it the full love and mercy of God are revealed.
I hope you take time to look. I hope you make room to sit in the shadow and look up.
You don’t want to miss this year’s fun!!!
Join us for another fabulous year of Vacation Bible School!! Children that are entering Kindergarten to Grade 6 are welcome to come for a great time of singing, games, Bible stories, snacks and more in God’s Backyard!!
We have an opportunity my friends. An opportunity brought to us by Mary Crome, a representative of the Legal Clinic of Guelph & Wellington County. She is organizing an event called “Wellington County Community Connect” at the Arthur arena for March 22nd, 2013. Her goal for this event is to put as many community resources a possible under one roof for those in need of them. Legal services, dental clinics, hair cutting, social services, work services, food, all under one roof. A bus will be making the rounds among the communities in Wellington County to provide free transportation to those who need it to reach the Arthur arena.
What is our part in this? Mary has approached the churches in Palmerston to provide 300 dinner kits. These kits would contain non-perishable foods for families of 2, 4 or 6. Each church in Palmerston will provide 50 kits. 20 of them would be sized to feed a family of 2, another 20 would feed a family of 4, and 10 of them would feed a family of 6. Each meal would also contain a word of scriptural encouragement.
This is a great chance to live out our love for others in action. “Putting God’s Love In Motion” is our motivating statement here at PEMC. Let’s live up to it.
We need 2 things:
1) We need people to donate food for these kits. The suggestion has been for a pasta meal of some sort, although canned meat, box potatoes, and canned vegetables would also work. The goal is to provide healthy, balanced meals in these kits.
2) We need people to help us put the kits together. Box up the food, print off some scriptural encouragements.
Please pray and think about how you can be of help in this opportunity!
I’ve always found it fascinating that God calls us into the desert from time-to-time. David, Moses, Elijah, Jacob, and of course, Jesus. All called away from their places of “ministry”, all called out into a place of nothingness, all called to walk closer with God.
God needs our attention, and sometimes, in order to get it, he removes everything else. Cars, cell phones, email, txts, stubborn donkeys and demanding crowds, he takes us away from them all in order to speak. Some of us, we love those times of quiet, of peace and reflection. We long for them, sometimes in unhealthy ways. Others, well, others hate those quiet times, those inner reflections. We love our cars, stereos, smart phones and the buzz of the crowd. We all have to learn what it means to be alone with God in healthy, productive and meaningful ways. Sure, some of us get away with God on a regular basis, but we do it because we have to, not because we want to. While others never feel the need, never feel the pull to spend time solely in God’s presence.
Both types lose out. The first lose because they don’t enter into God’ presence with joy or expectation, only thinking about the duty and the chore. The second lose out because they don’t know what they’re missing.
Jeremiah 33:3 says: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” God’s desire is to speak directly to us, and to tell us great things! How many times, as a pastor and a friend, have I heard people lament that they do not know what God wants, or where God is, or what God is doing. Yet when I read this scripture, I find God very openly saying he wants to share with us his answers, his direction, his plans and his secrets. The real question becomes, how hard and how earnestly are we calling out to him? Are we in a place, physically, emotionally and spiritually, where we can hear him?
The leadership here at PEMC has its annual Leadership Summit this coming Saturday. A time for us to get away as leadership and try to hear God clearly. To seek his face, to call out to him, and hear what he has to say in return.
When was the last time you set time aside to hear from him. Not because you had to, but because you wanted to. God love you very much, and he desperately wants to speak with you.