In 2013, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in partnership with the Bible League of Canada, the Canadian Bible Society, The Gideons, Open Doors, Wycliffe and a few others, released the results of a survey that asked Canadians about their engagement with and belief in the Bible.
It is important for Canadian Christians to understand the results of this survey as it applies to our culture. But the results of this survey are also a wake-up call for Canadian Christians.
One line stood out above all of the others in the report of the survey. It is this line: “The Bible engagement of self-identified Christians as a whole is not very different from Bible engagement of Canadians generally.”
Brothers and sisters, this should not be so!
There are positives. People who read the Bible regularly are 6 times more likely to attend church regularly, and 10 times more likely to consider the Bible God’s Word.
13% of Canadians and 23% of Canadian Christians agree that the Bible is relevant to daily life. That is encouraging! Those who believe that the Bible is relevant to daily life are over 10 times more likely to read the Bible frequently and are four times more likely to attend church weekly.
The Bible engages and changes lives! But we as Canadian Christians need to be setting the example and leading the conversation.
For more information about the survey, please go to: http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/
Let me encourage you my friends: be engaged with the Living and Active Word of God!
A New Year, a new beginning. That’s the way we think in our society. We desire that new start. A new set of resolutions, a new sense of purpose, new focus, new intentionality, new relationships, new furniture, new vehicle, new, new, new….
But what if new is just a modern fad, an invention of our consumer driven mind-set? Most electronics are made to be disposable, intending for us to be looking to the next new thing. Cell phones, tablets, computers, Blu-Ray players, TV’s, even the cars we drive are all made with their longevity in mind. Even our furniture. I have several pieces of furniture in my house that are older than I am (I’m 34) and some that are significantly older than I am. But the couch I bought 11 years ago when my wife and I got married? It’s done. We were furniture shopping this past Saturday.
As a side-bar, if you are going furniture shopping in this day and age, go prepared to spend way more than you expected and expect to get less than you would think for that money.
At one time when people bought furniture they bought it FOR LIFE. Now you can expect to go through three or four sets of furniture in your life-span.
This is turning into more of a rant than I intended. Here’s my point: what if we ignored New Years and our fascination with what is new, and instead focused on what is longstanding? On what endures?
I know, sounds radical, but it is actually the pattern that has sustained society for the past several millennia. Not that societies have been stagnant, there has always been change and new inventions, but those things always happened on the bedrock of some basic, unmoving, longstanding foundations. Things like moral law, social order, religious beliefs, cultural identity, oral traditions that have passed on history to the next generation, and so on.
What if this New Years we focused on something old and enduring, instead of something new and shiny? That’s the challenge that I gave to PEMC this past Sunday. What if the top spot in our New Years’ Resolution list was taken up by the Bible? A dedication to get back to what is basic and enduring and eternal. So the challenge is to read through the Bible in 2014 in a chronological order. So not book to book to book, but instead reordering the Bible to flow more as if it were a story. So, for instance, Psalm 138 & 139 would fall in between 1 Chronicles 25 and 1 Chronicles 26, because that is where David wrote them in the story of his life. It provides us with some incredible insight in to the contexts of the Psalms, the Major and Minor Prophets as you read them in the historical contexts of Samuel, Chronicles and Kings.
John 1:1 reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Of course “the Word” refers to Jesus in this context, and the whole point of the Bible is to point us to Jesus, the One who has been since the beginning. One solid, immovable, unchanging, eternal building block on which to place the rest of your life.
If you want to join us in this journey, there are going to be some helps along the way. Check back to this website daily for the daily reading plan, thoughts, questions and trivia to help with your reading, as well as the opportunity to leave comments about how the Bible is affecting your life and what insights you’ve been gaining. You can also check out the Facebook page dedicated to this that will have the same content as this page. You can also join us on Sunday mornings as we utilize this reading schedule to guide our worship and our scripture meditations for the year.
All in all it comes down to this: we need to be reading the Bible, period. Doesn’t matter how much or how little you are reading it now, you can and should be reading it more. It is God’s letter to each and every one of us.
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.
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.”
3 and a half weeks.
30, 240 minutes. If you want to break it down to seconds, you get a gold star.
That’s how much time we have until Christmas. That’s how much time we have until the presents are unwrapped, the chocolates are opened (and maybe even emptied), the nuts are cracked and the turkeys are nothing but piles of naked bones.
But we have that much time. Time to get ready. Not just for presents, turkeys, chocolates, visitors and nuts, but time to get ready for Emmanuel. For the greatest mystery in the world. That’s how Paul describes this Christmas thing in Colossians 1:27. He writes: “To them [God’s people] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in you. Made possible only because of Christmas, because of His coming.
This Sunday morning we continue our journey toward Bethlehem as we celebrate the second week of Advent. Traditionally, the first week represents hope. The hope that Jesus brings into the world, hope for a brighter future, hope for a tomorrow that is greater than all of our todays. Hope spawned by the mystery of God’s plan to wrap himself in the pigmented skin of humanity, be born in a rough stable, live a life of richness and perfection, and then die a death of pain and shame.
The second week usually represents peace. Peace inside ourselves, peace in our relationships, peace in those places where peace just never seems possible. Peace in knowing that God can, and does, use the insignificant, lowly and broken things of this world. Do we let the peace of God into our brokenness? Do we let the peace of the season wash over us, and erupt outwards in worship? Like Mary did in Luke 1:39-56. A lowly, insignificant Jewish girl, chosen to carry God’s Son. For no reason other than God chose. The reality of what God was doing came out of her in worship.
A mystery. That’s what we we’re exploring this advent season. This incredible mystery of Christmas. Will you join us?