Monday, 12/10/18 – Pressing on…

red lighted candle

Yesterday in our Sunday service we lit the Advent candle of Peace. Pastor Steve shared about the difficulties faced by Joseph and Mary as they journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem – a journey that would culminate in the Birth of the Prince of Peace.

We, like Joseph and Mary, are all are on a journey fraught with difficulties. We seek peace as we travel but sometimes it eludes us.

A few weeks back I shared about my own unrest during a summer of great struggle as I was particularly hard pressed with a trial. Paul experienced times of unrest even during times of joyful opportunity: “Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there” (2 Cor. 2:12,13).

Perhaps as you approach the joys of this Christmas there is yet turmoil in your heart. You celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace yet feel a great unrest in your spirit.

In my trial last summer I felt as though I had been cast deep into the depths of the ocean. I was in despair. Above me was the safety and security of the boat. I knew that. I could see the boat was still there. It had not left me. The boat was still floating. There was nothing wrong with the boat. But I was deep below it, submerged under the weight of the trial, caught in the current of its flow, the vortex of its eddy, tangled in seaweed. (You get the idea!)

sea water blue sun
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But I knew where Peace was to be found. I knew the answer was in getting to the boat. My efforts were directed at getting to that spot… not another.

Christ “does not change like shifting shadows” wrote James (James 1:14). He is reliable. He brings us Peace… whether or not we currently sense it. The Prince of Peace was with Mary all along even though she could not see Him. He was with them both intimately, deep in Mary’s womb.

He is always with His children.

Neil Anderson reminds the sinking soul to “remember in darkness what you knew to be true when the sun shone bright.” Sometimes the journey is very difficult, the struggle to the boat is hard.

Peter when sinking cried out to the Lord is great and immediate despair, “Lord, save!” The thief on the cross beside Jesus prayed likewise (Luke 23:42). Sometimes the best prayers of all are nothing more than the desperate plea “Help!”

For me, these despairing calls were made several times each day. I would get to the boat, rest in His Peace, then another huge wave would toss me down again! Peace came in His Presence… in snippets… again… and again… and again. It was a struggle, but I thank God I knew Him to Whom I could call. I thank God for that boat!

red lighted candle

Sunday’s advent candle of Peace can be lit because this is the gift of Christ, the reason for Christmas. The angels announcedPeace, good will to men.” (Luke 2:14). Jesus reiterated “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

The believer has a place to turn in trials. The boat above is an ark of safety and peace amid the storms.

Pity the soul who sinks with no boat above.

More tomorrow…

Friday, 12/7/18 – Tough Question

“If Christians have already died and are in heaven with the Saviour, why would their bodies rise from the grave?”

This question came to me from a Bible study group looking at the following passage:

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29)

Studied against the broader teaching of scripture we come to see that this passage is referring to two separate instances of resurrection: first the resurrection of the believers, and later the resurrection of the lost. More on this later, but for now let’s consideration the resurrection of believers…

In 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 Paul writes,

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

When a believer dies his soul goes immediately into the presence of the Lord, as Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). We understand from Revelation 6:9-11 (and other passages) that these souls are conscious entities.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

These souls are presently bodiless. Judgment against their murderers has not yet occurred and they are asking how long it will be until this happens – i.e. until the end of the age and the Judgment of mankind. They are told to wait. More souls would yet join them after which would come the judgement — the end of the Age, “the last trumpet,” spoken of above in the Corinthian passage.

Many Christians tend to think that this spiritual only existence of our souls will be our state for all eternity. But Paul clearly talks about this mortal being transformed… putting on immortality… the redemption of God is ultimately a complete redemption. He transforms this mortal body into an immortal body, this perishable body into an glorified and imperishable one. This all happens at the end of the age, at the return of Christ.

Paul comforts The Thessalonians with these words,

we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:15-18)

Jesus returns… there is a shout… there is the trumpet call of God, and the bodies of all believers emerge from their burial places, or scattered atoms, or far corners of space, and in an instant are transformed from mortal, perishable bodies to immortal, imperishable bodies. (The souls under the altar along with the rest are now clothed in their imperishable forms.) Then believers who are still alive are caught up and transformed instantly as well so that those who died and those who never tasted death are all transformed and together as similar immortal, imperishable and glorified beings “and so we will be with the Lord forever.”

This is “the first resurrection” spoken of in Revelation 20, “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection” (Rev. 20:6) Another resurrection comes later: the resurrection of the lost, followed by their final and eternal judgment.

Here are some further passages that address the two resurrections and the fate of the lost…

Daniel 12:2 – Daniels vision of the end times…

“Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Acts 24:14,15 Paul’s trial before Felix…

“…I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

Rev.. 20:11-15 – The Judgment of the Dead…

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Which resurrection will you take part in?
Not sure?
Use the Contact page. We’ll lead you to the One Who can help.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Thursday, 12/6/18 – Discipleship: Priorities

I set up an old card table the other day. You know the kind… the legs fold out for use and fold back into the sides of the table top for ease of storage, maybe tucked behind a door or leaning discretely against a wall.

20181204_210253The way you set up a card table is to first hold the table top sideways as it rests on the floor on one its edges, then unfold and lock into place all the legs. When all the legs are opened and locked you grasp hold of opposite sides of the table top and set it upright on its legs. If you attempt to set it upright before all the legs are opened and locked the table will topple. It cannot stand. If you fail to lock all, some, or even one of the legs it may stand a short while but soon it will begin to twist, collapsing the unlocked leg further until once again the whole table falls.

If you want to use a card table locking all four legs is a priority.

If you want to grow as a Christian locking these four disciplines into your life is also a priority:

Prayer, Bible study, Witnessing, Fellowship.

Neglect any one of these and… Well… Just take a lesson from the card table!

belief bible book business
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Prayer is a priority because it is like air, essential at all times for survival. In prayer we exercise ‘spiritual breathing.’ We exhale our sins, our problems, our worship to God. We inhale His forgiveness, His Grace, His Word, comfort, conviction, forgiveness*. “Pray without ceasing,” urged Paul (1 Thess. 5:17). It’s that important!

Bible study is a priority because it is like food, nourishing to our spirit, instructive to our minds, health to our bodies, and souls. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Witnessing is a priority because it is like exercise; in sharing our faith we grow our faith. We develop spiritual muscle, resilience, agility in the Word, confidence and poise. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” wrote Peter (1 Pet. 3:15).

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Fellowship is a priority because others can keep us accountable to continuing in the other three disciplines. We are all up and down in this journey, but we are not all up or all down at the same time. As Solomon summarized, “Two are better than one… If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” (Eccl. 4:9,10).

These are the essentials… the four legs of faith… the prime-most of priorities… the disciplines of discipleship. If you don’t want to topple or spend your days behind a door or leaning against a wall you must lock these priorities in place.

Press on…

*Yeah, I know… I mentioned “forgiveness” twice. I was gonna fix it but then I realized that often during prayer God shows us other sins in need of forgiveness. I’m leaving them both in. 

Are you interested in being discipled one-on-one in the fundamentals of new life in Christ?

Or, perhaps you would you like to know how to begin this journey and take the very first of the First Steps by turning from your current path and committing your path to Christ? — Use the Contact page and we’ll get you started.

Wednesday, 12/5/18 – Pressing on…

assorted puzzle game
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If you’re going to assemble this Christmas puzzle [see yesterday’s blog] you will need to see the correct picture on the box lid, let it guide you, have good lighting, and great patience.

Pastor Steve’s four-point application* of what the Angel’s proclamation to Mary means to each soul today parallel the basics of good puzzle assembling:

Experience – the Grace of God
Believe – the Word of God
Allow – the Spirit of God to guide
Accomplish – the Will of God

Experience – the Grace of God (see the full picture)

When a person acknowledges that Jesus is God incarnate, that He came to rescue us from our sinful alienation by paying the price Himself for the sin debt we incurred, when we fall before Him, confessing our guilt, inviting His Spirit to direct our steps, and turn away from evil… when we have done this we have seen the big picture, the love and grace that painted the picture of Jesus on the box cover. This is the correct picture, the frame of the puzzle.

C. S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

When you have seen the picture on box lid you know what to do with all the pieces inside. When you see God’s love and plan in Jesus Christ you have the framework for all the bits of this life. You know exactly what you are to do with them.

Believe – the Word of God (let it guide you)

This is what we Do to fill in the middle. We believe that all the pieces are in the box. When we go looking for a missing bit we look in this box. We do not go rummaging through other boxes, hunt through the floor vents or under other things on the table. We know and believe that all the pieces we need are provided to us in the one box we received from the beginning.

“His divine power has given use everything we need for a godly life…” (2 Pet. 1:3)

Allow – the Spirit of God to guide  (illumination, good lighting)

We don’t have to assemble this puzzle alone! Jesus gives us His own Spirit to dwell within us!

“…the Spirit of truth… will guide you into all the truth. … the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:13, 15)

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor. 1:21, 22)

“…When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession…” (Eph. 1:13, 14)

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Tim. 1:14)

Accomplish – the Will of God  (be patient)

What is the Will of God? He wants to re-assemble us! We may not notice it at first, but as we diligently work away at the puzzle, staring constantly at it day by day, we are changing. The image of the puzzle slowly alters our image. We become like Christ!

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate a the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

This is the great message of Christmas! Hope! Sure Hope! Something to anticipate, to work toward with God, something to celebrate, something for which to praise Him – forever!

Press on…

* to hear Pastor Steve’s complete message click here, look under Media for the Dec. 2 audio file.

Tuesday, 12/4/18 – Pressing on…

I went to see “The Grinch” on Saturday.

20181203_153832Benedict Cumberbatch voiced this season’s grumpy green guy while Chris Renaud provided dog noises for Grinch’s loyal and expressive pet Max. You all know the story I’m sure. Grinch hates the happiness of Whoville at Christmastime and so decides to steal it away from them. Posing as Santa in a Max-powered sleigh they zoom off and remove trees and treats, presents and decorations from all the town. But the residents celebrate anyway. Grinch, realizing his error, returns the goods, repents before the townsfolk and slinks off back to his solitary cave on Mount Crumpet. The town is quickly restored and Little Cindy Lou Who (Della Saba) invites Grinch to Christmas dinner. It’s Dickens all over again as the no longer lonely Grinch is transformed by the unimaginable grace of the Whos of Whoville.

Many of our best-loved Christmas classics are really redemption stories re-told with tender emotion, tear-jerking dialogue, beautiful scenery, sweet children or adorable large-eyed animation – but no Jesus. Consider these: A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Meet me in St. Louis, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!

We seem to know instinctively that love and grace, redemption and restoration, hope and peace are all parts of something….. something long forgotten… something that we can catch glimpses of at this time of the year, but not quite identify. It’s like a half-remembered dream for many as they struggle to find the missing pieces.

assemble challenge combine creativity

But the Christian knows the full picture. The portrait is Christ. You can’t make the puzzle pieces form any other image. It is not Santa-mas, Elf-mas, Tiny Tim-mas, George Bailey-mas, Red-nosed Rudolph-mas, nor green-guy Grinch-mas! The picture on the box lid is Jesus. It is and evermore will be Christmas.

The real redemption story is no “Who” done it. Jesus done it! He done it all! Look up, and rejoice!

More tomorrow…

Monday, 12/3/18 – Pressing on…

“The average person in the world today, without faith and without God and without hope, is engaged in a desperate personal search throughout his lifetime. He does not really know where he has been. He does not really know what he is doing here and now. He does not know where he is going.” – A.W. Tozer

The one leads to the other, doesn’t it?

If we are without faith, scripture says, we are without God! “…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). If we are without God, we are without hope also.

Paul asks the Ephesians to recall the their lives before they received the gospel. “Remember,” he writes, “at that at that time you were separate from Christ… without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12)

We can live about 40 days without food, about 3 days without water, about 8 minutes without air – but without hope we don’t wish to live at all.

Even godless Nietzche noted, “He who has a why in life can bear with almost any how.”

What is your “why?” What motivates you to press on… and through…. and beyond? What is your driving hope?

This past Sunday at Lincoln Baptist Church Pastor Steve began a five part series entitled “A Christmas Journey.” He spoke of the angel Gabriel’s journey, a journey from Heaven to earth to bring a lost and dying humanity a message of hope.

silhouette of a man in window
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The “Faint Hope Clause” was a means in Canadian law whereby a person having served at least 15 years of a 25yr to life sentence might possibly be paroled prior to their full completion of the term of incarceration. It was at best a slim chance, but a “hope” in any event.

The Christian’s “hope” is nothing like that. There is nothing uncertain about it to those who turn to Christ for salvation. “Hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 5:3b-5a), wrote Paul. It is based on the promise “confirmed by an oath” (Heb. 6:17) and nature “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18) of God. The author of Hebrews states: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb. 6:19) Like an anchor our hope, though fixed on the unseen, is fixed none-the-less.

yellow petaled flowers
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Winter can be tough and grueling in the Maritimes, but we have this hope – Spring is coming! There is no uncertainty or doubt about it. It cannot snow all twelve months. We have the hope of spring.

The hope Christ brings is more like that. Not a “faint hope” clause, not Santa Claus, not a lottery draw, but a certainty to give us strength and courage as we await that day.

This is the hope the angel Gabriel announced! “Hey everyone, there’s a Spring!” “There’s a Saviour!” “There’s a Hope!”

More tomorrow…

Friday, 11/30/18 – Tough Question

“Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?”

In January 1964 an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” aired In which in a dystopian future everyone, upon turning age 19, must undergo an operation to become beautiful according to approved standards of perfection.

On Aug 2, 1985 The movie Weird Science opened in theatres across the continent. High-school geeks Gary and Wyatt are inept with the opposite sex and create a computer generated “ideal woman.”

On March 10, 2000 The Outer Limits featured an episode called “Simon Says” in which an engineer, grieving the loss of his son who perished in a car accident, constructs a robot that incorporates the memories of the deceased child.

accomplishment accuracy accurate achievement

We seem almost obsessed as a society with the notion of creating or re-creating our image in perfection. But none of these recreated ideals seem to quite make the grade. Perfection always robs us of something essential to our humanity.

When we ask “Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” we forget the reason God created us at all. God already had a heaven filled with perfect angels, “ministering spirits” ready at any time to do His bidding. But these we’re unable to provide that for which the Creator longed: a relationship with other free-thinking beings, beings who loved and interacted with Him not from design, but from desire.

Love always entails risk. The only perfect companions, it seems, are those with imperfections. The only perfect love relationships, it seems, are those where hurt and hate are also possible. So God made us perfect from the start, perfect with the power to choose.

We chose poorly.

Yet God has made a way to make us perfect again! “Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” That’s exactly what He is doing, right now, in you. As you come to the multiple crossroads and decisions that accompany each day, you make decisions. Decisions to move a little closer to or away from holiness. With each one you are changing.

God is at work within you too (Phil. 2:13). He is committed to seeing this transformative work get done (Phil. 1:6)… “from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7), “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17), “from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

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Why doesn’t God just make us all perfect?” He is doing that now. Our job is to work with Him until that day when the job is done.

“…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.