Wednesday, 12/12/18 – Pressing on…

20181211_055413This past Monday The Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 was awarded to two recipients at the prestigious Oslo City Hall. This year the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad as award recipients “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.” As the official website states “Both laureates have made a crucial contribution to focusing attention on, and combating, such war crimes.” (Watch the full ceremonies here )

20181211_055444The Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901. It was established from the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel as an annual award to be given to those who, as the will states, “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Annual awards are also given in areas of Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature.

20181211_055248All of the recipients are deemed worthy of the reward because of their great efforts to benefit mankind in some way.

As great as these accomplishments may well be, their effect on any one of us is for but a few scant decades. The oldest verifiable age a person has lived would be Jeanne Calment (1875–1997) of France, She lived 122 years, 164 days. An Indonesian man is said to have lived 146 years, but this cannot be adequately substantiated.

20181211_055520In 1953 Billy Graham’s Peace with God was first published. Since then it has seen many reprints. The book is subtitled “How to Choose in the Hour of Decision.” It outlines the basic gospel message which Christ’s entry into This world made possible.

Peace… Peace with God! Here is a peace fitting to an immortal soul – your soul, and mine. Despite the great and noble deeds of men and women around this earth the world still fulfills the prophecy of old, “‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). “They lead my people astray,” cried Ezekiel, “saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Ezek. 13:10). Only in Christ will we find that true peace we all yearn to receive.

This Peace is free to all who will turn from futility and wickedness, neglect or self-centeredness, a worldly heart or a polluted mind, and surrender to Him, the Prince of Peace.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5,6)

Press on…

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Tuesday, 12/11/18 – Pressing on…

pink peace light sign

When we think of peace we usually think of some sort of serene image… perhaps a lake, or silent sunset. One dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.” We may use words like restfulness, tranquility, or quiet to describe it. We might also use the word to describe a time of freedom from war or the ending of some strife or violence: a time of harmony, or agreement.

But the biblical concept of peace is larger. It means “to be complete or whole” or “soundness of person.” Peace in the scriptures can be grouped into four categories:

1. wholeness of life or body (i.e., health)
2. right relationship or harmony between two parties or people… or covenant between man and God (Yahweh).
3. prosperity, success, or fulfillment
4. victory over enemies, or a time of no war

Isaiah foretold that when the Messiah came Peace would also come into the world,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isa. 9:6,7a)

statue angel cemetery

This is what angel hosts announced to shepherds regarding what the Christ child would bring “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14).

The scriptures testify that indeed He did: “…since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1); “For he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14); “For God was pleased to… reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col. 1:19,20).

“Trust in God to fulfill His promises,” urged Pastor Steve. God has also promised that one day all nations will bow under the reign of this Prince of Peace. One day you will bow too….

Will you today?

More tomorrow…

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
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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…

Wednesday, 12/5/18 – Pressing on…

assorted puzzle game
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

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
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

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
Photo by Adonyi Gábor on Pexels.com

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…

Wednesday, 11/28/18 – Pressing on…

Overseeing vs Overlooking

Overseeto keep watch over, survey, observe, make sure a task is done correctly.
Overlookto fail to notice or consider something or someone.

Toward the end of His earthly ministry Jesus told of a great separation of peoples of all nations that would occur “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). On His right will be the blessed, on His left the cursed. A great determiner of this will be the treatment given to others in their need: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the one in need of clothing, the sick, the imprisoned. Did one oversee, or overlook?

On Sunday our pastor made reference to an experiment done by James MacDonald, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. One Sunday Pastor MacDonald dressed himself in shabby clothing and sat down at the church entranceway to see how he would be treated. Check out the video here.

The above passage continues as our Lord explains “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40), and “…whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matt. 25:45).

What a shocker it must have been to many in his congregation as James MacDonald slowly revealed to them that the beggar they passed or paused to speak to was in fact he. What a shock it will be on that day of separation too when Jesus reveals that the one in need likewise was He, the King of all, the Almighty Himself.

What will Jesus say to you on that day – “Come, you who are blessed…” or “Depart from me, you who are cursed…”?

Those in need are all around us. Stop in at the Boyce Market on any Saturday morning, sit awhile at the east end off the food court in Kings Place mall, visit the tents set up in the laneway off Smythe Street near Woodstock Road, check out a few ATM lobbys in the middle of the night, look high in the crevices under our city bridges.

The Fredericton Homeless Shelter assists well over 400 individuals in need.

Check out Brittany Ranni’s recent blog where she writes of the needy in Los Angeles…

What is your responses when you encounter a person in need. You need not think money is all you might offer. Give them your time, your ear, your compassion and tears. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you,” said Peter to the lame man he and John met one morning in front of their place of worship. Little did they realize that the one to whom they spoke was Our Lord.

Remember, Jesus too was a homeless man (Luke 9:58), and He may well be in disguise as the next homeless soul you meet. His greatest desire was to come as a Servant to a hurting humanity, and hurt with us. What is yours?

Press on…