Tuesday, 1/29/19 – Pressing on…

20190128_165631Yesterday’s talk about tug boats got me thinking about a book I used to treasure as a child: Scuffy the Tugboat.

Written by Gertrude Crampton and published in 1946, the story begins,

20190128_165727Scuffy was sad.
Scuffy was cross.
Scuffy sniffed his blue smokestack.
“A toy store is no place for a red-painted tugboat,” said Scuffy, and he sniffed his blue smokestack again.
“I was meant for bigger things.”

Ever feel like that? “This is no place for me!” … “I was meant for bigger things.” Well, you are absolutely correct! And the Holy Spirit is exactly the One to lead you there.

As Scuffy’s story unfolds he ends up being taken to a brook, but then the current catches him. The brook becomes a stream, the stream becomes a river, then an even bigger river. Scuffy is overwhelmed! Then, up ahead Scuffy can see the approaching ocean!

Some people fear that if they yield themselves fully to the Holy Spirit they, like Scuffy, will be swept away to places they do not want to be… out of control and doomed!

white and black sail boat on ocean

But the guidance of the Holy Spirit is nothing like that. In fact, if anything, it is more like the breeze that propels and guides a sailboat. Mind you, the Holy Spirit is still capable of those gale force winds I mentioned yesterday, but they are there for your good not your harm. They can carry you swiftly away from dangers or blow hard against the enemies of Truth. More often the Spirit’s Voice is gentle, and must be entreated….

Consider these examples from scripture…

Gut feeling…
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6-7)

Vision… Inner Voice…
While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
(Acts 10:19-20)

After worship, fasting and prayer…
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2,3)

You’ll recognize the Holy Spirit when He speaks to you. It’s the Voice of a Friend.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isa. 30:21)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:25)

More tomorrow…

Monday, 1/28/19 – Pressing on…

brown short coated dog on macro photograph
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Most dictionaries agree, a “tug” is “a quick and usually strong pull,” a yank… like the jerk on a dog’s leash–although your dog might think you are the jerk on his leash for doing so!

Yesterday Pastor Steve likened the “tug” of the Holy Spirit to the tug of a fish on a fishing line, another good illustration. But the Holy Spirit is neither a fish nor a man. Scripture likens Him to a dove, a gentle bird, pure like snow and easily provoked away. Jesus said He was like the wind (John 3:8), unpredictable, at times gentle, entreating, at other times powerful, with gale force capable of destroying any man-made edifice.

On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles Peter arose and boldly preached the gospel. “When the people heard this,” Luke documents, “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37,38)

Perhaps you’ve experienced this pull of conviction. Perhaps you are fighting it now? It is the Holy Spirit who brings this unrest to the heart of a lost soul. When that soul surrenders to Christ, peace comes, the dove alights and resides — a seal of ownership by none other than Christ Himself and God the Father. Then that same Spirit works from within, gently urging, nudging, shaking, transforming the new believer into the likeness of Christ. This is regeneration. None of us are done the process yet!

white water boat
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Tug boats succeed in pulling large loads for a number of reasons. First, it’s not as difficult to pull something on water as it is to pull it on land, but more importantly perhaps is that tug boats are essentially all engineall power. The aim of the tug boat is not speed, but slow-moving intense power which eventually builds in momentum. Tug boats are like freight trains: one or two small engines pulling over a hundred loaded freight cars. Once either of these gets going they don’t stop quickly and they’ll pack a powerful punch if anything happens to get in the way! Be patient; the Holy Spirit will do a similar work in you.

grayscale photo of person pulling up woman using rope
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We also wrestle with opposing “tugs”–“tugs-of-war” you might say. There are tugs from the flesh. Paul wrote: “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other…” (Gal.5:17).

There are also “tugs” from the world– and the prince of it, the devil. Again, Paul: “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Read the verses around these passages to learn how to combat these tugs.)

Our job is to work with the Holy Spirit… to “feed the right dog” as some say. Do you want to be transformed? Do you want to be generated anew? This is why Nicodemus came to Jesus (John 3:1-21). You can come to Him too!

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 1/23/19 – Pressing on…

20190122_061917

Today my wife turns 60. Later this year will mark our 35th wedding anniversary! This means that “she” has been a “we” for the greater portion of her lifetime thus far – ample time for me to be her “monkey wrench” many times over. I’m sure glad she stuck it out!

O.K., I’d better admit it… sometimes, just a very few sometimes, she has been a “monkey wrench” to me as well (she reads these blogs too, you know!) — but we’ve managed along despite the bruises. There’s no other way. Thorns come with the roses.

20190122_061102Other times the “monkey wrenches” came at us both, from sources outside us. These we braved together. They hurt too, but they drew us closer… to each other, and to God.

So what’s the glue that makes all this stick? C.S. Lewis has good insight on this…

It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by… the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. … this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run… – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Each Christian is also in vital union with God. “Christ in you…” summarized Paul (Col. 1:27). Jesus prayed,

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

The Christian wants this unity, desires it, it too is “a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit.” It too is “reinforced by the grace” of God. Though I might not “like” those times God allows a “monkey wrench” to come at me, I still love God; He still loves me. I am committed; He is committed. I keep the promise; He keeps the promise. It is on this love that the engine of faith is run also.

“For better or for worse” the marriage vows used to say. When monkey wrenches came at Jesus and many left, He asked his disciples “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67, 68) “For better or for worse” this is the only train bound for glory. I wouldn’t complain about the bumps along the track.

20190122_061023So today I celebrate my wife’s 60 (and soon our 35) years. More monkey wrenches may lie ahead, but we will still press through. Roses with thorns. We will press through together despite the monkey wrenches from without us too, for our security, strength and stamina are from Christ, the One Who received our thorns and gives us the roses.

Need to get to know this God-man? Use the Contact page… we’ll point you to Him.

Press on…

Tuesday, 1/22/19 – Pressing on…

20190120_093731“Oh boy,… a monkey wrench!”

How do you hear that inflected in your mind? Does it sound like Eeyore, or maybe Garfield? “Oh boy,… a monkey wrench!” “Rats!” Charlie Brown might add.

20190120_093803Can you imagine it shouted in the upbeat by a bounding, tail-wagging Scooby-Doo? “Oh boy!!! — A monkey wrench!!!” “Yippee!” Well, brace yourself. that’s exactly what James is saying we should do! Consider it pure joy,” he says, “…whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

Why? Well… James continues, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (v. 3)

Pearls are formed when an irritant of some sort gets inside an oyster. The oyster defends itself by secreting “nacre,” a fluid which coats the foreign object in multiple layers, thereby creating a pearl! We need to be like that with our irritants… our “monkey wrenches”… valuing the virtue more than vilifying the vexation. (Pretty good, hey?)

James goes on… “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (v.4). The end goal of these difficulties is our completeness and contentedness in Christ.

It is indeed a learning process. Paul writes of how he too had to learn this.

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

abc books chalk chalkboard
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There was a time when Paul had not learned perseverance. But there came the time when he did. He could even say, “Copy me.” He wrote, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9). So there is hope for you and I too!

After that first ‘positive’ monkey wrench while on his path to persecute (see yesterday’s blog), Paul experienced many more while on the road to righteousness. The Lord revealed to Ananias, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16). Part of Paul’s calling, and ours as believers in Christ, is to deal with monkey wrenches in a godly, character-building manner.

What is irritating you today? Did something from the outside get inside you… ‘under your skin?’ Can you see it as a pearl-making opportunity? Can you count it all joy? Can you shout with a smile, “Oh boy! A monkey wrench!” — ?

More tomorrow…

Monday, 1/21/19 – Pressing on…

Don’t get smug if you think you know where we got the term “monkey wrench.” Turns out (No pun intended) that while a search for this origin will yield a fairly instant result, a continued search will soon debunk it!

For example, my search at first yielded that the word originated from public mockery of a wrench invented by famed boxer Jack Johnson. But further searching soon exposed this as a popular misconception. Johnson did patent a wrench, but it was not the ‘monkey wrench.’

The ‘truth,’ it next seems, is that the wrench was named after its c 1858 ‘inventor’ Charles Moncky. Moncky himself, they say, named it thus as a marketing gimmick. But… keep searching and you’ll uncover that Moncky was born some time after the invention. Oops!

Once your search leads you to Solymon Merrick, you might think you’ve hit pay dirt, but eventually even here there is controversy. So… forget it. Accept that we really don’t know where the name originated.

20190119_231536But we do know there is a tool called a “monkey wrench,” and that if you hurl one into any mechanism it’ll probably do some serious damage! Doubt that? Well, c’mon over and let me hurl one at you!

So, whether it’s frustrated mechanics and motors, or picnic planners and poison ivy, to “throw a monkey wrench into” something most usually spells disaster! Unfortunately, as you’ve no doubt discovered, life has its good share of this sort of monkey business.

This Sunday past for instance, like myself, many folk had plans to gather at Lincoln Baptist Church, enjoy sound teaching, worship, fellowship and prayer. But a massive storm system forecasting up to 60 cm snow, freezing rain, sub -30 wind chills and possible flooding impacted these plans with monkey wrench force! So my topic today, rather than contemplations on Sunday’s message, is what to do when a “monkey wrench” hits?

animal ape care cute
Photo by Nicholas Santasier

When we look to scripture we see most every saint has his or her “monkey wrench” moments. The first such moment for many turns out to be a very good monkey wrench indeed!

Three boys from Bethsaida had a monkey wrench thrown into their fishing operation aspirations the day they met Jesus! (John 1:35-42). Paul was temporarily blinded by when the wrench hit him on his way to persecute in Damascus. Turned him right round…. inside out… right side up! (Acts 9:1-9). Turns out some machinery needs to be destroyed!

But then there’s those nasty sorts of monkey wrenches, the ones that more readily come to mind. I’ll be looking at those on Tuesday and Wednesday. Till then, have a peek at Paul’s letter to Phillipi. He won’t mind, I’m sure.

More tomorrow…

Wednesday, 1/16/19 – Pressing on…

black and white black and white branches cloudy
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During his message last Sunday Pastor Steve reference a “tree” – really just a branch, stuck in a pot and used as a sanctuary decoration during the Christmas season. The branch of course could not know it had been repurposed. It just did what it had always done: it sought nourishment and desired to grow. Evidently it had found some in the soil… in the place where it was “planted,“ stuck really, with no gardener’s care or expectation. But still, it had blossomed!

Pastor Steve’s eight-week sermon series is entitled “The Person, the Presence, and the Power off the Holy Spirit.” *

Now, as we look into this it is helpful to remember Jesus’ directive in John 15. “Abide in me,” He said. Like that branch… staying put…. In the pot… in the nourishing soil. It stayed the course and drew power from its source.

Here’s more of what Jesus told his disciples,

…No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:4-8)

close up of fruits hanging on tree
Pixabay

The sap working in that vine represents the working of the Holy Spirit in us! We need to draw from Him… fill our branches with His flow. “Be filled with the Spirit,” wrote Paul (Eph. 5:18). Then we too produce “fruit.” Paul talks about this in a letter he sent to the Galatians: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23). All good things, things that can nourish others, things that we may be able to generate to some degree but
things for which we need some other power to generate to their full.

The Person, the Presence, and the Power of the Holy Spirit. We need them all, and we need not fear any of them — the gentle dove which descended on Christ at His baptism (Matt. 3:16 Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), the impetus to worship rightly (John 4:24), and the fruit-bearing power source in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23).

What do we need to do? The same basic stuff as that “tree” — seek nourishment, and desire to grow.

Press on…

* Follow Pastor Steve’s message series by logging on to our website: www.lincolnbaptistchurch.ca and look under Media. 

Tuesday, 1/15/19 – Pressing on…

Merriam-Webster gives us this definition for “holy”: “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness” It cites Psalm 99:9, “for the Lord our God is holy” as an example of its usage. There can really be no other example. Only God is holy, worthy of complete devotion, perfect in goodness and righteousness. Any other definition merely describes people or things in relation to God.

Consider for example the synonyms we use: devout, sacred, godly, pious, religious, saintly. All of these describe something or someone being like God in some way and to some degree. God is the ‘gold standard’ so to speak, the definition of holy.

It is because God is holy that God must be worshipped. He demands it. Not that He is egotistical, for holiness has no egotistical streak within it. Rather, God’s very nature of holiness requires that He be worshipped! Think of it like this…

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Pexels.com

A group of teachers assembled for in-service training workshop. “What do you teach?” the workshop leader asked. Various answers echoed back from the floor. “Science,” said one participant. “History,” shouted another. “Mathematics,” said a third.

Wrong,” shouted the instructor. “You are all wrong…. You teach students.”

Well of course! If you are teacher you require students. If you are a leader, then there must be followers, or, as they say, you are just an individual going for a walk! The one requires the other.

God has a heaven of angels which worship Him, and they must. He also has people… people who have recognized that He indeed is holy… people that have been touched by His love… people who rely on Christ’s sacrifice to restore them… people who have the Holy Spirit indwelling them… transforming them… leading them… and teaching them how to worship this holy God.

Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24). We have the great privilege to be a worshipper. Note well, God will be worshipped. When Pharisees tried to silence Jesus’ worshipping disciples He replied “…if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

What a need we have for the Holy Spirit!

More tomorrow…