Thursday, 6/6/19 – Discipleship: Freedom

20190605_161446Perhaps you heard about the poor squirrel who was found under a vehicle in St Andrew’s last month by a couple of teens. The poor animal must have run through some still wet foam insulation which dried quickly on its body making it near impossible for it to move at all! It had got into so much of the stuff that it was hardly even recognizable anymore as a squirrel!

20190605_161523Thankfully Jaydon Pettipas and Aiden Hart came along, spotted the squirrel and took action. They contacted the closest veterinarian clinic in St George some 33 km away and brought the poor creature in immediately. Dr. Melanie Egan had never seen anything like this before in fact it was the first squirrel ever to be treated in the clinic. Using rubbing alcohol and gentle combing she was finally able to free the animal from its rock-hard, certain death prison. The squirrel was eventually released near the clinic.

active activity balance beach

Jesus said this: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36). He taught that sin had gripped a hold of us, it had hardened around us and there was nothing we could do to break free. The law had taught us how holy we had to be but we were helpless to obey it perfectly. Jesus came with the authority to make a new way… to die in our place… to appease the Justice of the Father, clean us up and set us free. One day He will indeed make us actually holy!

Paul reminds the new believers in Galatia not to return to attempting to obey the law… attempting to behave themselves holy. He’s telling them forget it; it won’t work. You’ve tried that already and you know it doesn’t work. Don’t go back. Trust Christ’s substitution before God as the way he has made for you. Stay away from attempts at self-righteousness.

achievement activity adolescent arms

The King James translation puts it like this: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (KJV). The New International has it: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (NIV). I rather like the direct simplicity of the New Life Version: “Christ made us free. Stay that way.” (NLV).

20190605_161556I hope that poor squirrel learned to stay away from construction sites — and especially to stay away from foam insulation! Likewise we as redeemed people of God must avoid sin and must avoid all the attempts to please God through our own righteousness. Christ has done it all!

Christian, Christ has made you free! Stay that way!

Press on…

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, 6/5/19 – Pressing on…

black and white book business close upAccording to the Cambridge Dictionary the idiom “a broken man” refers to a person who has suffered emotional pain to the point that it has changed the way the person lives. A “broken” person has come to the end of their coping abilities. Broken persons cannot “fix” themselves; they cannot even imagine that things could get better. Outside assistance is necessary.

brown horse beside gray metal bar

“Breaking” a horse is the process of training the horse to be ridden. The animal must be taught to accept a saddle and bridle and become accustomed to carrying the weight of a rider. A new pair of shoes will rub against your toes and cause blisters until they are “broken in.” Warming the shoe or applying various oils are techniques used to accomplish this until, as one source put it, “shoe and foot find a way to conform to each other in harmony.”

The gospels of Matthew and Luke both record Jesus’ parable of the vineyard tenants. Time and time again the owner of the vineyard sends servants to collect his fruit but each is killed by the cruel tenants. Finally the owner sends his own son. “Surely they will respect him,” thinks the owner. But they do not. Even the son is slain.

20190604_083056Jesus then summarises the parable by quoting from the Psalms. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Ps.118:22). He is saying the Gospel, having been rejected by the Jews, will now go to the Gentiles, the non-Jewish races around them. He then adds this curious statement,

“Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces;
anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Matt. 21:44).

Commentators vary on their understanding of the first half of this statement. Is Jesus here twice speaking of the judgement that will fall upon those who refuse Him, or does the first part of His statement refer to the breaking of one’s own will in their submission to Christ? I tend to believe He means the latter.

Jesus has also just told a parable about two sons. One says “No” to his father’s wishes, but then obeys; the other says “Yes,” but in fact disobeys. Jesus asks, “Which one did the will of the father?” (see Matt. 21:28-32). It is the first son who has truly obeyed; he has obeyed by “breaking” his stiff will to bow to the will of the father.

The Psalmist also wrote,

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

silhouette of person riding horse on body of water under yellow sunset

To fall upon Christ, allowing our stiff wills to surrender to His does not bring captivity, but freedom! We come to the end of our-selves, but find new Life in Christ. He leads us out of our troubles. He sees just how better things will be… things we cannot now imagine.

Fall on Him. He will take you where without Him you could never go.

Press on…

Tuesday, 6/4/19 – Pressing on…

black and silver cassette playerI was listening to the CBC Radio program “Ideas” early yesterday morning. Philosopher Mark Kingwell, political theorist Emma Planinc and actor Jonathan Goad discussed to topic “Public Morality in the Ages of Caesar and Trump.” I found it an interesting discussion juxtaposed against the backdrop of Pastor Andrew’s Sunday message the day previous.

In the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar Brutus is faced with a dire moral conflict: his love for his friend Caesar and his love for his country Rome. In the end, he slays Caesar for what he believes to be the betterment of Rome. As he states, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” (Act 3, Scene 2).

people on sidewalk selective focal photo

The question with which these minds wrestled asked “In an age of diverse opinion how can we define the idea of a common public morality, and public good. Indeed, how much common ground can we actually find?” As Philosopher Mark Kingswell stated the issue:

“We have large, diverse populations where we have different conceptions of what’s good. And that, on the whole, is a healthy condition to be in. But it means that the political struggle and whatever local morality might possibly mean among citizens or leaders is always a question mark.” – Mark Kingwell

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

But his statement reveals his own moral bias. “Different conceptions of what’s good” is most definitely NOT “a healthy condition to be in.” The “question mark” exists because we have abandoned God!

Listen here to this one-minute clip as Emma Planinc, historian of political thought at the University of Notre Dame weighs in. Essentially she is saying each individual must decide if they think there is such a thing as an ultimate standard of Right…

“It depends on whether or not you think there is something that is capital R ‘Right,’ that morality is set in stone. …then you have to figure whether or not you think that is compatible with democratic politics…” – Emma Planinc

The Christian knows there most certainly IS an Ultimate Standard of Right–and His Name is Jesus! “No one is good—except God alone,” said Jesus (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), and “I am… the Truth.” (John 14:6). But the onus is not on God to adapt to human democracy, but on mankind to fall before its Creator and acknowledge His Supremacy.

slatted wood pathway between trees

Yet we know not many will…

Enter through the narrow gate,” urged Jesus. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13,14).

I am reminded also of the narrative toward the end of the book of Joshua: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Joshua 21:25). When a society has “different conceptions of what’s good” that society is lost.

This is exactly what happened to Israel and Judah… they had strayed from Jehovah, set up their substitutes and lost their way. This is exactly what happens to you too when you try to run from the Gospel. As Emma Planinc even concedes, “There are many political theorists throughout history who will assert that a maximal political ideal would be one in which the government was structured around what is ‘good.’”

Without God we no longer know what is Good. God is Good. He is our King. His is that Good Government.

Have you strayed in any way? He calls us to return. He can yet make all things new. “A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the Lord their God. Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (Jer. 3:21, 22)

Hallowed (Holy) be His Name… His Kingdom come… Amen!

More tomorrow…

Note: To hear Pastor Andrew’s full message go to the Lincoln Baptist Church website; look under ‘Media’ for the June 2 message.

Monday, 6/3/19 – Pressing on…

group of people raise their hands on stadium‘Mercy’ and ‘Grace’ are great sounding church words. Hymns and songs and poems and prose are always thanking God for His Nature and Gifts of Mercy and Grace. But I’m afraid many Christians sing along not fully understanding what on earth these things are– they’re church things, and that is all… like pews and altars and pulpits and prayers.

selective focus photography of person holding passport with ticket

Some Christians understand about Grace. Grace is good stuff, like being ‘chosen’ people of God…. Part of the ‘elect’ … free ticket to Heaven and all. Grace is about blessings, prosperity, answered prayers just the way we like. These people tend to lump ‘Mercy and Grace’ together as if they were all one thing, and when they think of that ‘one thing,’ they think only of the good stuff.

Israel kind of fell into that thinking – in an Old Testament sort of way. They had known themselves to be ‘Jehovah’s chosen people.’ They had gotten smug about it… began to grant concessions to the commands He had given them. They soon thought themselves entitled… they began worshipping other gods, allowing more sinister sins…

close up photography hindu deity

“Have you seen what faithless Israel has done?” God asks Jeremiah (Jer. 3:6). Then Judah joined in, but granting a tad more smugness, a few further concessions, almost as if in competition with Israel. “Return, faithless people… for I am your husband,” pleads Jehovah (v.14).

You see we should all be condemned – Israel… Judah… you… me… We are not holy people. We are guilty people. We’ve earned the death penalty. You know, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Your death… my death. Separation forever from a God Who is and will remain Holy. He cannot compromise Himself. Therefore He cannot contaminate Himself.

Be holy, because I am holy.” reiterated Christ (1 Peter 1:16; Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2). “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14).

We can make no plea to innocence. We are guilty. We are stained. We must be condemned.

Herein is our desperate need for Mercy!

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13).

Grace happens when God sees that sincerity of heart, that loathing of sin, that longing for Him… and God replies.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve!
Grace is getting what we do not deserve!

The wisest man ever has said “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10). This fear will drive us to plead for Mercy… to surrender all… for by it we see the reality of the flames, the brevity of a lifetime, and the never-endingness of eternity.

O Christian, fear sin. Run from it. Keep short accounts with your Creator! Do not grow lax in these latter days.

Thank God evermore for His ‘Mercy’ and ‘Grace.’

More tomorrow…

Friday, 5/31/19 – Tough Question

Why did Jesus pray three times?

20190528_231056The questioner here has Gethsemane in mind. In the final moments before His arrest, as Judas was going about the business of betrayal, Jesus knowing all that was about to happen retreats to Gethsemane with the eleven. Taking Peter, James and John apart from the others He leads them a little deeper into the garden. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He said to them. “Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He takes a few steps away from them, falls face down and prays,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

He finds the disciples sleeping, exhorts them, then prays again,

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

He finds the disciples sleeping yet again, and as Matthew records,

“…He left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.” (see Matt. 26:36-46).

Why did Jesus pray three times asking the Father if there was any way other than the cross to bring about redemption?

20190528_231022The number three is a curious thing in scripture. Looking only at the ministry of Jesus, He lived 30 years among the people before being baptized by John with the threefold witness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After 40 days fasting He was tempted three times by Satan, but resisted three times by citing scripture. His earthly ministry spanned three years. Peter three times denied Christ and three times Christ provided opportunity for Peter to reaffirm his love and loyalty. So perhaps it should not be surprising to see this threefold prayer.

It’s not that Jesus was petitioning the Father multiple times to persuade Him to manufacture an ‘escape clause.’ (The diabolic plan was already underway.) But if we look closely at the prayers we see some distinction.

20190528_230955Only the first prayer expressly asks that the cup of the cross might pass from Him. The first prayer asks if the trial might be avoided, and, the Father’s will being “No,” the remaining two prayers seek stamina and strength to endure it. Just as after the temptation “angels came and ministered to Him” so here Christ, before this ordeal, seeks strengthening from above.

There is good lesson in this for us. It is the same lesson our Lord taught Paul,

…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:7-9)

When It was clear to Paul that God’s Will was “No,” Paul stopped praying for his own will, but instead chose to accept and find grace in what God had allowed.

So too should we.

Press on…

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

Thursday, 5/30/19 – Discipleship: Assurance

Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial: a dancing trio clad in pink jumpsuits clutch chest, stomach, derriere, and sing “When you have nausea, heartburn indigestion, upset stomach diarrhea….yeah…” Its an ad for a popular stomach-coating antacid.

20190528_142753The dance reminds me of what some have labelled the 21st century ‘Macarena’ as panicking palms pat breast pocket, front then rear pant pockets seeking reassurance they have neither forgot nor lost cellphone, keys and wallet. If any one of these come up “lump-less” sheer panic sets in for it means they have left one of these items behind!

20190526_064738It’s much worse when you actually forget a person! (Remember that first “Kevin!” moment in the 1990 film Home Alone?) Jesus got left behind once too. He was only 12 when he went with Mary and Joseph to the Passover Festival. Luke picks up the narrative in chapter two…

After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:43-46)

belief bible book business

The only way to retrieve forgotten things is to return to the place where they were left behind. If you left home without them, then to home you must go to retrieve them.

The Christian’s assurance is that Christ goes with him. Are you conscious of His Presence as you go about your day? Have you brought Him with you?

God in the Morning
Ralph Spaulding Cushman

I met God in the morning
When my day was at its best,
And His presence came like sunrise,
Like a glory in my breast.

All day long the Presence lingered,
All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness
O’er a very troubled sea.

Other ships were blown and battered,
Other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them
Brought to us a peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings,
With a keen remorse of mind,
When I too had loosed the moorings,
With the Presence left behind.

So I think I know the secret,
Learned from many a troubled way:
You must seek Him in the morning
If you want Him through the day!

Do you want that deep assurance resting within you each day? Seek Him early every morning.

Press on…

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.

Tuesday, 5/28/19 – Pressing on…

20190527_084709In light of yesterday’s blog and the faith journey ahead for our church and the challenge we face as individuals, I thought it appropriate to give today’s blog over to an unknown traveller… a fellow cyclist with Christ.

Some of you will recognize this writing immediately. I have shared it several times before and it has struck an endearing chord in many hearts.

A Tandem Ride With God

I used to think of God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there, sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I didn’t really know Him.

But later on, when I met Jesus, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Jesus was in the back helping me pedal. I didn’t know just when it was He suggested we change, but life has not been the same since I took the back-seat to Jesus, my Lord. He makes life exciting. When I had control, I thought I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places and at break-through speeds; it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it often looked like madness, He said, “Pedal!” I was worried and anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer and I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared”, He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, our journey, my Lord’s and mine. And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away; they’re extra baggage, too much weight.” So I did, to the people we met, and I found in giving I received, and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it, but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks, fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do any more, He just smiles and says… “Pedal.”

20190527_084754(Author unknown)

Remember, “Faith is not faith until faith is in motion.”

More tomorrow…