Skip to content

DaveTrenholm.com Posts

The Culture of the Kingdom

When Heather & I were first married, we had to opportunity to travel to Australia to volunteer at a Christian camp near Sydney. We spent about 4 months there and it was a very unique experience. Of course, we experienced all stereo-typical Australian things – we saw kangaroos and koalas and wallabies, found didgeridoos and boomerangs in the local tourist shops, we took in a show at the Sydney Opera House and – all the classic Australian things. We even started to pick up an Australian accent. We saw and experienced all the things that you’d expect to see and experience in Australia.

However, we also experienced a lot of things we weren’t expecting. Despite the fact that Canada and Australia have a lot of similarities – the same basic language, roots in the British Commonwealth, all that stuff – we were surprised to find just how different the Australian culture was from ours. We really did experience a certain amount of culture shock. Let me give you just a couple examples.

Now this first example was compounded by the fact that Heather & I were both brought up in very sheltered, conservative homes, but we found the Australian culture to be very liberal and sometimes  even abrasive. For example, it was very common for good Christian leaders to use language that we would never use. What we would consider crude or even swear words were quite common place. As timid, polite Canadians, it was a bit shocking to hear the abrasive stuff that came out of their mouths. So that was a bit of a culture shock.

The other example would be that even the camp itself was run very different from the camps we were used to. One of the weirdest things I remember was that the counsellor or cabin leader didn’t actually sleep in the room with the kids – (at Camp Little Red, the counsellor sleeps in the tent with the kids of course), but in Australia, we slept in a room down the hall, leaving the 8-10 kids alone in their room. It sure seemed like a wrong way of doing things, but that what they did. The counsellors would get all their kids into their rooms and then all the staff would gather and hangout at the party room for a couple hours before bed while the kids did who-knows what alone in their rooms.

They just did a lot of things very differently than how we would do them.

And I know that many of you have probably experienced that too, as you’ve traveled to different parts of the world. Different cultures simply do a lot of things differently. It can seem backwards or even wrong to us – but it’s normal and proper to them. And certainly, if you’ve ever made a big move to live among a different culture, you know that it can be difficult to adopt that new culture because our old culture is just so ingrained in us.

And I think many Christians experience that as well. There can be an element of culture shock when we are introduced to the kingdom of God and sometimes it can be very difficult to adopt this new culture.

You see, the Bible teaches that when we accept Christ as our Saviour – we are also accepting him as our King. And having a new king means becoming part of a new kingdom. This idea is conveyed throughout the New Testament, but Paul talks this specifically in Colossians chapter 1…. He writes in verse 11:

May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. Colossians 1:11b-14

So in other words, Pauls says that since we have put our trust in Jesus as our Saviour and king, we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son – the kingdom of light –  the kingdom of God.

Now of course, we aren’t physical transported to another place – we still live in the world, but we’ve become subjects of another kingdom. In fact, in Philippians 3:20, Paul says…

“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.” Philippians 3:20

As citizens of heaven, we have a new King – we have a new set of laws. A new set of rights and responsibilities. A new set of cultural expectations.

Leave a Comment

The Substitute

For the past two weeks we’ve been theming our messages around the phrase – “No Pain – No Gain” as we try to understand why Easter matters. I think most of us get it, that Easter is not just about bunnies and chocolate eggs and such, but rather it’s a remembrance and a celebration that Jesus Christ died and rose again to life. That part is pretty well understood I think – especially if you’ve had any connection with church for any length of time.

But what might not be so universally understood is why that matters. Why is it important to you and I,  that some 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus died and came back to life again? What difference does it make in your life today?

That’s what we’ve been trying to wrap out heads around in this series – No Pain, No Gain – Why Easter Matters.

And I think we’re starting to get an idea of the gain side of the equation. In our first message, we identified that one thing that everyone of us wants – but very few of us find. And that is complete and lasting satisfaction.

We can certainly be satisfied for a few moments here and there. There is an element of satisfaction in many pursuits in life – from accomplishing great things, or having fun and exciting experiences, enjoying great food and great friends – these all give us a sense of satisfaction. But nothing is lasting. The satisfaction we do get quickly fades away and we’re forced to chase after something else – something more.

It’s like no matter how wonderful the meal is – we find we’re always hungry the next day. But what if we could find true, lasting satisfaction? Satisfaction that didn’t fade away. What if we could live in a state of being fully, completely satisfied in life?

Well, we discovered last week, that that’s exactly how God intended us to live. When God created Adam & Eve – he created them to live fully satisfied lives. He provided for their every need – both their physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. And for a time, Adam & Eve enjoyed the most satisfying life you can imagine.

Table of contents for No Pain, No Gain - Why Easter Matters

  1. Finding Satisfaction
  2. The Origin of Death
  3. The Substitute
Leave a Comment

The Origin of Death

Last week we began a new Easter sermon series entitled “No Pain – No Gain: Why Easter Matters”. And we started off illustrating the principle of no pain – no gain as we talked about how our muscles grow. We had Jake & Micah up here straining their muscles as we talked about how it takes the pain of tearing those muscle fibers in our bodies order for our bodies to repair the damage and make the muscles stronger than they were before. That’s how muscles grow.

But our purpose wasn’t to talk about body-building. There is a spiritual truth that we wanted to discover. Somehow all this talk of straining our muscles in order to grow strong, somehow that ties in with the meaning of Easter – believe it or not. And though we haven’t fully laid that all out yet, last Sunday we tried to define the gain that we’re talking about in this catch phrase “no pain, no gain”.

Of course, we’re not trying to gain muscles in this instance, but rather the gain that we’re after is something that every person on the planet wants – it’s that sense of deep, inner satisfaction in life that seems so elusive for so many of us.

We talked about how Solomon tried to find satisfaction in all kinds of ways. He looked for satisfaction in wealth, power, hard work, women, pleasure – but he found it all to be meaningless. Nothing gave him true, lasting satisfaction.

The Rolling Stones echoed that sentiment. They couldn’t get no satisfaction either – even though they tried and they tried and they tried and they tried. They just couldn’t get no satisfaction.

And I think most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves – would have to agree that money, fame, pleasure, power and all those things we chase after – while they may be pretty exciting for awhile – none of them give us deep, lasting satisfaction.

And we got a hint of why that is in Ecclesiastes 3:11 – which says..

[God] has planted eternity in the human heart. Ecclesiastes 3:11

In other words, there is this built-in awareness that there is more to life than the here and now. We exist for a much more significant purpose than to just gather wealth, power, and prestige for the 80 years we live on this planet.

God has created within each of us with a deep inner longing to fulfill out our eternal purpose. And until we discover and live out that purpose, every person on earth has this inner feeling that something is missing in their life. And all of us try to find that missing thing just like Solomon did. We chase wealth, power, pleasure, control, or whatever else that we think will fill that need… But something is always lacking. Like the Rolling Stones lament, we can’t get no satisfaction in those things. Because true satisfaction is only found when fulfill our eternal purpose.

And the Bible tells us that we are created and designed to be connected with our Creator – to have a genuine, loving relationship with Him. That’s what we’re created for. That’s our eternal purpose – to be unconditionally loved, to be accepted and embraced by our Creator, and to live in loving community with Him. That’s our purpose. That’s when we find real, lasting satisfaction.

This is the only thing worth gaining. Because everything else is temporary. We compared our life to the game of monopoly – when the game is over, it all goes back in the box. When our life here on earth is over, none of our wealth, the pleasure we’ve enjoyed, or our great achievements – none of that matters. All that matters then, is our relationship with our Creator.

And we closed last Sunday with a good news/bad news. The good news of course, is that God wants us to find satisfaction. He’s not out out trying to make your life miserable or difficult – but He wants you to find ultimate satisfaction in Him. He wants you to have true joy and delight – not just temporary pleasure. It pains God to see us settle for just a few fleeting moments of fun and pleasure here on earth – while missing out on an eternity of joy and delight with Him.

And that leads us into the bad news. And we didn’t have the time to talk about this last week, but talk about it we must.

Even though life with God is what we are created for and we simply cannot find satisfaction in any other way – most people will never know that satisfaction. By default, there is a barrier that keeps us from that satisfaction. It’s not an impassible barrier, (as we’re going to find out next week) – but it is the one thing that keeps us from fully realizing the satisfaction and joy and delight that God created us for.

So to understand this barrier that keeps us from the satisfaction that we were created to enjoy, I want to take us right back to the beginning of time – back before this barrier existed.

The Bible opens with a brief account of Creation. We certainly don’t get all the details, but it includes enough to give us a vivid picture of what life on earth was like for the very first humans – who were of course, Adam & Eve.

Table of contents for No Pain, No Gain - Why Easter Matters

  1. Finding Satisfaction
  2. The Origin of Death
  3. The Substitute
Leave a Comment

Finding Satisfaction

I think I’ve mentioned before that when Heather & I were first married, I spent one spring working out at the Meadowbrook greenhouse just west of Penhold here. For the first two weeks of that job, when I came home from work at night, my body was sore. I was just carrying around these fairly light trays of plants, but I was using muscles that I didn’t usually use – straining them beyond their usual capabilities. But after about two weeks, I wasn’t really sore anymore. My body repaired the damage done and built up my muscles so they could handle that strain without issue.

And this is exact where this saying of “no pain – no gain” comes from. Without the pain that comes from straining your muscles, you will have no gain in strength. And so we often do this on purpose – (well, some people do). We call this exercise – or working-out. We purposely bring on this pain in our muscles so that we can grow in strength. A certain amount of pain is required if you want to gain muscle.

Well over the next few weeks, I want to use this catch phrase of ‘no pain, no gain’ as a way to remind us of what Easter is all about. At this time of year, most North Americans start thinking about eggs, bunnies, and chocolate – but of course, there is much more to Easter than that. And so over these next few weeks, I want to talk about what Easter is all about and why Easter matters. And I’ve titled this series “No Pain – No Gain.” Because this principle is true not just when it comes to our building our muscles – but it’s true when it comes to understanding the significance of Easter.

So the two big ideas I want to tackle over the next couple of weeks is the idea of pain and the idea of gain. I imagine most of you didn’t come here today to learn about body-building, so what is the ‘gain’ that we are looking for (if we’re not talking about gaining muscles) – and what is the ‘pain’ that leads to that gain? And of course, how does that all tie into Easter?

Well, let’s start by defining the ‘gain’ – that’ll be our focus for today.

And to do that, I want to start by taking a brief look in Ecclesiastes. Now Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon and for much of the book, he writes about all the things that he tried to do to find meaning in life. Now keep in mind that King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.

Table of contents for No Pain, No Gain - Why Easter Matters

  1. Finding Satisfaction
  2. The Origin of Death
  3. The Substitute
Leave a Comment

Engaged in a Great Work

Today we continue looking at the story of Nehemiah – and if you’ve been tracking with us for these past several weeks, I imagine you’re really starting to appreciate what an effective leader Nehemiah really was.

And you might not expect that from your average cup-bearer. It’s easy to forget that less than a year  previous to all this, Nehemiah was spending his time hanging out with the king in the comforts of the palace – sipping wine and eating snacks. As the cupbearer – that was his job – tasting food and wine before it was served to the king. It was a pretty good gig – but not really the kind of job you’d expect to springboard you into such a position of leadership.

And yet, here he is, heading up this huge project in Jerusalem – facing all kinds of opposition from the enemies around him, dealing with one crisis after another. And so far, he seems to be doing a pretty fantastic job.

It’s always interesting how God throws these little curveballs into our lives. He takes us from our comfortable, predicable life, and he leads us into the wild unknown. And most of the time, we feel completely under-qualified to do whatever it is that God’s called us to do. We should be the last one God chooses to do this – and yet God chooses us anyway.

I imagine that Nehemiah felt that way quite often – completely under-qualified to be the guy in charge of this huge project. Perhaps that’s why he spent 4 months in prayer before even bring up the idea to the king – perhaps he was wrestling with God – “Why me, God? I’m just a cup-bearer. Isn’t there someone else more qualified for this job?”

But, as we’ve seen so far, God knew what He was doing in choosing Nehemiah. Even though he wasn’t an engineer – the wall and the gates were quickly being repaired. Even through he wasn’t an army general – the people were safe from the attacks of the enemy. Even though he wasn’t an economics expert, he averted a major financial crisis.

It is clear that Nehemiah was the exact right person for the job that God called him to do. And I hope thats an encouragement to you this morning. God doesn’t make mistakes.

When God throws you a curve ball and you feel completely under-qualified for the task that lies ahead, know that you are the exact right person for the job that God has called you to do. You might not realize it, but He’s prepared you for this through all the things that you’ve experienced already – and He’s promised to stick right beside you as you go through this new challenge.

It’s ok for us to be under-qualified to do whatever God’s called us to do – because God is completely over-qualified to do it. He doesn’t even need us – but he chooses to work through us – giving us purpose and fulfillment and bringing glory to Himself.

And that’s what we’ve seen so far in this story. Nehemiah may not be the most qualified, but God is definitely working through Him to accomplish great things for God’s glory. In fact, today we find out that the project is nearly complete. The people have been working hard and with enthusiasm – their enemies haven’t been able to slow them down or discourage them – and now the walls have been repaired and all that’s left to do is to setup all the gates.

Now of course, their enemies haven’t given up either. It seems that everyone in this story is pretty persistent – good guys and bad guys alike. They’ve not yet run out of creative ways to hinder the work, and so we’re going to see a few more attempts in this chapter. So let’s take a look. Here’s what it says in Nehemiah chapter 6 – starting at verse 1.

Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. 2 So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. Nehemiah 6:1-2a

Now at first glance, this doesn’t seem to be all that threatening. In fact, this could be seen as a gesture of goodwill. The plain of Ono was located northeast of Jerusalem – kinda half-way between Jerusalem and Samaria. And as such, it would be like the neutral zone between these two disagreeing parties. It was like these guys were inviting Nehemiah to come and meet them for peace talks in this neutral territory. We see that sort of thing today when all the world leaders meet in some neutral country to discuss peace treaties and trades disputes and all that other good stuff.

In fact, if this story were to happen today, we would read something like “So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the ski resorts in Swiss Alps.”

Leave a Comment

The Generosity of God

The main theme in the story of Nehemiah is of course, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. We’ve talked about this for several weeks now so I’m not going to rehash all that. But this morning our story takes a short pause and it goes down a little rabbit trail. Now I’ll admit, that quite often we go down these little rabbit trails primarily because my mind has all these random thoughts that don’t always have anything to do with the main point – but our rabbit trail today isn’t even my fault. This one is written right into the pages of Scripture.

For the past several weeks, we’ve been talking about some of the challenges that Nehemiah has had to face as he rallies the people of Israel to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. I mean, it was a challenge for Nehemiah just to get permission from King Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The job itself was a huge challenge with about 4 km of massive walls to repair and rebuild. It was a challenge to keep the people motivated and excited about the project when – especially when their enemies were making fun of them and mocking their efforts. It was an even greater challenge to keep the people safe as their enemies ramped up their opposition and resorted to physical threats and violence.

But today, we’re going to read about another challenge that Nehemiah faced. And this one came from within the walls – right from the Israelites themselves. And I say it’s a rabbit trail because it’s not directly related to the rebuilding of the wall – it’s almost like a little sidenote – but it certain has the potential to derail the whole project.

Leave a Comment