The Purpose of Prayer

21 Jan 2017 In: Sermons

Well, here we are two weeks into the new year. That means that 27% of all the New Years Resolutions have now been broken! I don’t know if any of you have made any new year resolutions this year (If I remember right – I don’t know that any of us did last year when I asked.) But if you did, I sure hope you’re able to stick with it longer than two weeks.

This week I was reading an article about the business model of gyms and fitness centres. And the article said that these businesses bank on people to sign up for gym memberships in January and then never show up. That’s a key part of their business model. The article said that…

If gyms operate at more than 5% of their membership at any given time, no one can use the gym. They want them to sign up, but they know that after the 15th of January, they won’t see 95% of them again.

That’s pretty incredible! But not too surprising, because I think a lot of us can relate.

I think all of us recognize the value of staying healthy and fit. Now certainly there can be those factors out of our control that prevent that, but generally speaking, all of would like to see ourselves healthy and fit and physically able to do all the things that we’d like to do.

And so most people would agree that it would be good for them to exercise more. Going to the gym would be beneficial. It would be a good habit to get into to. But yet, despite the knowledge in our head of how valuable physical activity and fitness is, very few people actually make it a priority to exercise or go to the gym or do all those things that are required if we want to stay healthy and fit.

Many of us have really good intentions – and we may go through short bursts of time of making the effort – but in the long run, very few people actually stick with it and make it a part of their lifestyle.

And I think we have a similar experience when it comes to the spiritual disciplines.

Over the past several weeks we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines (or the healthy habits) that Christians have been practicing over the centuries in order to cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship with God. We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the Bible (because that really is the foundation for everything we believe – we have to know and understand and apply this book to our lives), but today I want to look at another healthy habit – and that is prayer.

And prayer, I think, is very much like exercise. Everyone knows that it’s important, and everyone agrees that they really should do it more often, but yet, very few people make it a priority so that it becomes a central part of their life.

And so I spent some time this week trying to figure out why that is. Because every Christian I know agrees that prayer is important. They have the head knowledge that prayer should be central to every Christian’s life! But yet, almost every Christian will tell you, “I really don’t pray like I should. Maybe I pray some, but I really should pray more.”

Now of course, there are some exceptions. There are some people out there that just have amazing prayer lives – and usually, you know exactly who those folks are. They just seem to be so in-tune with God. Even in the midst of great struggles and trials, these folks aren’t shaken at all. It’s like they have this unwavering trust in God. And these folks tend to be so wise and patient and loving and kind. It’s like they’ve been mentored by God Himself! That’s the result of a lifetime and a lifestyle of prayer.

So why aren’t there more of those folks? Why isn’t every Christian like that? What is it about prayer that makes it so difficult to adopt as a lifetime habit? We know how important prayer is, and yet we struggle to make it a central part of our lives! Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »

Accurately Understanding the Bible

9 Jan 2017 In: Sermons

John 15:4-5 says….

4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

This is the passage that we started looking at nearly two months ago. By now that might just be a distant memory for you, so I thought I’d better do a little bit of a refresher before we continue on with today’s message.

Back when we started this series, I talked a little bit about how we tend to grow less healthy and less fit over time unless we do something about it. I think that’s true for most people. At least it is for me! My job doesn’t require me to do a lot of physical activity – although this week has perhaps been an exception as we’ve moved and cleaned and setup and done all that stuff…. But generally I spend a lot of time working at my desk or visiting folks around the kitchen table – those aren’t very physically demanding activities.

To compound the problem, the cold of winter tends to encourage me to stay indoors, rather than outdoors. And on top of that, I’ve discovered that there are lot of really delicious things to eat in this world! So for me, it takes intentional effort to stay at least relatively healthy and fit. If I don’t want to get completely out of shape, I need to intentionally develop some healthy habits.

So maybe I need to practice eating a little more healthy. Maybe I need to get into the habit of exercising on a regular basis. Maybe I need to drive a little less and walk a little more.

But the bottom line is, if I want to stay healthy and fit, I need to develop some healthy habits.

And as we’ve been going through this series, we’ve discovered that the same is true spiritually speaking. If we want to stay spiritually healthy and fit – that is, if we want to remain in Christ, staying close and connected to Him so that we produce much fruit like that verse says – then likewise, we need to develop some healthy habits.

Healthy Habits

And that’s what this series has been all about. What are the healthy habits that Christians have been practicing for centuries that can help us develop that deep and meaningful relationship with Christ? What are those Spiritual Disciplines – as they are often known as – that help us stay connected with Jesus so that we can produce much fruit?

Well, actually there are a whole variety of those practices – Bible reading and prayer and worship are some of the more common ones – but there are also some other very valuable practices like fasting or times of silence and solitude that maybe aren’t so common these days, but are still very healthy habits when it comes to cultivating a deep relationship with God.

Now the most recent spiritual discipline or healthy habit that we’ve talked about has been reading and studying the Bible. We’ve spent a couple of weeks talking about the message of the Bible, how we know the Bible is true and that its actually the Word of God as it claims to be. We talked about how God’s Word transforms our lives. It changes the way we think – it shows us God’s eternal perspective – which in turn, complete changes the way we live our lives.

And we ended our last message with a warning from James 1:22 which says

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”  James 1:22

And that was really a lead into today message – which is how do we read and understand the Bible accurately – so that we can be sure that we actually do what it actually says? If we’re going to obey God’s Word – if God is going to change the way we think and transform our lives through his Word – if we are basing our entire lives and our eternal future on the words in this book, then we need to make sure we’re accurately understanding and applying what the Bible actually says. Read the rest of this entry »

The Measure of Success

1 Jan 2017 In: Sermons

I think it’s fair to say that everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be a success. That’s hardwired into us. No one wants to be a loser. No body wants to be a failure. We all want to succeed. We want to do well.

And we see this in every aspect of our lives. When we play sports, we want to take home the championship trophy – not just the participation award. When we play board games or video games, we say we play for the fun, but still, we want to win. In war – no one goes into battle being okay with losing –  if we’re going to fight, we want the victory.

We want to succeed in our careers. We want to have succeed in raising our kids. We want to succeed at being a good husband or a good wife.

We even want to succeed as Christians. Nobody wants to be a lousy Christian – we want to be a successful one. We want our church to succeed. Clearly there is something hardwired into us that drives us towards success.

But the challenge in all areas of life is knowing what determines success. We have to know what the objective is.

Because if you’re a football player, successfully running the ball to the end of the field is a measure of success – but if you’re a golfer, it’s not. You’ll probably get kicked off the course if you’re out there tackling the other golfers, stealing their ball and running it down the fairway.

We have to know our objective – We have to know what constitutes success in whatever it is that we’re doing. If we don’t know what the objective is – if we don’t know what determines success – then we’re gonna have a really hard time being successful.

As a church, we need to know what determines our success. Are we successful because we’ve outgrown this space and need to move to a larger space over at the Hall? Is that success? If we get to the point where we need to build our own building, is that success? If we get to the point where we offer more programs and have greater attendance and have more baptisms and have a bigger facility than Crossroads – is that success? Or are we measuring success the wrong way?

We need to know what determines our success – or we may spend all of our time and our energy and all our effort trying to be really good…  at the wrong thing!

And this totally applies to each one of us personally. We already mentioned how every one us wants to be successful in life. We want to be a successful in our work, we want our marriage to be a success, we want to raise our kids successfully and I think, as followers of Christ, more than anything, we want to be a success in that. At the end of our lives as we stand before God, I think each one of us wants to hear God say “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

So it’s really important that we know what determines our success. To use our golf analogy, I don’t want to spend my life running running the golfball down the fairway, weaving around and dodging the other golfers like a football player (and being really good at that) – when all along I should’ve been practicing my putt. I want to know and do what it takes to be successful in God’s eyes – because that’s what really counts.

So today, I want to do two things.

Since this is the last service in this building before we move over to the Hall, I want to talk a little bit about how we can have success as a church. How will we know if we are being successful? Are we successful just to keep existing? Are we successful when we reach a certain number in attendance or dollars or sq footage or new believers? What is the measurement of success for our church?

And then, also being New’s Years Day, I want to talk about what it means for you to have success in  this new year. What do you need to do in order to be successful in 2017? Were you successful last year? What’s the measurement of your success? Read the rest of this entry »

A Christmas Story Poem

25 Dec 2016 In: All the other stuff

This poem was the basis of our Christmas Morning Service this year.

Introduction

On a night long ago, in a place far away
A baby was born on the first Christmas Day.
His name was Jesus, and He was a king
And he came to the world to change everything.
This morning we’ll look at the story and see
The baby that came ‘cuz He loved you and me.
We’ll hear about angels and wisemen and sheep.
And the manger in which baby Jesus could sleep.
It’s a story that’s crazy, amazing, and true.
It’s the story about how much God loves you.
So let’s listen careful as we tell the story.
And let’s worship Jesus, the Great King of Glory.

Our Journey to Bethlehem

Mary and Joseph were tired and sore;
They had travelled all day and could travel no more!
They finally arrived in Bethlehem town
Only to find there was nowhere to lie down.
The hotels were all full, there were no more beds
For Jospeh or Mary to lay down their heads.
Exhausted from walking, and ready for sleep,
They would even be willing to sleep with the sheep.
They asked a kind man if they could sleep in his hay
In the barn with the animals, where the cows lay.
The man showed them a spot and moved the cows over,
For a pillow he gave them a pile of clover.
And Mary and Joseph sat down with a sigh.
It wasn’t the best, but it was warm and dry.
And they slept, for a while, under stars and the moon
Perhaps unaware, that Christ’s birth would be soon.

Jesus is Born

While the whole town was sleeping, with stars shining bright,
Mary’s baby was born on that first Christmas night.
Born in a barn! With the horses and hay!
If you were a king, would you come that way?
The King of Creation had come to the earth
And a Bethlehem barn was the place of his birth?!
I think I’d choose a palace, but God’s ways are stranger.
And God’s Son was born and laid down in a manger.
Yes, Jesus was born and wrapped up in some cloth,
And for his first bed, he was placed in a trough!

The Angels

Outside of the town, ‘round a fire so bright
Some shepherds were watching their sheep in the night.
The night had been quiet and silent and still.
The sheep had been starting to doze off until
When all of a sudden a radiant light
Surprised all the shepherds and gave them a fright!
An angel appeared and said not to fear
For the Saviour was born – The Messiah was here!
He’d be wrapped up in cloth and placed in a manger.
Go see for yourself – He’s a total game changer!
He brings joy to the world. He’s good news for men.
The angel said this to the shepherds and then…
A thousand more angels appeared in the sky!
They sang praises to God in the heavens so high!
What a huge celebration of joy to the earth
As the shepherds were told of their dear Saviour’s birth.

The Shepherds

When the angels had left them alone with their sheep
There was no way those shepherds would fall back asleep!
“Let’s go to the town,” the shepherds all said,
“And see if a manger is really the bed
Of this new little king who was born here tonight.”
So the shepherds all ran to the town with delight.
They arrived in the village and looked all around –
It didn’t take long ‘till the baby was found.
It was just as the angel had told them before,
They found Mary & Jospeh and Jesus – what’s more…
Jesus lay in a manger – The story was true!
The Saviour had come – so what did they do?
Those shepherds went out and they told the whole town.
They told them how God, as a baby, came down
Was born in that barn – and yet was the King
The Saviour from Heaven as the angels did sing.

The Wisemen

It wasn’t long after some wise men came by.
They had followed a star that appeared in the sky.
They knew that a King had been born for the Jews
So they stopped at the palace of Herod for clues.
“Where is the new King?” They wanted to know.
Bethlehem was the answer – and so they did go.
They followed the star ‘till it came to the place
Where they found little Jesus. Oh, the joy on their face!
They offered him gifts – Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh.
Mary couldn’t believe what was happ’ning to her.
For her little baby was clearly a King
He was worshiped, adored, and caused angels to sing.
He was Someone so special, in fact, was divine!
He would surely change her life, change your life and mine.
For small baby Jesus would grow to man,
Would live without sin, and would follow God’s plan.
He would die on a cross but would rise three days later
To trade all my sin for something much greater.

Conclusion

And that’s the true story of how Christ was born.
We have so much to celebrate on this Christmas morn.
For God loved the world so much that He gave
His only dear Son, for each person to save.
By trusting in Jesus, our sins are forgiven
We have life eternal, the promise of heaven.
And all because Jesus was born on that night.
The High King of Heaven came to make all things right.

Adapted from “Family Friendly Christmas Eve Worship – The Presbyterian Church in Canada” http://presbyterian.ca/?wpdmdl=754&

In my sermon last week I talked about getting into the habit of daily Bible reading. I’ve challenged my own kids to begin reading the Bible each day – and in fact, I’ve offered them a dollar a day to read their Bibles every day for a year. And it’s an all-or-nothing challenge – they can’t just read two weeks for $14! They have to read their Bible faithfully every day in 2017 to get the $365 prize. (And since they’re still kids, I’ve given them a “Once-A-Month Free Pass for Forgetfulness” for those crazy off-days that are bound to happen.)

So to give them the best chance of success, I decided to round up a few Bible reading plans that would help them stay on track. I found a few good ones for kids and decided I’d post them here for you all to see. (I’ve also include a couple for the adults too.)

The first one is for the youngest readers. It’s a Bible Reading Plan for about Grades 3 – 5. It’s typically about 5 verses a day, and each month’s readings are based on a major story or theme or book of the Bible.

The second plan is for geared toward stronger readers – this Bible Reading Plan is for about Grades 6 to 8. It’s about 15 verses each day and goes more through books of the Bible – rather than stories (although it does focus on the lives of Joseph, Elijah, and Elisha).

Another plan that could be for kids or for adults is this Bible Reading Plan that goes through the New Testament in one year. This one tends to be broken down into ‘chapter at a time’ divisions, although there are lots of chapters that are too long for that and are broken down into smaller pieces – anywhere from 8 – 30 verses per day. This might be a good one to go through before you tackle the entire Bible in a year.

This next reading plan isn’t so much a plan as it is a tracker. It just lists every chapter in the Bible and you can read it in any order that you like, as much as you like, even as often as you like – but as you read, you can check off the chapters that you have read so that you can be sure to read the entire Bible – not just your favorite parts over and over again! If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for some time now and you still haven’t read the entire Bible, I’d recommend using this tool to work your way all the way through it. There is no timeline, so you can take as long as you want, but if you’d like to read through the entire Bible in a year, you’ll need to average about 3+ chapters a day.

And finally, if you really want to do some serious reading, this reading plan by M’Chenye will take you through the entire Old Testament once and through the New Testament & Psalms twice in one year. It’s about four chapters a day, so it does take a good investment of time. But this plan is great to really give you a good ‘big picture’ understanding of the whole Bible.

Spending time with God each day by reading His Word is so important! If that’s not already a part of your day, I’d sure encourage you to pick one of these plans and commit to it for the next year. And if none of these reading plans works for you, contact me and I’ll do what I can to help you out!

 

Transformed by God’s Word

12 Dec 2016 In: Sermons

Last week we spent some time looking at the Bible. Of course, that shouldn’t be too surprising. I think I’d have some serious questions about the validity of our church if we didn’t look at the Bible every Sunday! However, last week, our topic was actually the Bible itself.

And we asked some big questions. What exactly is the Bible? What’s it all about – what’s the main message? How did we get the Bible in the first place? And perhaps more importantly, how do we know we can trust it? As Christians, the basis for what we believe about God, about ourselves, about our world, about the meaning of life and how to live it abundantly, about eternity – all of that is found in the Bible. So it seems to me that I want to know with certainty that what I’m basing my beliefs on is true.

And for myself – I’m convinced that it is. I’ve personally spent quite a bit of time researching and seeing for myself – if the evidence truly adds up. And my conclusion is… it does. The evidence seems pretty indisputable to me. But don’t just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself!

We mentioned just a few of the evidences last week. One of them was the continuity of the message of the Bible. Even though the different parts of the Bible were written over a span of 1600 years by 40 different authors on three continents and in three languages – yet somehow, every one of those 66 books of the Bible fit together perfectly to make up one big story – the story of how God loved his creation so much, that despite their constant rebellion and failures, God chose to redeem them. He did that ultimately by sending His Son Jesus Christ, to be born in a stable, laid in a manger, and to one day die on a cross in our place, rising again three days later, so that through Him, we can find forgiveness and eternal life. That’s the message of the Bible – and you find that message throughout the Bible – everywhere from Genesis to Revelation.

We also very briefly touched on the fulfilled prophecies in the Bible and the way the Bible agrees with history, geography, and archaeology. There is just such a host of evidence that I have to conclude that, not only is the Bible true, but it is in fact, as it claims, the Word of God – recorded and preserved over the ages for me and you. But again, don’t take my word for it. That’s just my conclusion. Do your own research and find out for yourself.

Because if the Bible is true and if the Bible is the Word of God as it claims, then the ramifications are huge. If the Creator of the Universe has given me a book that contains all the truth I need to know about Himself, about myself, about my world, about life and how to live it abundantly, about eternity – then I want to know and understand what this book says!

If we are convinced that the Bible is true and that it is God’s message for us, then what should we do with that message? How do we make sure that we understand it correctly and how do we apply what it says to our lives? Should the Word of God actually make a difference in our lives – and if so, how does it?

And so my goal for this message is to give you some tools and teach you some methods for how to discover what’s in the Bible and how to get it off the pages and into your life so that it can actually transform you.

And that’s kinda the important bit right there. I’m not here to convince you to study the Bible just so that you can have a head full of knowledge. Knowledge is good – but it’s not our end goal. The end goal is to know and become more like our Creator. The goal is to strengthen and build our relationship with God. That’s the point of all these spiritual disciplines that we’ll be talking about over the next several weeks as we go through this series on “Healthy Habits”.  I’ll tell you right now that reading your Bible is pointless unless it changes your relationship with God. Praying is pointless unless it changes your relationship with God. Going to church is pointless unless it changes your relationship with God.

Doing these things simply out of obligation or habit without actually engaging with God is like taking your car to the mechanic on a regular basis – but not allowing him to make any changes! How ridiculous would that be? Can you imagine going through the effort and paying the cost to take your vehicle into the mechanics every week – but never allowing him to make a single change to your vehicle? That would be ridiculous. That would be stupid!

But often I think we’re guilty of doing exactly that when it comes to these healthy habits. We go through the motions of reading our Bible or praying or going to church or whatever else we do, but we do it without the real intent of connecting with God through those activities. We forget that the purpose of all those things is to help us draw near to God and to abide in Him.

Remember that verse we read in John 15 a few weeks ago?

5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

That’s why we do these things – to remain in Him. To stay connected with God. To know Him and become more like Him. If we’re not interested in doing that, then why are we doing all this ‘religious stuff’? All of these religious activities that we take part in – if we’re not trying to know God and become more like Him through those things – then it’s complete foolishness! We’re just driving our car back and forth from the mechanic shop!

But on the other hand, if we are seeking to know God and to become more like Him – to build and strengthen our relationship with Him, then these spiritual disciplines – these healthy habits – are some of the best ways you can do that! Without that desire, these practices will be empty and pointless. But when you go into it looking to connect with God, these practices will quickly become some of the most joyful, fulfilling moments of your day! Read the rest of this entry »

Archives