Silence & Solitude

3 Apr 2017 In: Sermons

Have you ever noticed that your life is run almost entirely by habits? They can be good habits. Bad habits. Inconsequential habits. Habits that you began intentionally. Habits that just sorta happened over time. We all have all kinds of habits… And the majority of what we do every day is done out of habit!

I noticed this the other day when I was driving to Red Deer. As I was driving along, I realized that I wasn’t thinking about driving at all, but there I was – driving 110 km an hour down the QE2. There were cars in front of me, cars beside me, cars behind me – but my mind wasn’t thinking about any of that stuff. There was not a single conscious thought that went into my driving, but yet, my hands automatically turned the steering wheel so that my vehicle stayed within the white lines at all time. My foot automatically adjusted ever-so-slightly as necessary to make sure that I stayed at an appropriate speed. Everything was done automatically. The motions of driving had become a habit.

Of course, it wasn’t always that way. I can remember when I first started to learn to drive, I had to be completely focused and very deliberate in my driving. I had to consciously think – slow down, speed up, don’t forget to signal, watch out for that other guy…. Everything had to be done very intentionally – and it was very easy to forget to do certain things like signalling or shoulder checking. But the more I did it, the more automatic driving became. It became a habit. Today, I no longer think about putting on my seatbelt or signalling when I turn or even shoulder checking – that’s all automatic. It’s a habit now.

And most of what we do in life, we’ve done so often that its now just a habit. Getting dressed in the morning, brushing our teeth, tying our shoes, riding our bike, driving our car, reading a book – these are all things that – at one time we struggled with. It was a lot of work to learn to tie your shoe or ride a bike. It took focus and determination – but now you don’t even think about it. Those things have just become everyday habits.

And you’ve probably had a similar experience when it comes to spiritual disciplines. Over the past three months, we’ve being talking about spiritual disciplines or the Healthy Habits of Christians who want to grow deeper in their relationship with God.

And like all habits, it’s a process to develop these spiritual disciplines to the point where they just become automatic – where they’re just a natural part of your life.

And I don’t know where you are in the process of developing these habits. Maybe for some of you, these are all brand new things. Maybe you’ve never fasted before. Maybe reading your Bible on a daily basis is just not something you’ve ever done. And maybe you’re trying to get into the habit, but it’s a struggle. It’s not easy. We’ll let me encourage you to stick with it. Some of these habits are tough to develop, but they are sooo worth it!

I mean, can you imagine if you never developed the habit of tying your own shoes? Or feeding yourself? As a toddler, it can be frustration to try to work that fork and spoon – to try to stab those little peas or successfully get that spoonful of jello to your mouth. Honestly, it would sure be a lot easier to just let mom or dad feed you!

But aren’t you glad today that you learned to feed yourself? It would be pretty awkward for me as a 37 year old to depend on my mom to feed me every time I got hungry.

Well, the same thing is true spiritually speaking. These habits that we’ve been talking about – prayer, reading our Bibles, fasting, worship – these are all things that maturing Christians do in order to “grow up” so to speak. Read the rest of this entry »

Worship in Song

27 Mar 2017 In: Sermons

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to wrap our heads around the idea of worship. I think for most of us – if we’re sitting in church this morning – we understand that worshipping God is central to the Christian life, but we may not understand exactly what that means.

And so we’ve spent the last two weeks defining worship. We started off by looking the old english word for worship – “weorthscipe” – which basically means to declare the worth of something. So by simple definition, we worship God by declaring His worth. And we can do that both in word and deed – intentionally or without even thinking about it.

In fact, every person on earth worships something – although they may not ever realize it. We worship whatever it is that is most important to us. And we declare it’s worth by our actions. In fact, you can tell what people worship by their actions. It might be our own egos, the approval of others, money, relationships, career – but what we worship quickly become evident in the choices we make every day – that’s really how we declare the worth of these things.

How we spend our time, where we focus our energies, what consumes our thoughts, even how we spend our money – that all reveals what we truly worship. And if we truly do worship God – if we consider His worth to be above all else – we are actually worshipping God every time we choose to obey and honour Him. Our worship is evident in the choices we make.

Then last week we filled out that idea a little more as we looked at the Hebrew word for worship and found that the Hebrew word could be translated either as to worship or to serve. Worshipping God and serving God were basically the same thing to the Hebrews. And we talked about how we worship God by serving Him – by doing the things were were created to do.

We talked about how we need to have an on-going relationship with our Creator so that we can know what we are created to do – to know his will. And when we do that – when we are reading his Word and talking to God in prayer – listening to the prompts of the Holy Spirit throughout our day – then really, everything we do (no matter how big or how insignificant) can be an act of worship as we seek to obey God and bring Him glory through every little thing that we do.

But of course, all of that still doesn’t answer the question that we’ve been trying to answer. The whole reason we’re talking about worship right now is because for the last three months, we’ve been talking about spiritual disciplines.

And if you’ve been with us very often, you’ll know that these spiritual disciplines – or these Healthy Habits as we’ve called them – are the practices of Christians over the centuries that help us draw close to God – they help us stay connected to Him and to know Him more and to grow in our faith in Him.

We’ve based this whole series on the passage in John 15 where Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches and we need to stay connected to Him.

“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

And so we’ve been looking at the practices and the healthy habits that help us remain in Him. And worship is one of those practices.

But of course, in how we’ve defined worship so far, worship seems more like a way of life rather than a specific habit to develop. And that’s true – we need to live a life of worship – but at the same time, a regular habit of expressing worship is also very important in staying connected to God.

And maybe that’s a good distinction to make. There are acts of worship – and there are expressions of worship. And I realize those might seem like they could be the same thing, but let me see if I can clarify.

So far, we’ve really be talking about acts of worship. Acts of worship are the things we do, the choices we make in obedience to God, that show we want to honour and please God. This is worshipping God by serving God.

We mentioned last week how changing your baby’s diaper can be an act of worship. If that’s a job that God has given to you to do as caretaker of that little baby, then obeying God in doing that is an act of worship.

However, I probably wouldn’t say that changing a diaper is an expression of worship. We wouldn’t all gather together to change baby’s diapers to express our love and adoration for God.

And part of our difficulty in understanding the difference between acts of worship and expressions of worship is that in English, we have a limited vocabulary when it comes to worship. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Diapers for the Glory of God

20 Mar 2017 In: Sermons

It was an unusual service last week. We played “The Price Is Right” right in the middle of the message and we had a quick round of “Balderdash” – but it was all to help us understand what it means to worship.

Worship is the fifth spiritual discipline that we’ve looked at since we began this series on Healthy Habits, but its a little bit different from the other spiritual disciplines in that, while most spiritual disciplines are specific activities that Christians do in order to help us grow in our understanding and in our faith in God, worship is not necessarily a particular activity. We can worship in almost everything we do.

We learned that while you might envision worship as singing or bowing down or bringing an offering or sacrifice, worship is really much more than all those kinds of activities.

To help us define worship, we looked at the old English word “Weorthscipe” – which is where we get our modern word “Worship.” And weorthscipe means to declare the value or the worth of something.  It’s worth-ship.

So when we worship God, we can certainly declare God’s worth through singing for example – but really, we worship God (that is, we declare His worth through our actions) anytime we choose to honour and please Him above everything else. When knowing and pleasing God is more important to us than anything else, then we are worshiping God. And on the flip side of that, anytime anything else is more important to us than knowing and pleasing God – that becomes an idol to us and we worship that other thing rather than God.

So that, in a nutshell, was what we talked about last week. All of us worship something – the real question is “What do we worship? What do we value more than anything? Do we worship God or do we worship something else?” And I hope that’s a question that you’ve wrestled with over this past week.

Now this week, I want to build on our definition of worship. What we’ve looked at so far is what I’d call our “unintentional worship”. It’s not necessarily specific activities that we do, it’s more of an attitude. It’s simply what we value. Because like we said… What we value the most is what we worship. We don’t even have to put thought into it. If we worship money, for example, that just becomes evident in how we live our lives. We just automatically arrange our priorities so that money is given the greatest consideration in any circumstance.

It’s not like we go physically go and bow before our piggy banks or pray to our wallets. Not literally anyway…  So that’s why I would classify this kind of worship as “unintentional worship”. We just kinda do it automatically.

But when it comes to worshipping God, in addition to our unintentional worship, there should also be an element of intentional worship as well. There are things that we intentionally do to express our worship. And the Bible is full of statements and commands and examples of intentional acts of worship. Read the rest of this entry »

Defining Worship

14 Mar 2017 In: Sermons

How many of you have ever played the game “Balderdash”? Its a simple game where the basic idea is that you get a word – a real word – but its a word that is so uncommon that no body really knows what it means. Maybe it’s a medical term or some old English word that’s gone out of use. But the idea is that everyone tries to come up with a plausible definition of that word. Then you read out all the definitions and everyone votes for the definition that they believe is the real one.

Well, we’re going to play that game today. Sort of. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to see if you can come up with a definition. It’s not actually a competition – just a fun little exercise to get your minds in gear this morning. Here is the word… Weorthscipe. Any guesses what that word means?

“Weorthscipe” is an old English word which really means to declare the worth of something. If you break it into two parts, you can start to see our modern english words hidden within the old….

The first part “Weorth” – means value or worth. You can see that – just drop the ‘e’ and the is the modern word “worth”. That’s pretty straight forward….

The second part is “scipe” and that means which means the condition of. We see this bit in modern english quite often today, although we spell it now SHIP.  It still means, the condition of… We add it to the end of word… as in friendship – the condition of being friends. Or leadership – the condition of being a leader.

Weorthscipe is the condition of having worth. 

That word is important to us today because it’s from this word “weorthscipe” that we get the modern idea of “worth-ship” or “worship” – and worship, of course, is absolutely central to everything we do as Christians…

As most of you know, through most of 2017 so far, we’ve been working our way through this series called Healthy Habits – A Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines. And basically, we’ve been talking through the practices of Christians that help us draw closer to God – they help us know Him more and they strengthen our faith in Him.

Worship is the next spiritual discipline that we want to look at. And I wanted to start with this old word – weorthscipe – because it really helps us understand exactly what we’re talking about when we’re talking about worship.

Because I think for a lot of us, when we hear the word worship, we often get incorrect or at least incomplete ideas of what worship is.

For a lot of us, perhaps based on what Hollywood has shown us, worship is bowing down before some person or idol. We envision these tribal or ancient people gathering around this big stone statue – all bowing low before it with their faces to the ground. Maybe we envision them chanting something or performing some strange ritual. Perhaps we even see them offering some kind of sacrifice to this god made of stone – in hopes that their god will accept their worship and bless their crops and their families.

And that’s not entirely foreign to what we see in the Bible – particularly in the Old Testament. In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – we see the King commanding them to bow down before his giant golden statue of himself. In the story of Elisha, we see the prophets of Baal dancing around their sacrifice to their god – shouting and cutting themselves with knives and swords in hopes that their god would notice them. Even the Israelites – when they first came out of Egypt, molded a golden calf and made sacrifices and offerings to it.

But of course, that was thousands of years ago. That type of worship is completely foreign to us today – especially in our western culture. I mean, in places like India, they still have stone or wooden idols that they pray to or make offerings to – but for most of us here today – that kind of worship is totally foreign.

In fact, for us today, our image of worship – in Christian circles anyway – typically involves a certain type of music.

In our churches we might have a worship leader that leads us in singing. Sometimes we have a worship team that might get together for a worship practice as they go through their songs. If you go to the Christian bookstore, they have a whole genre of music classified as ‘worship music’. In fact, this very event that you’ve come to this morning is often referred to as a worship service. So it’s pretty easy to see why Christians today might equate worship with singing a certain type of songs.

But is that really worship? What does it really mean to worship God? Read the rest of this entry »

The Humbling Element of Fasting

19 Feb 2017 In: Sermons

Well, this week our church did something a little bit unusual – something that has never done in this church before. In fact, as far as I can remember, I’ve never been part of a church that did anything like this. But on Wednesday over the lunch hour, together as a church family, we fasted. Instead of eating our normal Wednesday lunch, we instead, spent that time fasting and  praying for our community. Which was really pretty cool, and if you didn’t get a chance to join us this time, I’m sure we’re going to be doing this again… But for those of you are just joining us today, let me give you some quick background to all this.

Over the past couple of months we have been looking at the spiritual disciplines – or the healthy habits of Christians that help us draw near to God and that help us grow deeper in our relationship with Him. They change our understanding of who God is and how He’s working in our world.

We looked first of all, at how we can see glimpses of God in Creation. God’s fingerprints are everywhere around us – in the vastness of the galaxies or the complexity of our DNA or in the wonder of a baby being born or simply in the beauty of a sunset. We see the evidence of God everywhere.

But of course, while the heaven’s do declare the glory of God, His creation doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about what He has done. That’s why God has given us His Word – the Bible. And so we spent several weeks looking at how we know that the Bible really is God’s Word and how reading and understanding it changes us as we learn more about who God really is and what He’s really like.

And while God communicates to us primarily through His Word, He has given us the ability to communicate with Him primarily through prayer. And so we spend a few weeks looking at why would should pray. Why pray to a God who already knows everything we need and who has already promised to provide it? We saw how prayer is an invitation for God to be active and involved and sovereign in our lives. It’s actually an act of worship when we pray.

And then most recently, for the last two Sundays, we’ve been talking about fasting. And fasting isn’t nearly as common-place these days as prayer or Bible reading – although I think it should be because it is an excellent way for us to draw close to God.  Fasting is a way for us to focus on the most important things in life – not just the urgent things in life. When we give up food for a certain amount of time, to instead focus on God and our relationship with Him, our hunger reminds us how desperate we are for Him – and how much we depend on Him every moment of every day. It also reminds us that this life here and now is not all there is! We are looking forward to the day when this life is over and we can see Jesus face-to-face and can spend the rest of eternity with Him – feasting and celebrating and being fully satisfied for the rest of all time! Fasting is such a good reminder of that.

And so that’s why on Wednesday, we decided to fast together as a church. I know that many Christians have never fasted before. It’s a relatively new practice for me as well. And so this was really an experiment in fasting and I hope you’ll continue to experiment with it!

Now today I want us to look at one more aspect of prayer and fasting. And by no means, have we covered it all! The more I learn about fasting, the more I realize how little I know. So far, we’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at how fasting impacts us – how it changes our perspectives and reminds of things that we are usually quick to forget. But today I want to focus on how fasting impacts our prayers. Read the rest of this entry »

Fasting with Eternity in Mind

13 Feb 2017 In: Sermons

I hope that our brief introduction to fasting last week left you hungry for more – in both senses of the word. I hope that you’re hungry to learn more about fasting and I hope that you’re hungry because you actually tried fasting. And if you did, I’d sure be interested in hearing about your experience.

Now, I know we read that verse last week about how we aren’t supposed to make a big show about our fasting – we’re not to try to look miserable and disheveled so people can tell that we’re fasting. Fasting is supposed to be something just between you and God. But that’s not to say we should never talk about our experiences in fasting.

Jesus is just telling us not to fast with the wrong motives. We’re not supposed to fast just to try to appear righteous to everyone else around us. We need to do it for the proper motives. But He’s not saying to never talk about it. And maybe that’s why fasting is so foreign to us – because the handful of Christians who do fast, never talk about it.

So if you’ve tried fasting before – even if it was just once – I’d love to hear about it! I think it would be awesome to see fasting once again become a normal, expected part of the Christian life (much like Bible reading and prayer). And to not see it just some foreign, strange ritual they did back in Bible times.

Because fasting is such a healthy habit! We talked last week about how fasting reminds us how desperate we are for God. The hunger we feel in the pit of our stomach when we fast is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality. Our body’s physical dependance on food reminds us of our spirit’s dependance on God. Like Jesus says in John 6:35…

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

Jesus is saying that apart from God we have no life. He is the source of life. He gives us everything we need to live abundantly and eternally. We are absolutely dependant on Him. And fasting is a great way to remind ourselves of that.

And that’s just one of the benefits of fasting! That’s probably a good enough reason in itself, but today I want to dig a little deeper and point out even more reasons why fasting is such a healthy habit. There are several reasons I think, why this spiritual discipline has been practiced by the men and women of God for centuries. Read the rest of this entry »

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