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Tag: hope

Joy in Suffering

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the privilege of speaking at a couple different kids camps.  One, of course, was Camp Little Red – and we’ve done that for several years. I think there is only a handful of summers since we’ve been married that we haven’t spent at least a week out there. But we also got to go out to River’s Edge Camp this summer – and that was new for us. In many ways it is very different from Camp Little Red – but at the same time, it’s just the same. It’s a bunch of people who love Jesus and want these young kids to know and love him too!

So it was a real blessing to be at both camps – and I thank you guys for giving me the opportunity to go and do that. Camp has certainly made a difference in my life – and I know it’s made a difference in the lives of many here in our church! So I am excited for our church to continue being involved in camp ministry – I think it’s a fantastic way for us to be involved in sharing the Gospel and making disciples.

But to get back to the message for this morning – when I was speaking at River’s Edge Camp – my theme for my messages for them was “The Adventure of a Lifetime.” And we talked about how following God is always an adventure. Peter walking on water, David going up against Goliath – Moses leading the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. We talked about all of these incredible adventures that we usually hear about in Sunday School. But I didn’t want to paint a picture for them that following God is always easy. It is always an adventure – but it’s not always easy – it’s not always fun. There are times when following God is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

And so, I told them the story about Paul and Silas getting thrown in jail. But as I was preparing for that message, pulling out the points that I was going to share with the kids – I found that God pulled out several points that He wanted to share with me. Things that He wanted to challenge me on and encourage me in. Some of those thoughts have really stuck with me for these past couple weeks and so this morning, I want to share some of that with you too.

I want to read from Acts 16 this morning. This will be the extended version of what I shared with the campers. Just to give you the background to this story – Paul & Silas have headed out on what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey. Paul had in mind to go to Asia, but God kept closing those doors and instead redirected him to Macedonia. And so that’s where we pick it up in Acts 16, verse 11. And by the way, this is Dr. Luke writing this account… He says in verse 11…

11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

Acts 16:11-15

And so, so far, things are going really well for Paul & Silas. As missionaries they are having great success. They’ve only been there a short time and already they’ve met this Lydia lady, they’ve shared the Gospel with her, and she and her household believed the Gospel and are baptized! It’s a fantastic start!

I think we could see some parallels in our little church here. As a church, we’re only in year two and God has been so good to us already! We’ve grown to be a wonderful little family – we’re so thankful for each one of you. Through the different ministries of the church – and just through different people talking with friends and neighbours – our church has had many opportunities to share the Gospel with many people, we’ve had people believe and accept Jesus and we’re started to make plans for our first baptisms this fall!

It’s super exciting! Just as I’ve said in my camp theme, following God has been an incredible adventure. However, as Paul & Silas were about to find out – it’s not always fun and games!

16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials.21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.” Acts 16:16-21

I can certainly see some parallels here too. That last statement sounds just like what you might hear about Christians today. People might say of us – “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Canadians to practice!”

Although Canada was founded on Christian principles and on the truths of Bible – our country is increasingly moving in the direction where speaking the truth of the Bible and living according to that truth is becoming illegal. There are more and more laws that obligate us to live and act and speak contrary to how God has instructed us.

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A Taste of Joy

Last week I began with a question – and the question was “Does it matter what you believe?” And the answer we came up with was “Absolutely. Yes it does matter what you believe because what you believe determines the choices you make, and the choices you make set the course of your life.”

If we have incorrect beliefs, then we’re going to make incorrect choices, and thus the course of our life will end up going in directions that we don’t want to go.

For example, if you believe that bears are cute and cuddly, the next time you’re out camping and you meet a bear in the forrest, your incorrect beliefs may lead you to make poor choices, and the results may not be what you were hoping for.

So yes, it really does matter what you believe – and this isn’t just limited to your belief about bears. As we saw last week, what you believe about God is even more important because what you believe about God will impact nearly every decision you make in life.

The trouble is, the world around us does not offer us much truth to believe about God. Our universities, our newspapers, facebook, tv, movies – western culture in general has very little truth about God to offer us. And so most people live their life with a lot of incorrect beliefs about God.

Perhaps they believe that God is judgemental and angry – or maybe that he’s aloof and distant. Or perhaps they believe that God doesn’t exist at all.

Last week we talked about one recent movie where the actor for God was a “Hank the angry, drunken dwarf.” That’s who played God in this particular movie. So if we or the people around us take our cues from hollywood – we’re going to have some messed up ideas of who God is and what He’s like.

And that’s exactly the reason why so many people today reject God. It’s actually not God they are rejecting, it’s their false idea of who God is that they are rejecting.

If my picture of God was painted by Hank the angry drunken dwarf, I think I’d reject that God too!

So our conclusion last week was that the key then is for us to know the truth about God and to convey that truth to the people around us.

We looked at Psalm 34:8 which says…

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Over the past several months as I’ve been thinking about our church and our community and what kind of purpose God has for us here, this verse has just been coming back to me time and time again. Our friends and neighbours around us have been fed a lot of distasteful, incorrect information about God. More and more every day I am convinced that it is our mission to help them taste and see that the Lord is indeed good.

Not only do we need to taste and see for ourselves the truth about the goodness of God – but we want the people around us to do the same as they interact with us. We want to be living examples of God’s goodness.

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A True Taste of God

Taste & SeeDoes it matter what you believe? Does what you believe actually impact your life?

If you find an unmarked bottle of liquid in your cupboard – there are many possibilities of what it could be. It could be water. It could be bleach. It could be vinegar. They all look pretty much the same. You could believe that it could be any of those.

But does it matter what you believe? Will your belief about the contents of that container effect how you choose to use it? And will those choices, based on those beliefs, impact the course of your life? It certainly could!

“If you drink bleach, it oxidizes or burns tissues in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach. According to the National Institutes of Health, it can cause nausea, chest pain, lowered blood pressure, delirium, coma, and potentially death.” ~ somewhere on the internet…

Does it matter what you believe?

Of course it does! And all day every day, we make choices based on our beliefs.

If we believe that it’s going to be -40º outside today, you’re going to wear a warm coat and mitts and boots and all that stuff. If you believe that it’s going to be +40º today, you’re going to wear shorts and a t-shirt.

We are continually making choices based on our beliefs – and those choices, based on our beliefs are setting the course for our lives.

So what happens if your beliefs are wrong? What happens if you believe that you have a bottle of water – and it turns out that it’s a bottle of bleach? What happens if you believe that it’s going to be +40º but it turns out to be -40º?

It’s a serious problem to have incorrect beliefs. The course of your life can take a serious turn for the worse in a quick hurry!

I think it’s pretty obvious how important it is to have true beliefs.

And if it’s that important to know the truth about the weather or the truth about the contents of this container – how much more important is it that we have true beliefs about God?

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Putting on Our New Nature

Over the past month we’ve been looking at Christianity in a Nutshell as we’ve been studying the book of Colossians. In this letter from Paul we find many of the core basics of Christianity. We’ve looked at who Jesus really is and what He did for us on the cross. We’ve talked about some of the things that distract us from our walk with God and how important it is to keep our focus in Christ. Last week we started talking about how we can avoid those times of growing distant from God and instead how to live continuously in a close relationship with Him. And this morning we are going to continue on that theme – this is kinda a “part 2” to our message last week.

Last week we talked about the battle between our two natures. We have our old sinful nature that just wants to please me – and we have our new Christ-like nature that wants to please God. And these two natures are constantly in conflict with each other. We always have this struggle between doing what I want – and doing what God wants. And this battle, I think, is the reason that so many Christians feel defeated. Time and time again, they really want to do what is right, but they inevitably do what is wrong – just like what Paul expressed in Romans 7. So they feel like failures.

But Paul tell us that we don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to follow our sinful nature. Through the power of Jesus Christ who lives within us, we can strip off our old sinful nature and put on our new Christ-like nature. We looked at Colossians 3:10 last week…

“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians 3:10

And so that’s where we want to pick up this discussion this morning. How do we put on our new nature? Is it something we do or is it something God does? And what exactly does our new nature look like? How will our lives change as we start following our new nature? There’s all kinds of questions – and hopefully our passage today will provide us with a few answers.

We begin this morning in Colossians 3 – verse 12. Paul writes…

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The Results of the New Nature

I want you to think back to your high school or college days. For some of us, that won’t be hard. For others, you might have to dig way back in the memory bank. And I want you to think about your best friends from back then. Maybe one or two or three of your closest friends back in the day. Got those people in your mind?

Ok, now here’s a second question for you to ponder. Are those people still your best friends today? If I had asked you to name your top one/two/three best friends today, would those still be the same people you would name? I’m guessing that the older you are, the more likely you have different best friends now.

Relationships always change – friends that were once close, over time, can become distant. People move away. Your lives take different directions. You just grown distant over time.

And at the same time while you grow distant from some people, there are other people that you grow closer with. You’re always meeting new people and making new friends. And some of them grow to be very close friends.

But relationships always change. Even our relationship with God changes over time. I imagine most of us experience times of our lives when our relationship with God is super close! It’s awesome! You love praying and reading His Word. His presence is very real in your life and you just love serving Him and just being with Him.

And then there are other times, when we just feel distant from God. He becomes almost like a Facebook acquaintance. We know in our heads that God hasn’t gone anywhere – the Bible tells us He’s right there with us all the time… but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

That’s frustrating to me. I hate those times when I feel distant from God. I want a relationship with God that grows closer all the time – not more distant. And I think that’s what God wants too. From everything I read about in the Bible, it sure seems that God wants to have that close relationship with us too. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for me so that I could feel distant from Him. He didn’t send the Holy Spirit to empower and dwell right within me so that our relationship could grow cold. No! God wants to be my closest ally and my most faithful friend.

So how do we live in that continuously close relationship with God? Can we avoid or at least minimize those times where we feel distant? How do we make sure we’re growing closer – and not moving apart? How do we do that?

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Distractions

This morning I want to begin by showing you a commercial that I’ve seen on tv recently. Perhaps you’ve seen it too. It’s a commercial for the 2015 Chevy Cruz and I think it really sets the stage for us today. So let’s have a look.

I think the video makes a good point. The chevy spokesperson says “It is hard to stay focused.” And it really is. From your own cellphone to billboards to people walking on the sidewalk to wildlife. There are all kinds of distractions that can cause us to lose focus and potentially end up in a wreck.

Have anyone here been distracted while driving and gotten themselves into trouble?

I remember one time I pulled up behind a car at a red light in Innisfail. I don’t know what it was that distracted me, but I certainly wasn’t focus on what I was doing. Because the car in front of me pulled away and I followed it. It wasn’t until I was half-way through the intersection that I realize the light was still red! The guy had in front of my had gone through the red light, and I followed him! Its a good thing no one was coming from the other direction or I could have been in serious wreck!

You’ve got to stay focused. It only takes a minute of being distracted and you can end up in all kinds of trouble.

And I think that’s also true for us as followers of Christ. There are all kinds of things that can distract us. Things that steal our focus from what’s important. And if we’re not careful, our lives can end up in a wreck.

And I think that’s what was happening in the church in Colosse back in 60AD. If you haven’t been with us, we’ve been studying the book of Colossians for the last month or so – and this book is actually a letter that Paul wrote to the Church in Colosse – and the main purpose of this letter is to address some of these distractions that had been stealing the Colossians focus. These were false teachings that were either adding to or subtracting from the true message of the Gospel.

And we actually face several very similar distractions in our lives and our church (false teachings) even today, so I think it will be very valuable to us to learn from Paul how to recognize and deal with these distractions and stay focused on the truth.

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