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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Hope

The past couple of months have shown me how important hope is in our lives. Without hope life becomes meaningless for many people; so meaningless that life can become optional or even undesirable to them. Paul tells us that there are 3 key things in life; faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love. I'm not going to argue with Paul, but I'm seeing that without hope there is no strength to love or to feel the love others are extending  to us. 
I'm discovering that when we don't feel close to God, when we believe that we cannot trust God with our present or our future, or when we can't even believe in God any more, our hope gets lost; it fades away like sunset on a misty evening, it's kind of there and then it's not. When my hope for today and the future has to depend on what I am able to do or control, it can't survive, otherwise why are we in the situations we're in where our hope has already taken a beating and is in danger of disappearing, or has already disappeared. 
Jesus' invitations to "Come follow me," and "Repent and believe," are having a greater impact on me the more I reflect on them. Jesus says, "Come follow me," inviting us to "Watch me and hear more about my Father and who He is." "Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is near," God is coming close, Jesus is reassuring us, that He's already here in Immanuel, Jesus, God with us. His kingdom is one of safety, acceptance, forgiveness, grace, mercy, peace, wholeness, healing and hope because God is in control. It does take trust to repent because that's a heart change leading to life change kind of a call and I also see for so many who have been hurt that believing can be so hard when hope is lost. 
More and more I see how important the church community really is in our world today; a place where God's kingdom values are being lived out and practised, where our heart habits are being shaped by Jesus through the Holy Spirit, where people who have lost hope can find a place with real live physical flesh and blood people who are living out hope looking to Jesus and who He is and what He's done for us, being his body here until he comes back again. 
Titus 2 speaks to this, "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." This is a living into the future way of living that happens right now, living into a future with hope, a future where Jesus' kingdom ways will shape everyone and the evil that takes away hope today will be gone for good. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Our Youth, Our Future

I've just spent the past two hours at our local Christian high school, Emmanuel Christian High School here in Montreal, listening to the finals of the public speaking competition and I've come away confident of the future of the Church and the Christian faith. Eleven students spoke on a variety of subjects and I heard their faith come through, not as something they've added on as an extra in their lives, but as an integral part of who they are as people. There were moments I wished there were more adults able to hear these young people speak. Yes, there was a certain naiveness in their speeches, yet there is something so beautiful in their naiveness as they haven't yet learned to be cynical or bitter about life or people; they really believe things can change. Their hope and certainty of a wonderful tomorrow is something we adults can learn from, after-all, with Christ, isn't our future one of hope?
As a pastor I have the fantastic task of taking our high school students on a mission trip every summer and as I tell them, it is the favourite week of my year because I'm with them, surrounded by young people serving others and open to talking about what they believe with me and the other leaders; a gift of trust and a challenge to my own faith as I watch them living out theirs. I'm reminded that joy in life is a gift from God that is available to all of us if we only trust in Him. Many of our youth do so much easier than we do even though we might be adults and more "mature" than they are. As I hear them talk about God, as I watch them walk and stumble and even fall at times and still hold onto an optimistic picture of the future because they really do believe that God can do all things, I learn how to trust in God again as well.
Today I was reminded that our future as a Church is in good hands because so many of our youth truly do believe that they are in God's hands. How about you?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins and Holy Week

The 7 Deadly Sins have been a big part of me during this Lenten season. Reflecting and preaching on these sins has had a way of opening my eyes to just how much hold they have on my heart. As I approached each sin I thought to myself that this one really doesn't have that big a hold on me, but as I looked inside myself each week with a new sin in front of me, I discovered a different side to myself that I had mostly ignored. I rediscovered just how easy it is for me to fool myself into thinking I'm a whole lot better person than I really am.
Now you might think that this is really depressing, but in looking at the 7 Deadly Sins, I also had the opportunity to reflect on the virtues that counter the sins' influence on my soul, heart, and mind; to hear Jesus' teachings that challenge us to grow in these virtues and take him seriously. But mostly, as I read through the Gospels, as I saw again and again how much God loves us and how Jesus shows us God's love, I felt myself drawn once again to Jesus and the kingdom life he shows us through his life and calls us to.
Then comes Palm Sunday and the celebration of Jesus coming as a king. I'm reminded again of who Jesus is, a humble king who cries for his people, a king who sacrifices himself for his people. He could have come with legions of angels and instead chooses to ride a donkey with his feet dragging on the ground. He chooses to make himself available to us, comes close to us. This calls to me.
As I read through Holy Week, through Jesus' teachings, his cleansing of the temple, and his warnings, I'm reminded of Jesus' passion for God, but also his passion for us as he wants us to turn to his father, our heavenly father. I find myself drawn to God again as my father and I sense a bit what his pain must have been like as he watched the people start to turn away from his son, and from him.
Now I'm looking ahead to Good Friday, to celebrating the Lord's Supper in a quiet meditative service filled with the stories of Jesus walking to the cross and the passages from the Old Testament that show us this really is God's plan. The love of God and Jesus reaches those places inside me where those 7 Deadly Sins have made their home and I feel their power lessening as God's love moves in. Now my prayer is that I will truly be transformed more into who God has created me to be instead of the person I'm trying to create.
Saturday is a time of waiting, reminding me that we're still waiting for Jesus to come back, to the renewing of creation into the pattern of his kingdom and the hope this gives. Sunday, the day of resurrection waits for us, calling us to cherish this life, this world God has created because he cherishes and values it. God shows this by raising up his son Jesus from the grave, a sign and promise to us that he has accepted Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf and we are right with God. The influence and twisting the 7 Deadly Sins has done to my heart, soul and mind is being undone because of Jesus' sacrifice. And finally, because of Jesus, my relationship with God as father is restored and renewed!