To Know Him is to Love Him ~ Pastor Gary

From time to time I will hear from congregants something they love about God or their Christian faith. Believe it or not, seldom do I hear, “I love doctrine!” Actually, you probably can believe that without any difficulty! Why do you suppose that is? Over the next three weeks or so I wish to take some time in our e-bulletin to encourage you to consider the importance of knowing and cherishing biblical doctrine. I will try to address some misconceptions along the way as well. To start, it is important to know what doctrine actually is. Too often we think of doctrine as nit picky details theologians concern themselves with that only has the effect of dividing Christians and churches. It is something inaccessible to “regular” Christians, or at least boring and irrelevant. What if I suggested to you that learning doctrine is the same thing as learning about God? Does that not cast the learning of doctrine differently? Firstly in terms of importance, and secondly in terms of interest. Each week I will look at a couple of benefits to learning more about God (“gee pastor, when you put it that way, that this is really about God and not dusty books, maybe I should think again about doctrine). Yes, that’s the Spirit (pun intended)!   1) Doctrine improves your love life How about that as an opener? It is true, your love for God is limited by your knowledge of him. In so far as you truly know God, you will love God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John...

Listen Up! ~ Pastor Andrew

Every Christian should be a learner and have a curiosity about the creation and the Creator.  We live in an age with an abundance of resources to help us grow in our Christian walk – from books to podcasts to videos.  Here are a few recommended resources for those who want to take a break from the books: Five Minutes in Church History – How do you learn about 2000 years of church history when there is so much information?  Take five minutes with Stephen Nichols as he guides you through some fascinating vinettes in church history.  A personal favourite, you won’t be bored listening to our story! The Bible Project – Produced by Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, these short animated videos summarize books of the Bible and themes throughout Scripture in a way that are accessible and helpful. ESV Bible – For those who find reading the Bible hard, why not listen to the Bible?  The ESV Bible app has an audio feature that allows you to find your passage, press play, and the verses will be read to you! The Briefing – Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, offers a daily synopsis of the news from a Christian worldview.  While off for July, this weekday podcast is a great way to help you to think Christianly about daily events. Ask Pastor John – Ever have a question that you wished a thoughtful Christian would answer?  Pastor John Piper tackles all sorts of questions in this podcast.  From theology to morality, no subject is off-limits. Christian Audio – A great way to get through...

God’s greatest provision ~ Pastor Gary

The enduring words of Psalm 23 are without question amongst the most recognizable and beloved of all scripture. They reflect common touch points of the human experience, both longed-for and feared. David himself was all too acquainted with sin and its effects, betrayal, adultery, murder, and family turmoil. Yet he penned a psalm universally loved for its expression of confidence, trust, peace, and tranquility. How did David find such a place for his soul to reside in the face of such varied and severe anxieties? Moreover, how are we to respond to our worries and fears? When we feel anxious, God wants us to trust him and know him as the Good Shepherd. Do we know that our Good Shepherd will provide peace for us as the psalmist did (verses 1-3)? Do we know the leading of our Good Shepherd as the psalmist did (verses 2 and 3)? Do we know the personal presence of the Good Shepherd as the psalmist did (verse 4)? Do we know the blessings of our Good Shepherd as the psalmist did (verse 5)? Finally, do we know of God’s ultimate dwelling in eternity with us as the psalmist did (verse 6)? When we think of it, is the fact of our eternal life with the Lord not without question the greatest of his gifts to us? Our lives often present profound challenges to ourselves or to our loved ones. Regardless of what you face the Father longs for you to cast “all your anxieties upon him, for he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).” We know God does not always intervene in this life...

Raging against Evil ~ Pastor Andrew

Whenever we deal with suffering or evil, there are many temptations we must face.  For many people, one question they grapple with is “why?”. When we ask the question “why” – why evil, why me, etc… we are beginning the theological and philosophical activity called theodicy.  Theodicy is a defense of the goodness and love and power of God in the face of evil. Because the “why” question appears to be a natural response to our experiences of suffering and evil, we rarely question its legitimacy. But if we are honest, the why question accomplishes little for the sufferer. Intellectual answers do not satisfy nor do they bring healing. C.S. Lewis experienced this reality.  He grappled with the problem of evil in his philosophical work The Problem of Pain fin 1940. Then, when his wife Joy died, he struggled deeply with the problem of evil, writing reflectively A Grief Observed under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk in 1960.  As Lewis’s experience shows us, the problem with evil is not why it exists, but what it does to us. Evil tempts me to think, “I am all alone in this trial and no one understands me.” If intellectual answers don’t satisfy and heal, what we need most is an encounter with God’s love.  And we encounter God’s love at the cross of Christ.  Isaiah tells us that the Suffering Servant has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Isa. 53:4). It is natural to wonder where is God in our suffering or in our experience of evil.  Martin Luther, upon reflecting on the Psalms, believed that if we truly believe in...

Our Shepherd Messiah ~ Pastor Gary

The Christian catacombs of Rome are underground burial places dating from the first four centuries A.D. In addition to the remains of early Christians, the catacombs contained numerous wall paintings (frescos) and sculpture which have long been a source of fascination to the art world and historians as they comprise the vast majority of extant Christian art from the Roman Empire era. Philip Schaff, author of the eight-volume History of the Christian Church writes of the catacombs: Their most characteristic symbols and pictures are the Good Shepherd, the Fish, and the Vine. These symbols almost wholly disappeared after the fourth century, but to the mind of the early Christians they vividly expressed, in childlike simplicity, what is essential to Christians of all creeds, the idea of Christ and his salvation, as the only comfort in life and in death. The Shepherd, whether from the Sabine or the Galilean hills, suggested the recovery of the lost sheep, the tender care and protection, the green pasture and fresh fountain, the sacrifice of life: in a word, the whole picture of a Saviour.[1] Schaff also quotes from A.P. Stanley’s Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church: What was the popular Religion of the first Christians? It was, in one word, the Religion of the Good Shepherd. The kindness, the courage, the grace, the love, the beauty of the Good Shepherd was to them, if we may so say, Prayer Book and Articles, Creeds and Canons, all in one.[2] Finally, in his study of Christ’s parables Richard Trench writes: “On no image does the early Church seem to have dwelt with greater...

Words in Season ~ Pastor Gary

Generally, as we head in to summer, Pastor Andrew and I will take the opportunity to recommend some books for those moments when you can kick your feet up and burry yourself in a good book. I have five more recommendations this week: Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley remains a popular and accessible introduction to church history. Many Christians have taken greater interest in church history with this year’s focus on the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. It’s strengths are its accessibility for any interested layperson, and the breadth of its coverage as Shelley traces the path of the church throughout its 2000 year history. If you are relatively new to the major movements in the church this is a great place to start.   Speaking of the Reformation, if you are looking specifically at this critically important juncture of the church Michael Reeves’ The Unquenchable Flame is a great place to start. This book is well written and relatively short (191 pages). Reeves includes helpful short sketches of major figures and events spread throughout his narrative style which makes this title as close to a page turner as you will find in the church history section. I like the fact that he gives some medieval context for the Reformation by looking at some of the issues and church reformers over the three centuries prior to Luther. I also like that he encourages us to think of the need for an ongoing reformation in the church. If you need any further encouragement, Mark Dever says it is “the best brief introduction to the Reformation I have...