The cost of true discipleship. ~ Pastor Gary

In the late 90’s movie The Truman Show, the protagonist Truman Burbank comes to discover that the life he thought he was living of his own volition was an elaborate lie. In truth, he was the unwitting main character in a kind of “reality” tv docudrama which followed Truman’s life from birth forward. The only reality he truly experienced was the image he saw in the mirror. The movie explores some interesting themes from personal identity to broad social values and constructs. It resonated with a culture that strains itself in both rejecting truth but longing for authentic existence. Truman ultimately learns the truth of his life and finds freedom as he escapes the production set that had represented his life – presumably to become a True-man. As humans we have an immense capacity to deceive ourselves or be deceived. One key theme throughout our Sunday morning study of Galatians has been freedom. As we have considered before, Western culture tends to define freedom as personal autonomy – control over one’s thoughts, actions, beliefs; in short the “freedom” to make choices according to one’s own conscience. This Sunday we are taking a little break from Galatians as our text will be John 8:31-38, which contains the oft-quoted: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)” In our text we will see Jesus challenge human notions of freedom and exhort his followers toward true discipleship. For example, the crowd following Jesus can’t see their need to become free for: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.” The obvious irony...

Celebrating Weakness at the AGM ~ Pastor Andrew

When you think about the mission of the local church, what comes to mind? For some people, they think of activities and programs. We run a PA Day VBS that has been very popular these past 5 years. We host our community for Canada Day celebrations. Other people think of social action. As a church, we support Ark Aid as we serve those who need a safe place and a warm meal. Several of us volunteer at New Life Prison Ministries by being in contact with those incarcerated. We collect new clothing items for the Women’s Resource Centre. But when I think of the mission of the local church, it isn’t programs or action that comes to mind. It is amazement that we are able to minister at all. Recently I was praying for our leaders and families in our church – elders, ministry leaders, staff – and I was struck by the amount of suffering, hardship, and difficulty almost every single leader was facing. It was overwhelming to think of how weak we really are. Whether it was health issues or family dynamics, discouragement or difficulty, I couldn’t help but be overcome by amazement that the mission of the local church goes forward. We are so weak. I am so weak. Many times I have viewed the mission moving forward with strength and power. And it does. But not the kind of power I’ve assumed. I am more convinced that the mission moves forward by God’s power being on display in our weakness. The great missionary-apostle Paul had experienced great ecstasy and spiritual power (2 Cor. 12:1-7a) but...

Stand firm in your freedom ~ Pastor Gary

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 Are you a list-maker like me? That is to say do you start your day making a list of tasks for the day ahead? I find it a helpful way to prioritize and organize my day, and I enjoy a sense of accomplishment as I cross things off one by one. These sorts of lists, I believe, are helpful ways for me to be a good steward of each day God gives me. However, there are other sorts of lists that are more troublesome and we all have a tendency to make them; lists, real or imagined, that itemize what we feel we must do to earn favour with God. By now in our Sunday morning study of Galatians I hope as we read Paul’s words from Galatians 5:1 that “Christ has set us free” we have a sense of from what Christ has set us free. Primarily, we have been set free from law-keeping to earn God’s favour. We all tend to gravitate toward the belief that if we do the right things God owes us. We earn his favour by checking items off from a list: right behaviour, spiritual disciplines such as reading his Word or prayer, evangelism, giving, or in the case of the Galatians extra things God does not ask of us. Paul calls this mindset of rule-keeping turning back to the law, or even more pointedly “submitting again to a yoke of slavery.” So many of the things on such lists are good things, what could be wrong in wanting to do them? Well, it is about our...

Raised for Your Justification ~ Pastor Andrew

Around this time of year, mainstream news sources roll out questions about the validity of the resurrection. As sure as the ground hog shows up on February 2nd, questions about the resurrection arise before Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. What shakes me isn’t the mainstream media’s portrayal of Christ – it’s predictable and expected. What shocks me is the Bible’s portrayal of the people within the Bible. When I’m least expecting it, along comes some startling revelation. Consider Abraham, the father of the faith and the example of trust in God. Romans 4:18-21 describes Abraham as believing without wavering, a man who did not weaken in faith, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. But when I read Genesis, I read about a man who believes and doubts. After God promises Abraham many descendants and he believes, Abraham questions God about promised real estate: “How am I to know that I shall possess it?” (Gen. 15:5-8). Similarly, God promises that Sarah will have a son, but Abraham pleads, “Oh that Ishmael might be acceptable before you!” (Gen. 17:18, CSB). The Bible is brutally honest about the imperfect faith and the flaws of God’s people. There is only one hero in the Bible, and Abraham isn’t it. The hero is the Lord Jesus Christ, who takes imperfect faith and perfects it (Heb. 10:14). He takes not only our sin, but our imperfect record upon himself, and by dying bears the blame. But in being raised to life, God affirms the perfect work of his righteous Son and extends the benefits of Christ’s work to those...

Whose your mama? ~ Pastor Gary

What does freedom mean to you? Commonly today we see freedom in political, financial, and personal terms: the right to vote as per one’s conscience, the ability to do as one pleases without hindrance, the liberty to think and act as one sees fit in themselves. One definition says: “Freedom is the power to act, speak, or think without hindrance or restraint.” It isn’t necessarily a bad one, but begs one massive question – from where does such power come? Freedom is one of the fundamental concepts of Western society, but as the West moves further from its Christian foundations freedom is rooted more and more in personal autonomy. Not that this is new for humans, for from our forebearers in the Garden to every generation since, our natural tendency is to root freedom in ourselves and outside of God’s gracious, loving rule. Evidently, we are slow learners! Generation after generation, when we are honest with ourselves, recognize that just like Paul we ‘do not do what we want to do, but do the very thing we don’t want to do (paraphrase from Romans 7:15)’. And yet the human response is to retreat further and further inward toward personal autonomy as our only answer to personal bondage. How do you identify with Paul? Are there ways of thought or habits of action that reflect bondage to law and sin rather than freedom in Christ? Paul warns us that this is a continual battleground for the Christian. “For freedom Christ has set you free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)” As...

A Grief Observed ~ Pastor Andrew

I have some dramatic scars – some from accidents and a couple from surgeries. There are memories from each scar. As much as skin heals, it remains tender. Touch the tissue and it doesn’t feel quite right. Some of the deepest scars people have are from losing a loved one. The loss can be so deep, so painful, so palpable, it can feel like vice grips crushing your heart. Even after years, things don’t necessarily feel quite right. C.S. Lewis, known for his great writings, had analyzed pain philosophically in his book The Problem of Pain. But when his wife Joy died, Lewis reflected upon his loss in A Grief Observed. But Lewis couldn’t put his name on the book. Instead, he used a pseudonym – N.W. Clerk – and referred to his wife as “H” – a reference to her rarely used first name, Helen. The wound was too tender for him to have his or her names associated with this latter work. Grief and loss feels intense, lonely, and dark. We can feel like no one understands. Our broken heart feels the darkness closing in. But we were never intended to bear the burden of grief alone. “Mourn with those who mourn,” Paul says in Romans 12:15. The intensity of our grief can make it hard to mourn with others. So Paul instructs other Christians to have an empathetic response to those around us. Christians know that the Lord Jesus Christ is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). He was not merely sympathetic or empathetic of other people’s pain. Rather, His experience of...