Good Tools Used Badly ~ Pastor Andrew

Sometimes what seemed like a good idea is shown to be a terribly bad plan.  When I lived in the States, winter frost was not a common occurrence. After one terribly bad storm, freezing rain had blanketed the area and had left car windshields thick and coated. A neighbor from a warmer climate needed to hurry off to work. When pouring boiling water on the windshield hadn’t melted the ice fast enough, they brought out a hammer and chisel. Needless to say, the ice chipping didn’t end so well. Hammers and chisels are excellent woodworking tools but horrendous for clearing ice off of glass. When lacking the proper resources or wanting to hurry to finish something, the temptation is to take a short cut. The law of God has an excellent purpose if it is used properly (1 Tim. 1:8). It can show you the true nature of your heart. It can point out the wrongs that you do. It can even suggest to you how to keep from evil and danger (Gal. 3:19-22). If you expect the law to give you a heart for God, you’re asking it to do something it was never designed to do – much like using a hammer and chisel to remove ice from a windshield. For some strange reason, humanity is prone to use good things in the wrong way. Medications can alleviate pain and suffering but aren’t supposed to be a coping strategy for emotional hurt. Physical fitness can keep you fit and alert but shouldn’t distract from other priorities in life. A car can get you where you need to...

Everyday Justification Applied ~ Pastor Andrew

After the Challenger Space Shuttle tragedy in 1986, an investigation had been launched.  Why did the shuttle erupt after 75 seconds in flight? It was discovered that faulty rubber seals in the joints of the booster engine sections could not withstand the conditions required for space flight. The New York Times pointed to a deeper problem: a group of managers did not listen to the warnings and criticisms of those down the line who raised concerns about the operational reliability of these parts when under extreme stress. Receiving any critical feedback can be hard.  No one loves correction from their employer (or fellow employee), parent, spouse, child, or friend.  Who doesn’t prefer commendation over correction? When criticized or corrected, the human tendency is to justify oneself.  We see our situation more clearly (or so we tell ourselves) than the other person. We can rationalize or excuse our behavior or response.  We may not give full credence to the concern and dismiss it. What would happen if we became enamored with justification by faith alone? How might it impact our relationships? What would happen if this truth mastered our souls and it was not merely applied to our vertical relationship (with God) but also to our horizontal relationships (with others)? I can begin by hearing criticism, no matter how skewed, and remember that the biggest criticism of the universe has been removed from me (Rom. 8:1).  Because I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20), I know I am far worse than the worst criticism.  God knows every wrong I’ve done...

The God of Jacob ~ Pastor Andrew

Choosing children’s names can be difficult.  For each baby, Melanie and I considered a good meaning, a name that sounded appropriate for both a child and adult yet avoided silly abbreviations. We wanted to honour special people. Each name was chosen deliberately to reflect something we desired of our children. In the Bible, names were not given randomly or because of how nice they sounded.  Names gave identity. They expressed meaning.  It was a foretelling.  It reflected character. Consider Jacob.  As a twin (see Gen. 25:19-26), Jacob wrestled with his brother Esau in the womb.  When he was born, Jacob was grasping onto the heel of his twin brother. He was named “Takes by the heel.”  But you don’t want to be known as a heel-grabber.  Heel-grabbers are cheats, deceivers, people who take down another from behind.  This was Jacob – in his early years, he took his brother’s birthright through deception and supplanted his brother (Gen. 25:29-34). One common name for God in the Old Testament is “The God of Jacob.” Have you ever stopped to consider that God is not ashamed to be called this name?  Hebrews 11:16 says “God is not ashamed to be called their God…” He is proud to be associated with a conniving, sly, deceptive man who confessed his need for God! He not only takes on this man’s name, but he is pleased to be called “The God of the Deceiver.” How could God to be pleased to be called this name? Why associate with someone of such questionable morality? Psalm 24:3-6 gives us some clues: Who shall ascend the hill of...

Your mind matters ~ Pastor Gary

(Continued from last week) In part 2 of our look at Romans 12:1-2 we consider God’s renewal program. In addition to being living sacrifices, Paul exhorts: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” What do we hear when we read, “Do not be conformed to this world”? Many suppose that the walking out of the Christian faith is turning away from immoral behaviours (of the world’s influence) and turning to a new set of moral behaviours (given by God). Although that is the result of a discipled Christian life, it would leave us begging for how one effects such a drastic change in behaviour. Alexander Maclaren helpfully explains that Christ’s Gospel is the power behind the means and ways of all effective transformation in our lives: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ presents itself not as a mere republication of morality, not as merely a new stimulus and motive to do what is right, but as an actual communion to men of a new power to work in them, a strong hand laid upon our poor, feeble hand.” Therefore, before we expect transformation externally, we must have transformation internally by the ‘new nature’ (2 Cor. 5:17) granted us through repentance and faith in Jesus – this becomes the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20). And the primary way that this transformation occurs is by the renewing of our mind. Before we come to faith in Christ our minds are in opposition to God. Fundamentally, we oppose God’s rightful claim of supremacy over our lives. This leads us to fatally flawed...

God’s Improvement Plan ~ Pastor Gary

One of the most common holiday traditions in our culture is the New Year’s Resolution.  According to Forbes magazine, more people make resolutions than watch the Super Bowl. Popular targets include better health (in particular weight loss and exercise goals), general lifestyle improvement, money management, and relationships. In spite of our best intentions a University of Scranton study confirms what you likely assumed: resolutions are rarely successful, their findings suggesting just 8% of resolution goals are realized.[1] Christians too, as the calendar turns, often have goal setting on their minds. Areas such as bible reading, prayer, evangelism, or service are common points of concern for devout hearts. I wonder if our “success” rate is any better than the general public’s? One problem, as I see it, is a dissonance between what we say we want and what we actually believe. The early 20th century British theatre critic James Agate once made this New Year’s Resolution: “To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” This funny quip exposes a key problem with our resolutions: if our external intentions don’t align with our internal beliefs and motivations our resolutions are self-defeating. This Sunday we will be looking at God’s improvement program as seen in Romans 12:1-2. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good...

The Master Fisherman ~ Pastor Gary

This past week I was speaking with the most enthusiastic fisherman I know personally. He was spending some time up north at his cottage and in spite of the brutally cold temperatures he was telling me how happy he was to go ice fishing. Now I enjoy fishing, but I prefer to be wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt rather than mukluks and a parka when I do! Our respective level of enthusiasm is not the only difference between us, there is also a massive gulf between my friend and I when it comes to fishing knowledge and experience. Therefore, when we go out on his lake I follow his lead. Imagine what it would have been like for a professional fisherman like Peter to be told by a land-loving carpenter how he ought to fish (see Luke 5:1-11). Keep in mind he had just come in toward the shore, minding and washing his empty nets and no doubt frustrated by his fruitless toil. Do you think this presents the perfect opportunity for a rank amateur to say: “You know, if you would just do it my way I can guarantee success for you”? When Peter expresses some reluctance (“Master, we have toiled all night and took nothing!”) we can completely understand him; but we must also appreciate his obedience (“But at your word I will let down the nets”). From the preceding chapter we know Peter and the others had witnessed Jesus’ teaching in Nazareth and Capernaum: “and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” Also in the synagogue Peter witnessed Jesus confronting the man...